Reid J. Epstein
OFA rally on the Capitol steps
WASHINGTON — The bipartisan co-chairs of the House Disabilities Caucus condemned a sign reading “Thank You Tea-Tards” spotted at an Organizing For Action event on Capitol Hill Tuesday. The event was designed to pressure Republican leaders in Congress to abandon the conservative wing of their party, reopen the government, and raise the debt ceiling.
Rhode Island Democratic Rep. Jim Langevin said he understood emotions are running high as the clock ticks down to the deadline for default Thursday, but said the sign was out of line.
“It is a frustrating time in Washington right now, but I find it really unfortunate that this offensive slur was used to characterize anyone,” he said. “As co-chair of the Bipartisan Disabilities Caucus, I am a firm supporter of the campaign to end the ‘R word.’ It is derogatory and counter to the acceptance and inclusion in society of people with developmental disabilities.”
Langevin’s Republican co-chair, Nebraska Rep. Lee Terry, called on President Obama to condemn the sign.
“As someone who has worked with and fought for those individuals with special needs, Congressman Terry believes this type of language is dispicable and has no place in our nation’s discourse,” said Larry Farnsworth, Terry’s spokesperson. “President Obama needs to call out his supporters at the DNC and OFA for condoning this insensitive and hurtful message during their protest.”
The Capitol Hill event was one of many similar rallies across the country planned by OFA and posted to the group’s official calendar. OFA was formed from the remnants of Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign and is focused on boosting public support for the president’s policies.
The Capitol Hill event was reportedly very sparsely attended, with the number of ralliers spotted reportedly in the dozen or so range.
OFA did not respond to requests for comment before this post published. After it posted, an OFA official condemned the language in the sign.
“We neither support nor approve of the inappropriate language used in a sign on the mall today,” the official said. “OFA believes that John Boehner should stand up to the extreme wing in his party, pay their bills and end this now.”
Update: The man holding the sign at the protest, David Roper, tells BuzzFeed he was not affiliated with OFA, nor did OFA know he was going to show the sign he held when he showed up at the group’s protest.
“I was on the mall this morning to attend the military veterans #endtheshutdown event at the WW2 memorial,” he said in an email interview. “When it ended I walked to the capitol building to see what was afoot.”
The sign was only displayed for a few minutes, Roper said.
“Nobody from OFA saw the red sign until I was already standing beside the OFA people,” he said. “They moved shortly afterward (within probably 5 minutes) onto the lawn and I went home.”
Roper said the sign caused him some grief Tuesday, but he didn’t express any remorse for the language he used. “Meh,” he said when asked for his reaction to the controversy caused by the Tea-Tard sign.
“I’d rather let this slide into the ether of non-stories that somehow got attention,” Roper added.
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