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Democrats accused of exploiting threats <br> GOP whip sees motive as partisan

WASHINGTON -- The second-ranking Republican in the House accused Democratic Party leaders Thursday of "fanning the flames" about threats of violence to House Democrats and exploiting the reported incidents for political purposes.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., tried to cool those flames, however, saying that no one should blame members of Congress for provoking such incidents.

Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, the House Republican whip, said that he, too, had been a victim of violence. He said that his office in Richmond was shot at early Tuesday morning and that he had received threats throughout his political career for being Jewish. Richmond police are investigating the shooting incident, but a preliminary report indicated that the bullet had been fired into the air at about 1 a.m. Tuesday and hit the window of the first-floor office when it was headed back down.

Cantor devoted most of a news conference Thursday to calling out Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine, a former Virginia governor, and Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, contending that that they are using the reported incidents against Democratic lawmakers as a "political weapon" against Republicans.

"It is reckless to use these incidents as media vehicles for political gain," Cantor said.

Pounding a podium, Cantor shouted: "Enough is enough. It has to stop."

In the last week, Democrats who supported the sweeping health care overhaul legislation reportedly have been targets in several incidents. House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., said that more than 10 incidents had been reported.

House Rules Committee Chair Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport, had a brick thrown through the window of her Niagara Falls district office.

Pelosi said she did not want to paint everyone "with the same brush, and I think many people want to dissociate themselves with it."

However, she added, "Words have power. They weigh a ton. And they are received differently by people depending on their emotional state, and we have to take responsibility for words that are said that we do not reject."

Pelosi would not criticize specific GOP leaders or members, saying, "I don't subscribe to the fact that these acts of violence sprang from any words of my colleagues."

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, and Republican Caucus Chairman Mike Pence of Indiana repeated condemnations Thursday of any reported acts of harassment, violence and intimidation against lawmakers.

Pence, however, speaking on the House floor, said that "millions of law-abiding Americans" who opposed the health care bill were being smeared in the news media by associating them with the bad behavior of a few people.

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