Rep. Andre Carson (D-Ind.) said Saturday that healthcare protesters at the
Capitol directed racial epithets at him and Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) as they walked
Carson, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus along with Lewis, told The Hill that protesters called the lawmakers the N-word.
Tea Party protesters held a rally outside the Capitol on Saturday, which included speeches by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and actor Jon Voight, and then proceeded into the halls to lobby members at the 11th hour.
Lewis was one of the leaders of the civil rights movement alongside Martin Luther King. Jr.
Asked if racial epithets were yelled at him, Lewis responded, "Yes, but it's OK. I've heard this before in the '60s. A lot of this is just downright hate."
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver's (D-Mo.) office said in a statement Saturday evening that one protester had spit on the congressman and was arrested by Capitol Police, but that Cleaver decided not to press charges.
"This is not the first time the Congressman has been called the 'n' word and certainly not the worst assault he has endured in his years fighting for equal rights for all Americans," the statement said. "That being said, he is disappointed that in the 21st century our national discourse has devolved to the point of name calling and spitting."
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) put out a statement Saturday night condemning the reports.
"Today's protests against health insurance reform saw a rash of despicable, inflammatory behavior, much of it directed at minority Members of Congress," Hoyer said. "According to reports, anti-reform protestors spat on Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver, yelled a sexual slur at Rep. Barney Frank, and addressed my dear friend, Rep. John Lewis, with a racial slur that he has sadly heard far too many times.
"...Members of Congress and opinion leaders ought to come to terms with their responsibility for inciting the tone and actions we saw today. A debate that began with false fears of forced euthanasia has ended in a truly ugly scene."
This article was updated at 10:40 p.m.