House GOP chairman: Death threats against Maxine Waters are 'intolerable'

Rep. Jeb HensarlingThomas (Jeb) Jeb HensarlingLawmakers battle over future of Ex-Im Bank House passes Ex-Im Bank reboot bill opposed by White House, McConnell Has Congress lost the ability or the will to pass a unanimous bipartisan small business bill? MORE (R-Texas) on Friday defended Rep. Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersOn The Money: Mnuchin, Powell differ over how soon economy will recover | Millions fear eviction without more aid from Congress | IRS chief pledges to work on tax code's role in racial wealth disparities Millions fear eviction without more aid from Congress House approves statehood for DC in 232-180 vote MORE (D-Calif.) after she canceled a pair of speaking events over threats made against her life after she called for public confrontations of Trump administration officials.

Hensarling, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, and Waters, the panel’s ranking member, often spar over President TrumpDonald John Trump Trump responds to calls to tear down monuments with creation of 'National Garden' of statues Trump: Children are taught in school to 'hate their own country' Trump accuses those tearing down statues of wanting to 'overthrow the American Revolution' MORE’s policies and financial regulatory issues in committee hearings.

But the staunchly conservative Hensarling said in a Friday statement, “It is intolerable that any American, including elected officials, should ever be harassed, intimidated or threatened for their political views — no matter how distasteful some may find them.”

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“A free and democratic society cannot long remain so without a free exchange of political ideas,” Hensarling said. “I disagree with almost everything Congresswoman Waters says, but she deserves the opportunity to be heard in safety and security.”

Waters told CNN on Thursday that she had canceled two upcoming speaking events in Texas and Alabama over a “very serious death threat” made by someone in Texas.

"This is just one in several very serious threats the United States Capitol Police are investigating in which individuals threatened to shoot, lynch, or cause me serious bodily harm," Waters said.

Waters has faced intense backlash after encouraging attendees of a Saturday rally in Los Angeles to confront Trump Cabinet officials over the administration’s controversial immigration policy. Her remarks came after White House adviser Stephen Miller and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenThe Seila Law case: Liberty and political firing Hillicon Valley: Twitter falling short on pledge to verify primary candidates | Barr vows to make surveillance reforms after watchdog report | DHS cyber chief focused on 2020 Sen. Kennedy slams acting DHS secretary for lack of coronavirus answers MORE were harassed by protesters at Washington, D.C., restaurants, and after press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked to leave a Virginia restaurant over her support of Trump's policies.

“They're not going to be able to go to a restaurant, they're not going to be able to stop at a gas station, they're not going to be able to shop at a department store, the people are going to turn on them, they're going to protest, they're going to absolutely harass them until they decide that they're going to tell the president ‘No, I can't hang with you, this is wrong, this is unconscionable and we can't keep doing this to children,’ ” Waters said.

Trump publicly criticized Waters during campaign rallies this week, and inaccurately claimed in a tweet that the Democrat called for harm to his supporters. Lawmakers from both parties, including Hensarling, criticized her comments and called for civility among political rivals.

Hensarling scolded Waters at the start of a Financial Services panel hearing Wednesday, invoking the shooting of Rep. Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseCheney clashes with Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Republicans shift, urge people to wear masks GOP-Trump fractures on masks open up MORE (R-La.) last year.

“We all know that words matter. I know that Steve Scalise believes this, and if you listened to him yesterday, you will know passionately he does,” Hensarling said.

Hensarling also compared Waters’s comments to the historic racial segregation of blacks from restaurants.

Waters responded that conversations about civility must start with Trump’s conduct, citing several occasions when the president called for violence at his campaign rallies before he won the 2016 election.

“You implore him not to continue to promote violence, not to continue to promote divisiveness and then I think he would be a better example," Waters said.