I froze when I heard Eric Swalwell responding to MSNBC’s Nicole Wallace about the continuing death threats against him and his family. I had heard his tone of voice before.
Swalwell was preternaturally calm, and I recognized that chilling tone of voice going back many, many years. It was the even, accepting voice I heard come out of Bobby Kennedy, when I was 15 years old and campaigning for him for the U.S Senate from New York in the Sunset City Shopping Center of North Babylon, Long Island, in 1964, the year after his brother was assassinated.
It was the same resigned, accepting voice I heard over and over again four years later, on tapes of Martin Luther King’s “Mountaintop” speech to the striking Memphis Sanitation Workers, the night before he was killed.
And, it was the same calm, resigned-to-fate voice I heard, face-to-face, from Yitzhak Rabin, in the Israeli Prime Minister’s office, in 1992, when Governor Mario M. Cuomo and I met with him, three years before Rabin was murdered at a peace rally, by an extreme Right Wing Jewish terrorist.
Listening to Swalwell describe the threats on his life, and the deadly lies being spread about him by House GOP Speaker Kevin McCarthy, spooked me. Not just because of the shock of what he was saying, but because the 42-year old father of three young children appeared to be matter-of-factly confronting his fate.
MSNBC’s Wallace, on her January 18, 2023 Deadline White House show, was asking Swalwell about Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s actions to block him from serving on any House Committees, in clear retaliation for Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar — who had uttered anti-Semitic and racist hate speech, and threatened violence against others — being excluded from Committees when the Democrats controlled Congress. Swalwell, who served on both the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees during the last Congress, mentioned the Washington Post story earlier that day which gave Kevin McCarthy “Four Pinocchios” for flat out lying. (“McCarthy’s Specious Attacks on Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell.”)
“It’s clear Speaker McCarthy is willing to trade the lives of my children — whose lives have been directly threatened because of his lies — for a few bucks, “ Swalwell said, in a calm, even voice. “The FBI has repeatedly contradicted his lies, but he persists in telling them out of political vengeance.”
Two years earlier, before he became Speaker, McCarthy unsuccessfully tried to have Swalwell removed from the House Intelligence Committee because of his work on the Trump Impeachment effort, and his pointed criticism of Trump. Now, using the power of House Speaker, McCarthy thought it was time to resuscitate the grotesque ghost and the dishonest tactics of Senator Joseph McCarthy to assassinate the character of Eric Swalwell. Like his horrific and hateful namesake, the “new” McCarthy reached back 8 years, for a case against a Chinese spy that Swalwell helped the FBI resolve.
Despite the FBI’s repeatedly praising Swalwell’s work with them on the case, the California McCarthy — who sliced baloney in a Central Valley deli before being elected to Congress — waved an imaginary “classified FBI file” at Swalwell and the press, to justify his unjustifiable action.
Without revealing any evidence or any documentation, Kevin McCarthy remarked to reporters on January 12, “ If you got the briefing I got from the FBI you wouldn’t have Swalwell on any committee…” Echoes of Joseph McCarthy’s “I have here in my hand, the names of…,” filled the room. Neither of the mendacious McCarthys had any evidence, shame, nor character.
Death threats against the articulate Congressman Swalwell, his staff, and his family were nothing new. In October 2021, appearing on MSNBC’s Deadline White House with Nicole Wallace, Swalwell detailed death threats from a Tucker Carlson fan who “threatened to kill my entire family.”
One year later — on the day in late October, 2022 that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband Paul Pelosi was viciously beaten in his own home by a crazed conspiracy theorist looking for “Nancy,” a Pennsylvania man, Joshua Hall, pleaded guilty to making threats against Swalwell and his staff.
Swalwell refused to stay silent about the threat, writing on social media :
“A staffer of mine — one month into her job — received a call from a man saying he’s coming to my office with an assault rifle to kill me. I hesitate to share this, but how else do I tell you we are in a violent time and the architects are Trump & McCarthy. Bloodshed is coming.”
As if on cue, the newly-elected GOP House Speaker — beholden to the extreme right wing, QAnon quacks of his Party for election to his post after 15 ballots — continued with his character assassination of Eric Swalwell. Coming in the incendiary political climate of violence against public officials, McCarthy had to know that his casual character assassination could result in the real thing. He just didn’t care.
Swalwell told Nicole Wallace precisely that, during his live Deadline White House appearance of January 18, which came a few days after the arrest and firing of Indiana lab worker Jonathan Reesh, who threatened by phone, to break “Swalwell’s fucking face,” and wishing that his wife and 3 young children, would be “raped and murdered:”
“People parrot what Kevin McCarthy is saying, when they call and make threats. He knows that; we’ve told him that. I have publicly broadcast to him that when you do this it leads to threats to me, my wife, our kids. Recently, someone said they were going to rape and kill my children, and they used the language that Kevin McCarthy was using.”
Swalwell’s three children are 6, 5 and 2 years old. The son and brother of law enforcement professionals, the East Bay Congressman has zero tolerance for intolerance , hate speech, or threats of violence. A former Assistant District Attorney in Alameda County, Swalwell knows that swift action, arrest, conviction and sentencing is the best way to shut down violent actors.
The Biden Administration can immediately take bold steps to protect Swalwell, by providing his family with 24-hour Secret Service protection. Additionally, to swiftly and efficiently expose Kevin McCarthy for the dangerous liar he is, Biden can declassify portions of the FBI report which fully exonerates Swalwell. President Biden’s reading from the report at a White House Press Conference, along with FBI Director Christopher Wray, would help protect Congressman Swalwell and his young family from both types of assassination.
The GOP Speaker’s words and actions against Eric Swalwell — coming in the same week when another Trump fanatic and failed New Mexico MAGA candidate for pubic office reportedly hired assassins to kill local Democratic public officials — must be seen as an incitement to commit violence against a specific lawmaker.
Either the newest, national political abomination named McCarthy doesn’t understand that, or, like Trump, he knows exactly what evil his words unleash, and simply doesn’t care about the consequences.