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March 26th, 2010
10:30 AM ET

Politicizing death threats

[cnn-photo-caption image= 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.

Filed under: Politics
soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. EBC009

    BOTH Republicans and Democrats should be ASHAMED of their behavior. Bottom line.

    The mere fact that these are the very same elected officials who dictate the laws and policies that ALL Americans follow are blatantly the BIGGEST HYPOCRITES and VIOLATORS themselves!!!

    When you see our elected officials behaving like a bunch of jackasses on national TV, there is NO EXCUSE. I don't care which side of the isle you stand on.

    This is what our CHILDREN are seeing by our SENIOR elected officials?

    This is the EXAMPLES being set by our SENIOR elected officials, like John Boehner calling another Democratic Senator a "Dead Man" on national TV?

    This is the ROLE MODELS being set by our SENIOR elected officials?

    I'm sorry, but I'm disgusted by it all. I'm a grandmother and I TEACH my children and grandchildren to be respectful and courteous even when they "agree to disagree".

    I'm starting to think that there should be a TERM-LIMIT for ALL Senators, Congressmen/woman and Representatives!!!

    This notion of a lifetime seat in Congress is ABSURD and needs to be changed.

    March 29, 2010 at 8:19 am |
  2. Melon

    The fault lies with the Dumbocrats for wanting to impose a corrupt and unfair system on the American people.

    Stupak's political career will be over come election time.

    March 29, 2010 at 6:33 am |
  3. ronvandm

    This is really disgusting and BOTH parties are at fault! I do put the republicans as the instigators/creators of this entire situation.

    March 28, 2010 at 9:09 am |
  4. Gary Stewart

    Instead of asking a security expert if Cantor was right about encouraging more violence by reporting it, you should have had the journalistic integrity to ask the Richmond police if Cantor was honest when he said
    "Just recently I have been directly threatened. A bullet was shot through the window of my campaign office in Richmond this week."

    They have determined it was a random bullet fired into the air.
    Also, it was not "his office," in any publicly identifiable way, or even in his district.
    What you have done is to perpetrate a false "both sides are doing it" meme.
    But, hey. You got your story and can now claim to be "fair and balanced."

    March 26, 2010 at 12:08 pm |
  5. Howie

    they should fear us, both parties, and not just at election time. that way maybe they will do what is right for the American people instead of their big political contributors. greed and money have trumped the american people for far too long.

    March 26, 2010 at 10:47 am |