Swastika painted outside Congressman’s office

The debate over health care took an ugly turn Tuesday morning after a swastika was found painted outside of Congressman David Scott’s Smyrna office.

The incident follows national coverage of Scott’s encounter with a citizen opposed to heath care reform at a recent town hall in Douglasville. That forum’s topic was not health care, but reconstruction of Ga. 92.

Since then the 13th district representative’s two local offices have been flooded with angry phone calls, faxes and e-mails.

“We’ve received a lot of ugly and threatening phone calls,” said Scott aide Isaac Dodoo.

One fax, representative of many of the correspondences, referred to Scott by a racial slur, promoting “Death to all Marxists! Foreign and domestic!”

“That was a strong message to be sent,” he said Tuesday of the swastika. “We all have to be very careful. This is a warning sign.”

Smyrna Police, Capitol Police, the FBI and Secret Service are involved in the investigation. Scott’s office is part of a complex that includes a Regions Bank, and authorities are hopeful that footage of the vandals may have been captured by surveillance cameras.

“We’re waiting to hear back from the bank’s security coordinator,” said Smyrna Police Det. C. McDuffie.

Those responsible for the swastika will likely face federal prosecution for a hate crime, he said.

Scott said he will request extra security for himself and his family, noting that a fellow Democratic congressman, Brad Miller of North Carolina, has received death threats for his support of health care reform. Two other Democratic congressman, Lloyd Doggett of Texas and Frank Kratovil of Maryland, were hanged in effigy by protesters opposed to President Barack Obama’s health care reform.

“This kind of hate and racism is bubbling underneath the surface,” Scott said.

On Monday the fourth-term congressman told the AJC he was worried about racial undertones in the health care debate.

What happened Tuesday proved his point, he said.

“You hear these people say I want my country back, but from whom?” Scott said Tuesday. “They feel somebody has taken their country. What has happened to demonstrate that? I think it speaks for itself.”

Scott, a member of the Blue Dog Democrats and the Congressional Black Caucus, said he believes his YouTubed confrontation at the Aug. 1 Douglasville town hall has made him a convenient target for far right activists.

“[The doctor] was part of a whole mob of people who came to an event -- not about health care -- to hijack it,” he said. “It was not the time and place to do it.”

Scott said he believes the swastika was not painted by any of his constituents.

“This is a national thing,” he said. “This is not coming from people inside my district.”

Scott has turned over letters and faxes sent to his office from out of state numbers and addresses to federal and local authorities investigating the graffiti, which was discovered by an aide around 7:30 a.m.

The graffiti has generated a fierce debate online -- with some accusing the congressman of defacing his own sign.

“No word which of his own staffers painted the swastika under his orders,” said a commenter on conservative talk show host Sean Hannity’s Web site. He was not the only one.

Scott said he still plans to attend a health care town hall this Saturday at Mundy Mill High School in Jonesboro -- accompanied by “beefed-up patrols” from the Clayton County Sheriff’s Department.

“Let’s not let hate and racism take us off course,” he said. “I’m convinced this is not the way the vast majority of people feel.”