The response from the conservative blogosphere to reports that Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) was called the n-word, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) was spit on, and Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) was called a homophobic slur during yesterday's tea party protest at the Capitol has been mostly predictable. Many bloggers have attempted to paint Lewis, Cleaver, and Frank as liars playing identity politics in order to garner sympathy, with the added caveat that if the allegations are true, they are deplorable and in no way represent the movement as a whole.
Atlas Pam nicely encapsulates this line of thinking in her post today titled “America's Day of Wreckoning,”:
This campaign of destruction culminated yesterday when a specious charge was made that a protester shouted “ni**er” at the Congressional Black Caucus. Color me skeptical. I am not sure why the Black Congressional Caucus deliberately chose to walk through the crowd as they shouted “killl the bill,” but it sure sounds like a set-up. And if someone shouted something so grotesque, it was either a plant, an infiltrator, or a freak who attached himself to a group that wants no part of him. It in no way reflects the millions of capitalist Americans standing up for their country. I have been to enough of these protests to know. These protesters are the salt of the earth. The best of America, our salvation, if it is to be had.
As for Barney Frank alleging that he was called a faggot -- I prefer to call him what he really is, a liar. Where is his outrage at the term “tea bagger”?
Is it a coincidence that after a year of millions marching against this ugly leftist power grab, that on the day before the vote both racist and homophobic slurs were allegedly hurled? Hmmmmmmmmm.
Let's start with Geller calling Barney Frank a “liar.” First of all, the slur was first reported by Talking Points Memo's Brian Beutler, not Frank:
And that wasn't an isolated incident. Early this afternoon, standing outside a Democratic whip meeting in the Longworth House office building, I watched [emphasis added] Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) make his way out the door, en route to the neighboring Rayburn building. As he rounded the corner toward the exit, wading through a huge crowd of tea partiers and other health care protesters, an elderly white man screamed “Barney, you faggot”--a line that caused dozens of his confederates to erupt in laughter [Emphasis added].
Granted, TPM, which won a Polk award for Josh Marshall's work on the US Attorneys scandal, doesn't have the sterling reporting reputation of Atlas Pam and her fellow conservative bloggers, but it's still worth noting that Frank didn't exactly run to a podium after the incident. He was approached about it by TPM. Though I suppose that could have been a cleverly constructed conspiracy.
More important, I want to address the idea in Geller's post that people throwing around hateful slurs would somehow be out of place in the conservative movement. I wonder where these dead-enders could have gotten the idea that it was okay to mock Barney Frank based on his sexuality?
So as to keep the list to a reasonable length, these examples are just from the past year or so.
Rush Limbaugh has called Barney Frank “Banking Queen,” said Frank is the reason shower curtains were removed in the congressional men's locker room, said that “we all know that Barney patrols Uranus” and “spends most of his time living around Uranus,” and remarked on “young Barney Frank...covering his upper body with shaving cream”: “are they sure it was shaving cream?”
Radio host Jim Quinn has called Barney Frank a “great big pompous, sanctimonious homo.” Michael Savage said that Frank could help “redesign the tailpipes” of GM cars. In a graphic on Fox Business Network, Eric Bolling pictured Frank “appropriately positioned...catching, of course.” At last month's CPAC conference, to laughter from the audience, Jason Mattera said that a “feminist new black man” is a “crossover between RuPaul and Barney Frank.” And here's an example from just this week:
On yesterday's edition of Fox Business Network's America's Nightly Scoreboard, guest host Tobin Smith discussed a 402-1 vote in favor of a motion to refer a resolution calling for an investigation of former Rep. Eric Massa (D-NY) to the House ethics committee. Fox News contributor Monica Crowley said of the vote: “I want to know who the one member of Congress was that voted against” this. Smith replied, “I'm thinking Barney Frank, but maybe that's just me.” Crowley responded, “Good one, Toby, good one.”
Frank, of course, wasn't actually the one no vote. But he's still gay - haha!
Some of the slurs coming from people associated with the tea parties have been more direct. For example, Freedom Works chair and tea-party organizer Dick Armey, once called Barney Frank “Barney Fag.”
The vitriol hasn't been reserved for Frank, either. In 2007, Tea Party Express co-chair Mark Williams referred to former President Jimmy Carter as a “creepy little faggot” on his blog. Tellingly, this wasn't an isolated incident, as Williams wrote in 2008 that members of a Vermont town shouldn't be called “retard CHUDs" but “genetically defective, circus freak, tiny cranium, hairy-arm-pitted female & faggot alleged male biological train wrecks who totally make the argument for forced Eugenics”
Other than that, though, attacks on Barney Frank's sexuality are totally out of character for the movement.
Which brings us to the racial attacks. Conservative bloggers have been quick to yell “race card!” and smear Lewis and Cleaver as liars. In order to buttress their point, numerous conservative bloggers like Gateway Pundit have posted a short video of members of the Congressional Black Caucus walking through a crowd of protestors, during which no racial epithets are clearly audible. I can't believe I actually have to type this sentence, but here goes: 48 seconds of video does not prove that Lewis was not called the n-word at any point during what was seemingly a much longer walk.
To give you some idea of the level of investigative reporting going into debunking these allegations, Jim Hoft uses the video to proclaim: “No one screamed ”n***er." No one screamed “f*ggot.” No one was spit on." Aside from the fact that Barney Frank isn't even in this video, the fact that the incident doesn't appear on camera here is, in Hoft's words, “video proof that these horrible leftists are liars.” You tell 'em, Jim.
Once again, though, I want to focus on the idea that it is somehow Democrats who have made the health reform debate about race. Here are a couple flashbacks from arguably the two most prominent conservative media figures in the country.
Last month, "colorblind" Rush Limbaugh attacked reform as a “civil rights bill,” probably assuming that his audience would realize he meant that as an insult. Later in the same rant, he called the bill “reparations.”
Limbaugh wasn't alone in classifying the bill that way. In July, Beck stated outright: “The health care bill is reparations. It's the beginning of reparations.”
Could it be that conservatives no longer want to drink the tea they've been brewing?