WASHINGTON, March 21 (UPI) -- Two black U.S. congressmen say Capitol Hill protesters fighting healthcare reform hurled racial slurs and another lawmaker said somebody spit on him.
As "Tea Party" protesters rallied outside the U.S. Capitol Saturday, some shouted epithets at Reps. John Lewis, D-Ga., and Andre Carson, D-Ind, both members of the Congressional Black Caucus, The Washington Post reported Sunday.
Carson said protesters yelled "kill the bill" before using a racial epithet as he and Lewis left the building after President Barack Obama made a last-minute pitch for House passage of the healthcare bill.
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., said in a statement he was spit on while walking to the Capitol to cast a vote. U.S. Capitol Police led him into the building to ensure his safety. The person who allegedly spit on him was released after Cleaver decided not to press charges.
Some protesters also targeted Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., an openly gay congressman, with anti-gay chants. Witnesses told the Post about 100 protesters shouted anti-gay epithets and urged Frank to vote against the healthcare bill after confronting him inside the Longworth House Office Building.
Democratic leaders expressed shock, outrage and dismay.
"I have heard things today that I have not heard since March 15, 1960, when I was marching to get off the back of the bus," said House Majority Whip James Clyburn,D-S.C., the highest-ranking black member of Congress.
Danny Rotert, Cleaver's spokesman, said the congressman has been "called the n-word" and it is "certainly not the worst assault he has endured in his years fighting for equal rights for all Americans."
But, Rotert added: "That being said, he is disappointed that in the 21st century our national discourse has devolved to the point of name-calling and spitting."