Gossip: In The Know

Rev. Jesse Jackson confronts Tea Partiers

Rev. Jesse Jackson confronted an angry crowd of approximately 200 Tea Party protesters outside the Capitol on Sunday evening while his son, Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-Ill.), filmed the encounter on his cell phone.

was visiting the Capitol to witness the expected passage of healthcare
reform legislation, and he walked out of the building at 6:45 p.m. with
his son. As he walked by a grassy knoll below the Speaker’s Lobby
balcony, protesters were chanting anti-reform slogans and waving signs.

Jackson walked to the edge of a small stone wall and watched the crowd. Protesters recognized him moments later and, as if on cue, the whole crowd turned in unison away from the balcony and faced Jackson.

The majority of the Tea Partiers limited their comments to healthcare, but one man yelled through a loudspeaker, “When [Martin Luther King, Jr.] was killed, you weren’t there!” In fact, Jackson was in the hotel with King in 1968 on the day he was assassinated.

Rep. Jackson said he “relished” watching his father interact with the crowd. “He ran on platforms of healthcare reform during both of his presidential runs in 1984 and 1988,” he said, “so this is a monumental day for him.” As for why his dad chose to talk to the Tea Partiers, Jackson said he didn’t know, but that he was filming it all “for posterity.”

Jackson’s interaction was particularly tense given the assault on Saturday of two black congressmen by Tea Party protesters. Reps. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) and John Lewis (D-Ga.) were spat at and called the N-word as they entered the Capitol.

Jackson called those incidents “ugly,” but reminded reporters that far worse things had happened to him, and to Cleaver and Lewis, during the civil rights movement. “This is just oil on a hot stove.”

A few feet away from the interaction, Democrat-turned-Republican Rep. Parker Griffith (Ala.) watched the interaction with amusement, joking, “This is proof that it doesn’t matter who [Jackson] is talking to, as long as there’s a crowd.”


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