[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/03/26/stupak.gi.art.jpg caption="Democratic Rep. Bart Stupak received threatening voice mails after he voted yes for health care reform legislation."]
By Carol Costello, CNN
(CNN) – Maybe it was inevitable in the partisan political climate in which we live. Death threats have now become – politicized.
Some Democrats are indirectly blaming Republicans for a rash of threatening phone calls and broken windows. Republicans are accusing Democrats of "politicizing" threatening behavior – and then telling voters how they, themselves have been threatened.
The back-and-forth started in earnest when Democratic Congressman Bart Stupak released threatening phone messages to the media. A sample: "You're a cowardly punk, Stupak...that's what you are, you and your family, scum," and, "go to hell, you piece of ***t!"
The callers were angry because Stupak voted "yes" on health care reform. At least ten members of Congress, with home districts stretching all the way from New York to Arizona, have also reported either harassment, vandalism, or death threats.
House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) angrily lashed out at Democratic leaders for THEIR handling of reported threats against lawmakers, accusing them of "dangerously fanning the flames" by blaming the GOP. Then, he told reporters, he too has been a target.
"I've received threats since I assumed elected office, not only because of my position but also because I'm Jewish. I've never blamed anyone in this body for that, period. Any suggestion that a leader in this body would incite threats or acts against other members is akin to saying that I would endanger myself, my wife or my children. Just recently I have been directly threatened. A bullet was shot through the window of my campaign office in Richmond this week, and I've received threatening e-mails. But I will not release them, because I believe such actions will only encourage more to be sent," he said.
Is he right? We asked security expert, Robert Babilino of Kroll Inc. He was on the White House Security Detail under the Ford administration. He also provided security for then-Governor Ronald Reagan.
Babilino says he never would advise any client to make threats public. "It does fuel the fire," he says. "Those people are looking for a reason to do something." Making such threats public, "pours more gas on the fire."
Congressman Stupak's press secretary, Michelle Begnoche, told us they certainly did not want to pour more gas on the fire. They simply "released (the taped phone calls) at the request of media interested in getting a sense of what type of calls we have been receiving."
Bibliano says it's time for politicians of all stripes to cool the rhetoric. That means a bipartisan spirit of caring for one another. Words matter when it comes to addressing angry, rowdy crowds. That means politicians should avoid phrases like, "kill the bill," and "in the cross-hairs." It also means an end to making threatening calls and letters political.