Health Reform Leads to Violence Concerns - NBC4 Washington

Health Reform Leads to Violence Concerns

Perriello's brother had gas line cut



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    WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 21: Protesters opposed to the health care bill gather outside the U.S. Capitol March 21, 2010 in Washington, DC. House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said he was confident that the Democrats have the necessary 216 votes to pass landmark health care reform legislation today. (Photo by Astrid Riecken/Getty Images)

    Many politicians are now concerned that their votes on health care reform could lead to violence.

    Democrats seemed to be the main targets, but a couple of Republicans claimed Thursday that they too have been the victims of attempted violence and vandalism that have menaced House Democrats since passage of landmark health care legislation.

    House Republican Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia said at a news conference that someone shot a bullet through a window of his campaign office in Richmond and said he has received threatening e-mail. (The office in question was later revealed to be used occasionally for meetings by the congressman.)

    Cantor attributed the actions to his being in the House GOP leadership and being Jewish. A preliminary investigation by Richmond police, however, revealed the bullet was fired into the air and struck the window in a downward direction, landing on the floor about a foot from the window.

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    The office of Republican Jean Schmidt of Ohio also released a profanity-laced phone message in which the caller accused the GOP of being racist and, referring to an accident two years ago when Schmidt was hit by a car while jogging, said “you should have broke your back, b... .''

    House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) voiced similar concerns about threats of reprisal earlier Thursday.

    The Maryland Democrat didn't single out any lawmaker or political party in speculating about what might have fomented incidents of harassment. But he did say that lawmakers are taking threats "very seriously" and said he is concerned about them.

    In an interview on CBS's "The Early Show," Hoyer said, "The bottom line is, we need to be very careful in public life that our rhetoric doesn't incite to violent acts."

    In one of several incidents under investigation, Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter had a brick thrown through the window of her district office in Niagara Falls, N.Y.  Slaughter also said a voice mail that used the word "snipers" was left on an answering machine at her campaign office. She said the U.S. Capitol Police, the FBI and local police departments were investigating.

    The FBI also is investigating vandalism at the home of U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello's brother.

    Upset with Perriello's vote in favor of health care reform, Virginia tea partiers posted his address online so other tea partiers to drop by and let him know how they felt. But it wasn't his address -- it was his brother's.

    Someone cut the line from a propane tank to a gas grill at the Charlottesville home, so the FBI has stepped in to investigate. Congressional sources said the vandalism is being viewed as a potential threat, the Daily Progress reported.

    Albemarle County spokeswoman Lee Catlin said the county fire marshal's office was assisting the FBI with the case. She said investigators did not believe the family was in immediate danger. The lawmaker's brother, Bo Perriello, and his wife have four small children.

    "My number one priority right now is ensuring the safety of my brother's family, and I am grateful to law enforcement for their excellent work," Rep. Perriello said in a statement released Wednesday.

    He asked lawmakers to condemn politically motivated acts of violence.

    "While it is too early to say anything definitive regarding political motivations behind this act, it's never too early for political leaders to condemn threats of violence, particularly as threats to other members of Congress and their children escalate," he said.

    A spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee may not have received the message, according to the Roanoke Times.

    While his organization doesn't condone such behavior, National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Andy Sere said Perriello is not the victim.

    "Central and Southside Virginians are the ones who are going to have the bear the burden of increased taxes," he said. "What you're seeing is a frustration among his constituents who believe he's not listening to them."

    Two activists posted the address Monday. POLITICO reported that when one of the activists -- Danville Tea Party leader Nigel Coleman -- learned it was the wrong address, he called it "collateral damage." But Coleman told the Daily Progress he doesn't support such vandalism.

    "I obviously condemn these actions," he said. "I would hope that people aren't thinking about doing anything crazy. We just wanted people to get close to the congressman and have their voices heard. Violence is not going to answer anything. I'm a little shocked and amazed."

    Coleman said he took the post down Tuesday when he found out it was not the congressman's address, the Associated Press reported.

    "We didn't tell anybody to do anything like that. We've never been associated with any violence or any vandalism," he said. "We're definitely sorry that we posted the incorrect address. We don't have any type of complaint with Bo Perriello."

    Coleman's group last year planned to burn likenesses of Perriello and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at a rally, but backed off when opponents accused them of promoting violence. The group also has had tense showdowns with the congressman during health care rallies and at gatherings outside his office.

    Coleman accused Perriello of spreading the story in order to discredit the activists.

    "We don't know exactly who did this or why or what happened," he said.

    He said the group would not post the congressman's address if it became available.

    Another person who posted the address did not include his name, but the Lynchburg Tea Party claimed it was one of its members -- Mike Troxel.

    A threatening letter also was sent to the house, but Perriello's office wouldn't elaborate on what it said.

    Perriello is a first-term Democrat who won election by just 745 votes in 2008.

    Several Democrats who voted in favor of health care reform have been targeted for vandalism. Ten House Democrats are getting increased security. There have been reports of three attacks on congressional offices.

    "At the request of the House Sergeant at Arms, the U.S. Capitol Police delivered security briefings to members of Congress today to address security concerns," read a statement from Capitol Police. "Security briefings are provided on a regular basis to the congressional community. Any communication between the USCP and members of Congress is confidential. USCP does not discuss ongoing/open investigations so as not to jeopardize the investigation."