WASHINGTON — House Democrats distanced themselves on Wednesday from the recent rhetoric used by Congressman Alan Grayson, who earlier in the week sent out a fundraising mailer comparing the Tea Party to the Ku Klux Klan.
The email included an image of a burning cross, captioned "Now you know what the T stands for."
Rep. Steve Israel, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said he had not seen the email but said flatly that Grayson "was wrong." Israel said he had not spoken with Grayson.
"I disagree with his wording. I have not seen the photo, but the from the reports of the photo I disagree with what he said," Israel said.
Many of the Democrats BuzzFeed spoke with said they had not seen the email Grayson sent, but said that the comparison to the KKK was over the top.
"I don't think that helps promote getting anything accomplished here," said Rep. Joe Crowley.
"I think all of us need to work harder at rebuilding civility in our politics," said Rep. Gerry Connolly after a very long pause.
For his part, Grayson doubled-down on the comparison telling a local television station that the Tea Party has "engaged in relentless racist attacks against our African-American President."
"There is overwhelming evidence that the Tea Party is the home of bigotry and discrimination in America today, just as the KKK was for an earlier generation. If the hood fits, wear it," he said.
Assistant Democratic Leader Jim Clyburn made clear that he had not seen the letter so he couldn't comment on the exact content or the imagery Grayson used. But Clyburn said he understood the sentiment.
"I have my own opinion about people who call themselves Tea Partiers. I see the mail that comes into my office. Nobody writes about that, but I get mail in my office and I know how racist a lot of that mail is.
Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Grayson's colleague from Florida and the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, told Politico she disapproved Grayson's email but called on both parties to "dial back" the rhetoric.
"Obviously I am disappointed in the use of that imagery," she said. "Both sides need to dial back that kind of rhetoric and look to bring more civility into politics."
Rep. Grayson's full email response:
Kate Nocera is the DC Bureau Chief for BuzzFeed’s Washington, DC bureau. Nocera is a recipient of the National Press Foundation's 2014 Dirksen Award for distinguished reporting on Congress.
Contact Kate Nocera at email@example.com.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.