Citing the assassinations of uncles John F. and Robert F. Kennedy, Rep. Patrick Kennedy accused grassroots conservatives of "very, very dangerous" behavior that could lead to violence against public officials.
"When they go and stoop to the level of the vitriolic rhetoric that we've seen this debate turn up, it's very, I think, dangerous to the fabric of our country," the Rhode Island Democrat said according to The Providence Journal.
Kennedy's remarks targeted Tea Party Patriots, 9-12 Project members, and other conservative activists. His comments came during a private forum on health care in Providence.
His characterization of conservatives appeared to echo recent comments by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi compared conservatives to 1970s-era San Francisco militants who used "very frightening" rhetoric that "created a climate in which violence took place."
Rep. Kennedy, the son of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, went even further, however. He said the behavior of grassroots conservatives could actually threaten the safety of American politicians.
"My family's seen it up close too much with assassinations and violence in political life," the Democrat from Rhode Island told about 75 attendees at the Saturday7 event, according to The Providence Journal. "It's a terrible thing when people think that in order to get their point across they have to go to the edge of violent rhetoric and attack people personally."
Kennedy's broadside drew a sharp reaction Tuesday from Fox News host Glenn Beck on both his radio and television programs. Beck criticized Democrats and the media for unfairly portraying conservative protesters as somehow prone to violent extremism.
"How many times do we have to hear people say that 'somebody' is going to make an attempt on this president's life," Beck said on his radio program, "before we start wondering, 'Why do you keep saying this? Are you trying to convince people to do it? Do you have any information?'"
On his TV show, Beck pointed out that there were no arrests or acts of violence stemming from the 9-12 Project rallies on the Mall. He compared that peaceful crowd's comportment with last week's demonstrations at the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh.
There, anarchists turned dumpsters into battering rams, hurling them down city streets toward police. Police fired tear gas to break up the mobs, and made 190 arrests.
To further emphasize the double-standard facing conservatives, Beck pointed out that a New York Times report on the G-20 protesters described it as "a peaceful and permitted march."
Rep. Kennedy told his audience that protesters of healthcare reform had gone too far. And in a subsequent interview, which also was reported in The Providence Journal, he warned that strident conservative opposition could pose a physical danger for elected leaders.
"George Wallace didn't need a gun to pull a trigger … those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it," Kennedy said.
Kennedy was especially alarmed 9-12 rally signs that declared: "Bury ObamaCare With Kennedy." He said the signs were mass produced, and warned that they could incite violence against U.S. leaders.
"When you put that together with folks around the country calling in a very destructive ways for other things about Obama, and connotations of my family name," he said, "it's not a real stretch as to what the message is here."
Kennedy did not elaborate on what he thought that message might be.
The private audience at Kennedy's forum on healthcare consisted of nurses, union officials, and AARP members who favor healthcare reform.
The Providence Journal described the audience as "completely passive."
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