Clyburn: Incendiary political talk has come home to roost

McClatchy NewspapersJanuary 9, 2011 

WASHINGTON — Rep. Jim Clyburn said Sunday that tea party favorite Sharron Angle's endorsement of "Second Amendment remedies" in her losing Nevada campaign against Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid contributed to the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

Clyburn, the House assistant Democratic leader, said of Giffords' alleged assailant, Jared Lee Loughner: "It seems like this gentleman was not satisfied with the way the election came out. "There's no way you cannot make that connection (with Angle's rhetoric) unless you want to be stupid."

Angle, a tea party favorite, was the surprise Republican Senate primary victor in Nevada last year.

During the general election campaign, capped by Reid's narrow defeat of Angle on Nov. 2, she repeatedly condoned Americans preparing for "Second Amendment remedies" and urged supporters to "take out Harry Reid."

Clyburn told Fox News that "in my neighborhood, and in front of my house, there was additional security" after Saturday's shooting that left Giffords, an Arizona Democrat, critically wounded.

The 10th-term congressman said Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin called him Saturday evening after the shooting, and that the State Law Enforcement Division had also been in contact.

Clyburn, the highest-ranking African-American in Congress, has been a strong critic of conservative vitriol aimed at him and other Democratic lawmakers.

In March last year, as the House neared passage of a landmark health-insurance bill, Clyburn deplored several tea party protesters who yelled a racial epithet at black lawmakers as they entered the U.S. Capitol.

While Clyburn said Sunday that political rhetoric has become more irresponsible, he said it's not new for him to be the target of ugly slurs, some of them racially tinged. Clyburn recalled getting a number of threats in the 1990s when he was a leading advocate of removing the Confederate flag from atop the statehouse dome.

Even though Giffords — who unlike Clyburn opposes gun control laws — has a more conservative voting record than his, Clyburn said he's given her maximum campaign contributions because he admires her.

"She canceled out a lot of my votes, but it didn't matter to me," he said. "I felt she was the just kind of person we ought to have in public life."

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