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WASHINGTON — Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), a lawmaker who faced several threats during the heated health care debate, is calling on the country to ratchet down its heated political rhetoric and calling on lawmakers to speak out forcefully and condemn such comments.

Noting that the tragic shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) — which left 13 people wounded and six dead — occurred just a week before Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, Clyburn said on “Fox News Sunday” that “good people” have a responsibility to not be silent:

I think the sheriff out there in Tucson — I think he’s got it right. Words do have consequences, and I think that — this is nothing new, I’ve been saying this for a long time now. We’re getting ready to celebrate, this weekend, the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., who admonished us that we are going to regret in this generation not just the vitriolic words and deeds of bad people, but the appalling silence of good people.

And I think that what has happened here is the vitriol has gotten so elevated, until people feel emboldened by this. And people, who are a little less than stable, and people aren’t thinking for themselves or are so easily influenced, they got out and do things that all of us pay a great price for. I applaud the Republican leadership for doing what they’ve done in this instance, for giving everybody a chance to step back and take a hard look at this, and decide how we can go forward.