Regarding the story on Friday's front page "Tea Party Brews a ‘Really Inspiring' Day": Patti Weaver, an organizer of Pittsburgh's rally, was quoted as saying that the accusation that some in a Washington demonstration had greeted African-American members of Congress with "the N-word" on the eve of passage of landmark health reform legislation was "a total lie."
Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., was chided by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer for denying Rep. John Lewis' N-word experience: "I don't think there's any doubt that what John Lewis said happened and what others saw and heard happen did, in fact, happen. That's why I think the credibility of that assertion is questionable."
Rep. Lewis became nationally known during his prominent role in the Selma to Montgomery marches. During the first march, police attacked the peaceful demonstrators and beat Mr. Lewis mercilessly in public, leaving a fractured skull and head wounds that are still visible today. To question John Lewis' credibility in this instance is an insult and an indication of the denial of tea party leaders.
While I support the tea party's right to free speech, its supporters have no right to hurl racial epithets and spit on African-Americans. This is incendiary behavior, and leadership from both sides should make an effort to discourage it, rather than denying it and fanning the flames of racist extremists and militants. They do so at our peril.