The life of former South African President Nelson Mandela was met with nearly universal praise from U.S. politicians Thursday, after his death at the age of 95.
"Nelson Mandela's legacy of peaceful reconciliation in the struggle against apartheid lives on to inspire people around the world," Republican California Rep. Darrell Issa said.
"Nelson Mandela's compassion and humility in the face of overwhelming adversity remains an inspiration," said North Carolina Republican Sen. Richard Burr.
"RIP Nelson Mandela," tweeted Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley.
But at the time of Mandela's first visit to the United States in 1990, which came five months after spending 27 years in prison, his legacy was hotly debated among members of Congress with conservative politicians typically cautioning against Mr. Mandela.
Here's a report from the conservative Heritage Foundation offering "some words of caution" before Mandela's visit.
Because of his role as a leader in the fight against oppression in South Africa, Nelson Mandela should be welcomed to this country. But the man who hails Fidel Castro, Muammar Qadhafi and South Africa's communist party, and who continues to advocate the use of violence against civilians for political purposes, is no friend of peace or liberty. The global collapse of communism shows that the world is leaving Nelson Mandela's ideas behind. Americans should praise Mandela for his life-long role in opposing apartheid, but they should not think that he alone holds the keys to a democratic South Africa.
One Republican Rep., William Dannemeyer of California, compared Mandela to Willie Horton, a murderer who while on a furlough from prison raped a woman multiple times after assaulting her fiancé.
Nelson Mandela's appearance before this body is a national disgrace. The invitation alone heaps shame on this body. Nelson Mandela is no Martin Luther King. He is more like H. Rap Brown or Willie Horton.
Republican Rep. Tom Delay of Texas said that Mandela described Mandela as "no friend to liberty, democracy, or human rights."
Mr. Speaker, make no mistake, Nelson Mandela is no friend to liberty, democracy, or human rights. He is the deputy president of the African National Congress. Their support for liberty and freedom is feigned. The ANC has announced their own constitutional guidelines which call for democracy, the freedom to form political parties, and freedoms of association, thought, worship, and the press….I deeply regret the decision to invite Nelson Mandela to speak at a joint session and cannot participate under these circumstances.
And here is Florida Republican Rep. Bill McCollum speaking against Mandela the day he addressed a joint session of Congress. McCollum offered a petition signed by Florida mayors opposing Mandela's visit.
In light of Mr. Nelson Mandela's visit to the United States and his address today before a joint session of Congress, I would like to bring to your attention the following petition. The signatures you find at the end of this document are the names of five mayors of south Florida cities including the mayor of Miami who have signed their names to actively oppose the visit of Nelson Mandela to our country. I believe it is important to recognize the fact that Mandela has publicly supported such current leaders as Yassir Arafat, Fidel Castro, and Mu'ammar Qadhafi whose violations of human rights have been denounced not only in this country but worldwide. He has also refused to renounce violence in the pursuit of his goals in South Africa. As people throughout the United States celebrate the arrival of Nelson Mandela and greet him with a hero's welcome in cities around the country, I feel compelled to not only state my own opposition to his views with regard to Qadhafi, Castro, and Arafat, but to make public the opposition of other individuals who have been betrayed by Mandela's praise of these human rights violators.
Republican Rep. Phillip Crane of Illinois said "the true meaning of freedom escapes Nelson Mandela." Crane said blacks had "nothing to gain" in South Africa under Mandela.
Nelson Mandela's ignorance of the true meaning of freedom is further exemplified by the number of comments he has made throughout his trip to the United States praising the leadership of such notorious human rights violators as Fidel Castro, Yasser Arafat, and Mir'ammar Qadhafi. If Mr. Mandela envisions a new South Africa using these people as role models, clearly blacks in that country have nothing to gain and everything to lose under ANC leadership.
Republican Rep. Dan Burton of Indiana blasted Mandela for criticism of Israel from the African National Congress.
I would just like to say that those who support Isarel, and most Members of this body do, ought to take a good look at some of the comments made by Mr. Mandela , because they are inconsistent with the feelings of the people of this country and the feelings of Members of this Congress. I think it is extremely important that we send a strong signal that not only do we want apartheid ended and we want freedom and democracy and a multiracial society in South Africa, but I think we need to send a signal as well that we do not want some radical terrorist organizations to take control, like the ANC has been in the past, ones that support communism, socialism, and would endanger not only the people of southern Africa and the economy down there, but also would endanger the United States as well.
Here's a brief video of remarks by Dannemeyer on Mandela.
Andrew Kaczynski is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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