GOP leaders disavow protesters' epithets toward lawmakers

Nobody condones the racial epithets used toward black lawmakers on Saturday, the second-ranking House Republican said Sunday.

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) disavowed the actions by some conservative, "Tea Party" activists who, on Sunday, used the N-word toward Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), and spat at Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.).

"Nobody condones that at all," Cantor said during an appearance on ABC. "There were 30,000 people here in Washington yesterday. And, yes, there were some very awful things said."


The actions toward the protesters drew quick rebukes from members of the Congressional Black Caucus and House Democrats as a whole.

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), a gay lawmaker who also faced epithets yesterday based on his sexual orientation, called on the GOP to distance itself from the protesters, while Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) denounced Republican speakers at the rally and demanded they apologize for the actions of the protesters.

House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (R-Ind.), who was one of the speakers at the rally, said he decried the behavior of the protesters "in the strongest terms." 

House Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Sunday On NBC Meet the Press that the “isolated incidents” at the rally on Saturday were “reprehensible.” But he said that these “few isolated incidents” should obscure the fact millions of Americans fear the impact of the Democrats’ healthcare reform.

Republican National  Committee chairman Michael Steele said Sunday on NBC Meet the Press that the incidents were the result of “a handful of people “who just got stupid.”

Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.) said that he welcomed debate on Sunday, but pleaded with Pence to ratchet down the tone of the debate.

Roxana Tiron contributed to this report.