(CNSNews.com) - Contrary to reports that a coffin was placed on Rep. Russ Carnahan’s (D-Mo.) lawn on Mar. 21 while the House voted on the health care bill, the casket was never put on his property and was not used to signify a threat against him, according to the tea party activists who used it.
The coffin, in fact, was used as a prop at a prayer vigil on Mar. 21 to symbolize the “loss of freedom and the loss of lives due to government medical rationing,” said the activists. Further, the coffin, made of wood and stained a medium brown, was always in the possession of Bill Hennessy, a member of the St. Louis Tea Party Patriots, and is in his possession now in his garage.
On Thursday, Hennessy told CNSNews.com in an e-mail: “How I found out about this story is last night [Wednesday] a local reporter called me and asked me if I knew anything about it. He said that Carnahan’s office called and told him that someone left a coffin on his lawn last night -- and I didn’t.”
Hennessy also explained that the prayer vigil started in front of Carnahan’s district office in St. Louis and then was continued in front of his home. “The coffin was never placed on anyone’s lawn,” said Hennessy, and “the coffin was not left behind.”
Politco reported on the issue on Mar. 24 with a headline, “Coffin Placed On Carnahan’s Lawn,” and a lead paragraph that read: “A coffin was placed on a Missouri Democrat’s lawn, another in a string of incidents against lawmakers after their vote Sunday on a health care overhaul.”
Politico later updated its story on Mar. 25 “to reflect that the coffin was placed in front of Carnahan’s house and not his lawn.”
The Belleville News-Democrat, which serves the southwestern Illinois and St. Louis region, reported on Mar. 25: “A spokesperson for Congressman Russ Carnahan said a coffin featured in a weekend health care reform protest was placed on the Democratic lawmaker's front lawn Sunday night.
“Communications Director Sara Howard said about a dozen people brought the coffin to Carnahan's private St. Louis residence. After holding a vigil they took the coffin away.
“The coffin is one of a list of incidents and threats made toward Democratic lawmakers in the days since the health care bill was approved. Howard said she feels there can be disagreement on the health care reform without resorting to threats and intimidation.”
Despite those reports, CNSNews.com spoke with Jim Hubbard, a spokesman for Carnahan, on Mar. 25, and he said, “I know that a coffin was placed near his home. I don’t know that it was in his lawn -- yes, that would be something.”
Following Politico’s initial report, CBSNews.com ran a story with the headline, “Coffin on Lawmaker’s Lawn, Other Reports of Angry Actions Surface,” and a lead sentence that said, “After Congress met with the FBI and other law enforcement officials yesterday to discuss threats against them, reports continued to surface about the troubling actions taken against lawmakers.”
USAToday.com ran a headline, “Carnahan Coffin: Death Threat or Peaceful Vigil?” and quoted Jim Hubbard from Carnahan’s office saying the prayer vigil went “over the line,” and that, “This kind of rhetoric has no place in civil discourse.”