Some heavy stuff from House Minority Whip Eric Cantor today: the congressman held a press conference on Capitol Hill to address the threats and vandalism aimed at Democratic lawmakers and the general impression that violence is brewing among disturbed and angry opponents of health care reform.
Cantor's take: he blames Democrats for using these threats to gain political footing, and he named names, calling out Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen and Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine.
Cantor spoke not long after House Minority Leader John Boehner held a press conference this morning to forcefully denounce threats that have been made.
But that's not all: Cantor revealed that someone shot a bullet through the window of his own campaign office in Richmond.
Here's part of what Cantor said at the press conference, where he delivered a prepared statement and then left without taking questions (transcribed hastily from TV coverage):
There've been a lot of reports and the potential for violence against members of Congress over the past several days. Let me be clear: I do not condone violence, there are no leaders in this building, no rank and file members in this building that condone violence, period...
I've received threats...not only for my positions, but also because I'm Jewish...
Just recently I have been directly threatened. A bullet was shot through the window of my campaign office in Richmond this week...
I want to stress this, and it's very important. Legitimate threats should be treated as security issues, and they should be dealt with by the appropriate law enforcement officials. It is reckless to use these incidents as media vehicles for political gain. That is why I have deep concerns DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen and DNC Chairman Tim Kaine in particular are dangerously fanning the flames by suggesting that these incidents be used as a political weapon. Security threats against members of Congress is not a partisan issue, and they should never be treated that way. To use such threats as political weapons is reprehensible. I'm not naive enough to think that letters, statements, or press releases will prevent anyone disturbed enough to commit violence from acting. But I do know that such letters, statements and press releases can very easily fan the flames by ratcheting up the rhetoric. Some will only inflame these situations to dangerous levels. Enough is enough, it has to sop. We need to move forward and get back to addressing the important issues facing our nation and let law enforcement handle these situations.
The DCCC and the DNC will surely have something to say about this; I'll update this post when they do. (UPDATE: see the response from DNC Communications Director Brad Woodhouse below.)
The DNC also sent out a fundraising e-mail from Kaine that referenced vandalism and attack ads--but not any death threats--asking for money to help Democrats confront political pressure. The DNC's high-metabolism press shop has forwarded news stories to reporters about the various threats--but that's about it.
The DNC routinely pulls quotes from the news stories it forwards; since Sunday, it has done little, if any, editorializing in forwarding these stories. (The most damaging pull-quote, probably, was Rep. Steve Driehaus's accusation that Boehner had agitated violence against him by predicting he'd be a "dead man" when he returned to his home district.)
Van Hollen, meanwhile, also sent out a fundraising e-mail Sunday afternoon highlighting the racial and homophobic epithets hurled at Reps. John Lewis and Barney Frank outside the Capitol the previous day. But there haven't been any more press releases or letters from the DCCC, that I'm aware of.
UPDATE: Response from DNC Communications Director Brad Woodhouse:
We disagree with the charge made by Rep. Cantor today that Democrats are using acts of violence for political gain. Let's be clear: calling on Republican leaders who have contributed in part to this anger by wildly mischaracterizing the substance and motives of health reform to condemn these acts is entirely appropriate. Instead of distracting from the issue with more attacks, we would again ask Mr. Cantor and other Republicans, as we did yesterday, to join Chairman Kaine in working to ratchet down the rhetoric, condemn deplorable behavior and find ways to disagree on these issues without the charged rhetoric that we've been hearing from Republican leaders.
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