House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday condemned vandalism and threats of violence against members of Congress who voted for sweeping health care change, saying such behavior "must be rejected."
She told a news conference Thursday that "I don't want this to be a distraction," but also said that such actions have "no place in a civil debate in our country." She vowed not to let incidents of vandalism and hate-mongering distract the work of Congress.
At least four Democratic offices in New York, Arizona and Kansas were struck and at least 10 members of Congress have reported some sort of threats, including obscenity-laced phone messages, congressional leaders have said. No arrests have been reported.
Pelosi spoke to reporters shortly after Republican House members went to the floor to plead with those who oppose the Democratic health care plan to refraim from violence and threats.
Opposition to the health care bill that President Barack Obama signed into law is "no excuse for bigotry, threats or acts of vandalism and I condemn such things in the strongest possible terms," said Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, the House's third-ranked Republican.
"Some of our colleagues have received threatening phone calls. A brick has been thrown, a window has been smashed. This is not the right way to respond," added Rep. Joseph Pitts, R-Pa., a leading anti-abortion lawmaker.
Said Pelosi: "From it's origins, our country has had a lively debate. But it is also important for us to be able to express ourselves freely, not to diminish that in any way, but also to hit a standard that says some of the actions ... must be rejected."
The California Democrat said she did not mean her criticism to "paint everyone with what has happened here with the same brush."
And she said, "I don't subscribe to the theory that these acts sprang from the comments of my colleagues."
But Pelosi also said, "I think we have to manage this issue very carefully, recognizing we are a democracy. We do not want to stifle debate, or free expression of it."