Rep. Bob Inglis, defeated in South Carolina's Republican primary last month, told the AP that the GOP is succumbing to "demagoguery" and talk-show personalities, blasted Sarah Palin's "death panels" comments, and compared American partisans to "Sunni and Shia."
While not naming names, 12-year incumbent Rep. Bob Inglis suggested in interviews with The Associated Press that tea party favorites such as former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin and right-wing talk show hosts like Glenn Beck are the culprits.
He cited a claim made famous by Palin that the Democratic health care bill would create "death panels" to decide whether elderly or sick people should get care.
"There were no death panels in the bill … and to encourage that kind of fear is just the lowest form of political leadership. It's not leadership. It's demagoguery," said Inglis, one of three Republican incumbents who have lost their seats in Congress to primary and state party convention challengers this year.
Inglis said voters eventually will discover that you're "preying on their fears" and turn away.
"I think we have a lot of leaders that are following those (television and talk radio) personalities and not leading," he said. "What it takes to lead is to say, 'You know, that's just not right.'"
Inglis said the rhetoric also distracts from the real problems that politicians should be trying to resolve, such as budget deficits and energy security.
"It's a real concern, because I think what we're doing is dividing the country into partisan camps that really look a lot like Shia and Sunni," he said, referring to the two predominant Islamic denominations that have feuded for centuries. "It's very difficult to come together to find solutions."
Inglis also expressed sympathy for fellow Rep. John Lewis (D., Ga.), who accused tea partiers of repeatedly shouting racial epithets at him during a protest of the health-care vote. He said racism is part of what is motivating opposition to President Obama:
Inglis said he was too far away during the jeering incident to hear whether the protesters shouted racial epithets, as Lewis and other black lawmakers have claimed. But Inglis said the behavior was threatening and abusive.
"I caught him at the door and said, 'John, I guess you've been here before,'" Inglis said.
Inglis, 50, who calls himself a Jack Kemp disciple because he has emphasized outreach to minorities as the late Republican congressman did, thinks racism is a part of the vitriol directed at President Barack Obama.
"I love the South. I'm a Southerner. But I can feel it," he said.