House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer said Thursday he and Speaker Nancy Pelosi made a mistake when they called "tea party" participants "un-American" last year.
"That was not a good phrase, not a good use of language, it was not correct," Mr. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, said, adding that he did not see anything wrong with vigorous debating of philosophies.
In August, in the middle of a summer in which members of Congress were sometimes shouted down at town halls by constituents furious over the healthcare bill, Mr. Hoyer and Mrs. Pelosi wrote an Op-Ed article in USA Today decrying the tenor of the debate and complaining about baseless charges.
The leaders called the protests "an ugly campaign" and said it was clear some were trying to disrupt "a civil dialogue."
"Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American," the two wrote. The charge became a rallying cry for tea partyers.
Mr. Hoyer said he made a mistake in reading the Op-Ed too quickly and approving it. But he also said there are some tea party activists that go beyond the acceptable level of debate, and he gave as one example rallies where speakers accuse Democrats of being communists.
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