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Former Pennsylvania congressman turned CNN contributor, Charlie Dent appeared in a Monday segment on the network to discuss the recent, hateful death threat received by Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-MI), and revealed that his former district office had a “safe room” for use “in the event a lunatic came in.”
Dent shared his office’s procedure for handling perceived threats during his time representing Pennsylvania’s 15th district from 2005 to 2018.
“I used to have a safe room in my congressional district office, for my staff to go in, in the event a lunatic came in. We had pictures of about five or six people, like mug shots, if any of these people ever show up in the office or call the office, contact the police immediately,” the CNN contributor shared.
Dent argued that Americans across the country– lawmakers included– have forgotten the art of civil debate, and that has aided in the polarization of parties.
“I think really is the issue is we’ve kind of forgotten how to have to civil debates in this country, not just in Congress, but among ourselves. That is the problem. But this problem has been around for a while,” the former congressman said.
Phone threats, however, are sadly not uncommon for lawmakers to receive.
“We have people out there, you know, who are unstable, unbalanced, and make those kinds of calls, like Debbie Dingell received. And Fred Upton also got a doozy of one, too. And these people are awful,” Dent continued.
While Dent appears to have viewed his “safe room” as short-term remediation for any potential threat, he is unclear on any real, long-term solution for ugly discord.
“I don’t know how you teach people to be respectful. You can actually disagree with your opponent, you can debate them while acknowledging the legitimacy of their argument, you can do that. It’s not hard to do, but we have lost that,” the former congressman explained, “It’s either my way or the highway. If you disagree with me, it’s a human rights violation, and they’ll go to these extreme lengths and use rhetoric that, frankly, at times crosses the line to almost a terroristic threat.”
Rep. Dingell joined CNN on Sunday where she shared the expletive-laced voicemail she received.
“You godd*** old senile b****. You’re as old and ugly as Biden. You ought to get the f**** off the planet. You f****** foul b****…. They ought to f****** try you for treason, b****. You and every one of your scumbag f****** friends… I hope your family dies in front of you. I pray to God, if you’ve got any children, they die in your face,” the unidentified caller said.
The direction we are going on … sadly … I have no words after listening to this vm left for Rep. Debbie Dingell. This “Christian” utters a prayer I doubt God will answer. #heinous #debbiedingell #toxicenvjronment #congress #TheTweetOfGod pic.twitter.com/Q47DiUFM4P
— Christopher Pawelski (@ChrisPawelski) December 26, 2021
Dingell attributes the hateful messages to former President Trump’s followers. The congresswoman told CNN that she has received similar voicemails “for a couple of years ever since Christmastime, the Christmas, right after [her husband] John had died.”
“John was my late husband and it – you know, once you’re in that Trump hate tunnel, you kind of don’t escape it,” Dingell added.
Despite the lawmakers’ calls for political civility, their relentless criticism of Trump supporters and in some cases, like that of Rep. Maxine Waters– their calls for violence against the opposing party– have yet to be addressed.
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