***Updated 11:00 PM 4/6/2010 with further information on original coverage***
***Updated with new video 4/7/2010 12:00 AM***
On March 20, Rep. Andre Carson, an Indiana Democrat, first told reporters that health care protesters outside the Capitol hurled racial slurs at fellow Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) member Rep. John Lewis, a Democrat from Georgia. Mr. Carson came off the House floor and told reporters his story about health care protesters hurling racial slurs during their walk from the Cannon Building to the chambers.
My original coverage of this incident shows only two videos of the congressmen that day. One video shows the CBC members going towards the Capitol and the other shows them returning from the Capitol. Above is another video that has surfaced showing the Congressmen walking down the steps of Cannon. I checked with a police spokeswoman who said that no incidents had been reported from the Cannon office building that day.
While we were interviewing Mr. Carson, Lauren Victoria, a freelance journalist and “unofficial” CBC blogger, saw us talking to the Indiana Democrat:
“I don’t know if I was the first to report, but I did Twitter using my BlackBerry once I’d had a chance to talk to Andre Carson. It’s not like some reporter runs up to you and tells you something and you can instantly report on it second-hand. I want to find that member and determine what really happened.
I went to the lobby after the vote and saw six journalists around Carson. This was very rare, because he’s such a junior guy. So there are a bunch of people around him and I heard only the tail end of the story. He saw me and knew I’d joined the group late, so he stuck around and retold the story. Other reporters probably had to find their computers, author the article and have it edited, while I just used Twitter at that time.”
Below is the transcript of the interview a few reporters (including myself) had with Mr. Carson (AUDIO):
REP. CARSON:John Lewis…n - word, n - word at least 15 times…hundreds of people, and Capitol Police finally became aware and started protecting us. I want to know…those people who had cameras. I would love to get the actual [video].
REPORTER: When did this happen…just now….right before votes?
REP. CARSON: Just now.
PICKET: What exactly happened? I’m sorry. I came in late here.
REPORTER: Outside of this building?
REP. CARSON: Cannon….coming out with John Lewis out of the elevator with his chief of staff, and it was just the three of us walking down the steps — ‘kill the bill’, ‘kill the bill’…n - word fifteen times.
REPORTER: How many people were saying it?
REP. CARSON: Maybe out of…how many people are out there?…four hundred? Maybe fifteen people about fifteen times.
REPORTER: What were they saying? Just ‘kill the bill’?
REP. CARSON: ‘kill the bill’ and then the n - word (imitates crowd yelling racial slur) Lewis, his chief of staff, and myself (a former cop) I’m closer to Lewis… [we were] very stoic, looked straight forward, and Capitol Police got the idea. They started surrounding us. It was like a page out of a time machine.
PICKET: What are your thoughts on the crowd outside in general?
REP. CARSON: It’s America. Welcome to America.
REPORTER: I’m afraid I don’t know who you are.
REP. CARSON: Congressman Andre Carson…Indianapolis, Indiana seventh Congressional district—myself John Lewis and his chief of staff. It was unbelievable.
REPORTER2: Coming out of Cannon?
REP. CARSON: Yeah, I expected rocks to come. I mean…I’m walking with John Lewis who walked with MLK. It was bizarre, but he’s been there done that.
PICKET: You were scared of the crowd?
REP. CARSON: Me? No, I’m a former cop, but I became protective of Congressman Lewis, and a person said, ‘I’m being reminded of another time’ as we’re walking. It was like an old sage. For him to say that is (inaudible) been there done that. A young 35 year old like myself, I’m being protective of the older sage along with this chief of staff. We kept walking. The walk usually takes a couple of minutes. It felt like ten minutes.
PICKET: Do you think the people outside are generally dangerous or no?
REP. CARSON: Oh absolutely. I worked in homeland security. I’m from intelligence, and I’ll tell you, one of the largest threats to our internal security…I mean terrorism has an Islamic face, but it really comes from racial supremacist groups. (inaudible) Its the kind of thing we keep a threat assessment on record [for].
PICKET: From groups like this?
REP. CARSON: Oh absolutely.
REPORTER: Was there any physical? Did they touch? Did they push? No one threw anything?
REP. CARSON: No, no, no. I heard one ‘go Carson’—obviously a Hooiser. It made me feel a little better, but then the Capitol Police finally got the idea—remember, it was just the three of us…my police instinct kicked in, (inaudible) and they got the idea.
As of now, no audio or video have been produced to confirm Mr. Carson’s claim.