A Democratic National Committee donor was arrested on Monday for death threats that he made toward Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), but many journalists are still blaming the conservative “tea party” movement for allegedly fomenting political violence.
Philadelphia resident Norman Leboon, 33, was charged for posting a YouTube video in which he threatened to kill Cantor and his family, just days after a bullet was fired through the window of Cantor’s Richmond campaign office by an unknown gunman.
“You receive my bullets in your office, remember they will be placed in your heads. You and your children are Lucifer’s abominations,” Leboon reportedly said in the video. According to Federal Election Commission filings, Leboon is a Barack Obama supporter, who donated $505 to the Democratic National Committee in June, 2008.
But despite the fact that no conservatives have been charged with committing violent acts related to the recent Congressional health care vote, many news outlets and commentators have maintained that right-wingers and “tea partiers” pose a serious physical threat to Democratic politicians.
Some noteworthy examples:
1. In a CBS News article titled “Palin Refuses to Back Down from Gun Rhetoric,” it was reported that “Former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin is refusing to back down from her provocative rhetoric from the past week, which some say is encouraging violence against Democratic lawmakers who supported the health care reform bill.” The article was referring to Palin’s Facebook posting about NCAA basketball last Sunday, in which she used terms like “target” “crosshairs” and “reload.”
“To the teams that desire making it this far next year: Gear up! In the battle, set your sights on next season’s targets!” wrote Palin in one excerpt.
2. Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson wrote Tuesday that the idea that political violence exists on both the Right and the Left is “simply not true.”
“It is dishonest for right-wing commentators to insist on an equivalence that does not exist,” wrote Robinson. “The danger of political violence in this country comes overwhelmingly from one direction — the right, not the left. The vitriolic, anti-government hate speech that is spewed on talk radio every day — and, quite regularly, at Tea Party rallies — is calibrated not to inform but to incite.”
Robinson also asserted that “for the most part, far-left violence in this country has gone the way of the leisure suit and the AMC Gremlin.”
3. In a New York Times editorial last Friday titled “Lawmakers Head Warily for Home,” the paper warned of the danger Democrat politicians allegedly face from tea partiers. “A critical issue for Republicans is how far they will go in sidling up to the Tea Party and its more extremist protestors,” wrote the Times. “The nation does not need more home-district fracases like those of last summer when zealots strutted with sidearms.”
4. On the Huffington Post last Saturday, columnist Sherman Yellen compared tea partiers to Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. “[W]ith the threats from Republican Congressmen, the bulls-eye targeting of Sarah Palin of the Democrats she disagrees with, and the racist and homophobic curses from the Tea Party ringing in our ears after the passage of the health care bill, I suggest that we take a look backwards at the sad story of Timothy James McVeigh and see the McVeighism that is festering,” wrote Yellen.
5. Last Friday, New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow wrote that Republican politicians should denounce the alleged violence directed at Democrats from tea partiers. “The far-right extremists have gone into conniptions. The bullying, threats, and acts of violence following the passage of health care reform have been shocking,” wrote Blow. “[N]ow the anemic Republican establishment, covetous of the Tea Party’s passion, is moving to absorb it, not admonish it. Instead of jettisoning the radical language, rabid bigotry and rising violence, the Republicans justify it.
While these media outlets and columnists gave much coverage to potential for violence from the Right, it remains to be seen whether they will give equivalent press time to the actual charges of violence against Leboon.
Alana Goodman is NLPC’s Capitol Hill Reporter.