The Blog

The Coffin on Carnahan's Lawn Was Part of Prayer Vigil, Not Threat

11:25 AM, Mar 25, 2010 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

I read an account from the Politico last night of Tea Party protesters allegedly placing a coffin outside the St. Louis home of Rep. Russ Carnahan.

It occured to me, as it would to any honest person not interested in painting anti-Obamacare protesters as irretrievably violent, that the coffin in question was likely a prop in a political protest. The Left used countless flag-draped coffins for eight years to symbolize the war dead in protests. As recently as this week, the use of such coffins was reported as "Symbolic coffins mark anti-war protests in Washington." One would think if coffins qualify as threats, not political theater, the press would have been interested in the lawn full of death threats anti-war protesters delivered to the White House last weekend, according to this photo.

CoffinsCoffins

As it turns out, my hunch was right, and a Carnahan spokesperson admitted as much to a St. Louis publication.

Communications Director Sara Howard said about a dozen people brought the coffin to Carnahan's private St. Louis residence. After holding a vigil they took the coffin away.

The coffin is one of a list of incidents and threats made toward Democratic lawmakers in the days since the health care bill was approved.

If it was part of a "vigil," it was not a threat. Local TV station KDSK was honest and diligent enough not to report mere complaints from Carnahan's office. Instead, the station produced this report, featuring First Things blogger and activist Jim Hoft who was on hand for the peaceful prayer vigil:

As Hoft explains, the coffin was a symbol of those who would suffer and die under new health-care legislation. In the eyes of Obamacare critics, the casket was a symbol for the unborn and the elderly who may be subject to care rationing in the future.

The Politico report has since been changed to include the fact that the coffin was part of a prayer vigil, but last night, this is what it said:

A coffin was placed on a Missouri Democrat’s lawn, another in a string of incidents against lawmakers after their vote Sunday on a health care overhaul.

Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-Mo.) had a coffin placed “near his home,” a spokesman said Wednesday evening.

“Carnahan appreciates thoughtful feedback received both in favor and opposition of health insurance reform,” Carnahan spokesman Jim Hubbard told POLITICO Wednesday evening “We can disagree on important issues facing our country without resorting to this kind of thing. Russ Carnahan isn’t going to shy away from the importance of reform when 45,000 fellow Americans died last year due to a lack of health insurance.”

The Carnahans and Carnahan spokespeople also told reporters the coffin was left on their lawn. Hoft, who was part of the demonstration, says this is not true. He says the coffin is now in a garage, and was taken away by protesters after their Sunday vigil.

Now, is it possible there's a separate coffin left on the lawn by an entirely different set of protesters at another time? Perhaps, but the likelihood that such a thing would truly represent a threat is very low, and there's no photographic or video evidence of it.

It takes just the barest curiosity of the actual facts in most of the recent accusations of Tea Partiers to discern that they're not part of a widespread campaign of violence and racism. The incident still under investigation at the home of Rep. Tom Perriello's brother's home is, of course, the notable exception, and has been officially denounced over and over again.

In this case, the eye-witness accounts, video, local news media, and photo evidence point to the fact that this is free speech, and not even remotely objectionable (or, "disturbing," as Carnahan spokespeople put it).

Characterizing it as anything but simple speech is irresponsible of both the media and Carnahan.

Update: Rep. Mike Pence puts it rather well when he says, "I strongly condemn bigotry, threats or vandalism. I also condemn the smearing of law-abiding citizens."

Recent Blog Posts

The Weekly Standard Archives

Browse 18 Years of the Weekly Standard

Old covers