BROCKTON, Mass. -- Moments into a speech before volunteers here Wednesday evening, Elizabeth Warren was interrupted by a Tea Party supporter who hurled a gender-based epithet at the Senate candidate. The man, who said he'd been unemployed since February 2010, objected to Warren's expressed affiliation with the frustrations of Occupy Wall Street, and argued that the Tea Party has been protesting Wall Street excess for longer than the nascent global movement.
The crowd tried to shout the man down, but Warren told her supporters to let him speak. "No, no, it's alright. Let me say two things," she said. "I'm very sorry that you've been out of work. I'm also very sorry that the recent jobs bill that would've brought 22,000 jobs to Massachusetts did not pass in the Senate."
Speaking in a packed VFW hall, Warren went on to address his question about her association with Occupy Wall Street. "I've been protesting what's been going on on Wall Street for a very long time," she said, but added that the movement has its own independent agenda and will proceed along its own course.
"Yeah, so has the Tea Party," the man said, before losing his cool.
"Well, if you're the intellectual creator of that so-called party," he said, "you're a socialist whore. I don't want anything to do with you." The crowd shouted him down as he added that Warren's "boss," presumably referring to the president, was "foreign-born." He then attempted to storm out through a side door. Finding it locked, he retreated out the back of the VFW hall instead.
In April, before President Obama released his "long form" birth certificate, 43 percent of Republicans said that the president was either definitely or probably born in a foreign country, according to a Gallup survey. After he released the birth certificate, the number dropped, but still held at roughly one in four when polled in May.
Warren took the challenge in stride. "So, we are here to do work, and I think we have a reminder that we have a lot of work to do," she said as the heckler struggled with the door.
The Tea Party was founded on a sense that something ephemeral had been stolen by someone and that a movement was needed to "take the country back." Occupy Wall Street is now getting media attention the Tea Party believes is rightfully theirs, and the perceived slight can only inflame the movement's sense of victimhood. They didn't just lose the country as they knew it. Now they've lost coverage on CNN, too.
After the event, Warren reflected on the man's outburst, which she said was her first such encounter. "I actually felt sorry for the guy. I really genuinely did. He's been out of work now for a year and a half. And bless his heart, I mean, he thought somehow it would help to come here and yell names," she told HuffPost.
The assault stuck with Warren, and she continued to think about it throughout the night. Hours later, she said she wasn't upset with the man himself, but rather with those who attempt to channel his anger in a malevolent direction. "I was thinking more about the heckler. I'm not angry with him, but he didn't come up with the idea that his biggest problem was Occupy Wall Street. There's someone else pre-packaging that poison -- and that's who makes me angry," she said.
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