Chad Pergram Recounts the Ides of March 2010


CHAD PERGRAM. Fox News Capitol Hill Producer Chad Pergram see here writes a column called The Speakers Lobby see here. In this edition he catalog some of the events of last March 2010 when the health care debate was at full boil.  It was at that time that heated political rhetoric had boiled over.  The last paragraph of this column really captures a lot of what was being talked about off the record by many in the Capitol Hill community.

John Lewis

Chad Pergram, Fox News: “The vituperation drew to a boil last March just before Congress finally approved the health care reform bill. Some protesters targeted lawmakers and threatened to kill them. Former Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) and current Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-OH) received death threats laced with rhetorical Napalm.


“There are millions of people across the country who wish you ill,” one man warned Stupak.

Then someone dropped off a coffin in the yard of Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-MO). On Capitol Hill, anti-health care reform demonstrators fired racial slurs at Reps. John Lewis (D-GA) and Andre Carson (D-IN). Police briefly detained a man after he appeared to spit on Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) as the Congressman walked into the Cannon House Office Building.

Lewis is a civil rights figure who’s seen this before. Doctors inserted a steel plate into Lewis’s skull after the Alabama State Police beat him on Bloody Sunday in 1965 at the Edmund Pettus Bridge.  “I haven’t heard anything like this in 40, 45 years. Since the march to Selma, really,” Lewis said last year. “People being downright mean.”

Sign at a Tea Party rally

The unruly targeted Republicans, too. Last year, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), the highest-ranking Jewish official in U.S. history, announced that he “has been directly threatened” and had “received threatening emails.”

After the contretemps of the August, 2009 town halls and Joe Wilson’s outburst, then-House Speaker Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) struggled to fight back tears. She said  she “saw this myself in the late ‘70s in San Francisco.”

Pelosi was referring to the assassination of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and city supervisor Harvey Milk. Milk was the first openly-gay figure to win election to a major political office in the U.S.  In March, 2009, Pelosi fretted about those who may be agitated into a furor over the health care law.

“Words have power. They weigh a ton,” Pelosi said. “And they are perceived differently by people depending on their, shall we say, emotional state.”

There’s a dark truth to all of this. Since the frenzy of the 2009 town meetings, lawmakers and aides across Capitol Hill have long whispered that this day would come.  “It’s just a matter of time until someone brings a gun to one of these things and shoots a Congressman,” said one House aide prophetically. Another aide said she feared going into the district with her boss because “you never know who is going to show up.”