Tea Party reaction

The character of the Tea Party movement is getting more scrutiny in the wake of an anti-health care legislation rally marked by racist and homophobic insults.

At the demonstration, held the day before the crucial House vote on Sunday, some demonstrators yelled the n-word at Reps. John Lewis, D-Ga., Andre Carson, D-Ind., James Clyburn, D-Mo., and Emanuel Cleaver, D-S.C. Clyburn said he was spit upon. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., who is homosexual, was subjected to anti-gay chants.

Some Tea Party critics who witnessed the rally had their views of the movement amply confirmed. "A few hundred Tea Party-types clustered on the south end of the Capitol on Sunday, trying to kill health care reform, fouling the crisp spring air with shouts of violence and loathing," reported Lawrence Downes, a New York Times editorial writer.

Downes also noted that a rally participant urged demonstrators to step away from hate-mongers and post their pictures on the Web.

"I absolutely think it's isolated," Amy Kremer, a coordinator of Tea Party Express, one part of the movement, told Fox News on Sunday, McClatchy Newspapers reported. "It's disgraceful and the people in this movement won't tolerate it because that's not what we're about." House Republican Leader John Boehner, R-Ind., condemned the hate speech as "reprehensible."

Nevertheless, one Republican lawmaker the next day appeared to rationalize the hate speech. "Yeah, well I think that when you use totalitarian tactics, people, you know, begin to act crazy," Rep. Devin Nunes said on C-Span, in comments widely circulated on the liberal side of the blogosphere. "I think, you know, there’s people that have every right to say what they want. If they want to smear someone, they can do it." He added: "It’s not appropriate."

Away from Washington, another high-profile Tea Party movement leader, Dana Loesch of St. Louis, didn't indulge in racism or homophobia, but certainly didn't hold back her rage. "Last night, a new party was born; the malignant tumor that is the progressive caucus consumed the Democrat party from within and gave birth to the mainstream Socialist Party," she wrote in a Web-published column. "There is no dignity left in a House run by political prostitutes....We will hold every Republican to the fire and so help us if they don’t fight until their last breath to repeal this massive affront to liberty we will burn them in effigy along with the traitors to the Constitution."