Interview with Majority Whip James Clyburn

Interview with Majority Whip James Clyburn

By The Situation Room - March 24, 2010

BLITZER: Reaction to the passage of health care reform is turning eerily sinister right now. Several House Democrats say they've been threatened, and some of their offices have been vandalized. Capitol hill police have briefed lawmakers on what precautions they need to take right now to protect themselves and their families. Let's go to Capitol Hill, the House Majority Whip, the number three Democrat in the House of Representatives. James Clyburn is joining us from South Carolina. Congressman, thanks very much for coming in.

REP. JAMES CLYBURN, (D) MAJORITY WHIP: Thank you so much for having me, Wolf.

BLITZER: I wish it were under different circumstances. But listen to this voice mail, this audio, that was left in the office of voice mail of Democratic Congressman Bart Stupak of michigan, who is fiercely anti-abortion, but voted for the health care bill.


VOICE OF UNKNOWN FEMALE: Congressman Stupak, you are one big piece of human (EXPLETIVE WORD). And think about this, there are millions of people across the country who wish you ill, and all of those thoughts projected on you will materialize into something that's not very good for you. We don't have to do anything but sit back and wish. Go to hell, you piece of (EXPLETIVE WORD).


BLITZER: All right. How big of a problem, Congressman, is this? I know you've been briefed by law enforcement, Capitol Hill police, among others.

CLYBURN: I had a long chat a few minutes ago with Bart Stupak as well. You know, Wolf, I have seen this before. These kinds of things happen when people in positions of authority do not do what they can to tamp this down. We saw the other day, Sunday, members on the floor cheering when people were up in the balcony, cheering. That should not be. We're giving aid and comfort to these people, and this stuff gets ratcheted up. We, in this Congress, have got to come together in a bipartisan way and tamp this foolishness down. It doesn't make sense. That's not what a democracy is all about.

BLITZER: I know that your office received a fax with a picture of a noose on that fax.


BLITZER: Are you among those Democrats right now who are receiving extra security protection?

CLYBURN: No. They never tell me when it gets up or down. But as the majority whip, I do have security, that protection, and I don't know exactly whether they've ratcheted it up or not.

BLITZER: Who are the others? There's, like, ten members, ten Democrats, who are receiving --


BLITZER: Extraordinary security protection right now, is that right?

CLYBURN: I think it's more than that. I know -- I think I know of more -- more than ten. That's been receiving these kind of threats. You may recall last august, people had a swastika painted on their offices. They received phone calls in their office, and the same kind of thing. The problem is when that stuff was out there in the congressional districts, it seemed to be a little bit isolated. But all those people from all those congressional districts came here to Washington on Saturday, and it became centralized, and they all targeted on those office buildings over there, and, you know, all it takes for one misstep, somebody overreacts to something, and you've got a very serious problem.

We've seen that before, more than once, and so I've been asking all of the members to do something in a bipartisan way to try to tamp this down.

BLITZER: The Republican leader in the House, John Boehner, did issue a statement. Let me read to you some of it. "I know many Americans are angry over this health care bill and that Washington Democrats just aren't listening. But, as I've said, violence and threats are unacceptable. Call your congressman. Go out and register people to vote. Go volunteer on a political campaign. Make your voice heard, but let's do it the right way." That was a statement that Congressman Boehner, the leader of the Republicans, released. Is that good enough for you?

CLYBURN: let me say this, Wolf. I don't know of anybody that's angry over this health care bill. Who is angry over getting rid of discrimination against women --

BLITZER: I know, but Congressman, excuse me for interrupting. There are plenty of people who are very angry right now. They think this is an affront on their freedom. Their liberty. They don't like the government stepping in and getting more involved, so there is anger out there. I'm sure you've felt it.

CLYBURN: I know there's anger out there. But I'm saying that I don't think this anger has got a whole lot to do with this health care bill. I've been here. You know, I organized these things back in the 1960s. I've looked in these faces, and I don't think that those people who were out there calling m names, spitting on students, throwing ketchup in their hair simply because they wanted to have a hamburger at a lunch counter.

They were there because of an ingrained hate that they've got for people who don't look like them. I don't know of a single member, non African-American, except one, who was not called a name for some reason. So --

BLITZER: Let me get back to the question, congressman. Are you satisfied that John Boehner and the Republican leadership in the House are doing enough to try to cool it?

CLYBURN: I've said before, and I'll say again. I really believe we need to come together in a bipartisan way. I think the leadership of both -- Democrats and Republicans need to show unanimity on this issue, and let's begin to work together to tamp this down. I think if you do it in a bipartisan way, it will send a signal out there to those people that neither one of us will condone what they're doing.

BLITZER: James Clyburn is the number three Democrat in the House of Representatives. Congressman, good luck and thanks for coming in.

CLYBURN: Thank you so much for having me.

BLITZER: And as I said earlier, I wish it were under different circumstances.

CLYBURN: Thank you.


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