Two lawmakers say their bipartisan friendship a model for overcoming ‘toxic’ year in Washington

Democratic Rep. Debbie Dingell and Republican Rep. Fred Upton sat down for a joint interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” to reflect on a tumultuous year in Washington and to call on Americans to, as Dingell says, “get back to just remembering how much we have in common.”

“It’s pretty toxic, there’s no question about it,” Upton said of the climate in Washington. “It’s a pretty toxic place. I’ve never seen anything like this before.”

During the interview, Dingell reacted to a threatening voicemail message sent to her office. In the message, the caller insults her repeatedly, naming her a “f**king foul b*tch” and adding, “I pray to God, if you’ve got any children, they die in your face.”

Earlier this year, Upton himself shared a threatening voicemail he received in which the caller told him, “I hope you die. I hope everybody in your f**king family dies,” while labeling him a “f**king piece of sh*t traitor.”
Dingell said she’s received “several of those [messages] a week” for multiple years. She says the influx of threatening messages started after former President Donald Trump attacked her and her late husband Rep. John Dingell in December 2019, months after he passed away. Dingell said she wanted to play the message to reflect the level of animosity in the current political culture.

“I want the American people to think about what’s happening in our country, that this kind of hate, this fear is happening in communities across the country,” Dingell said.

Upton, who was one of the few Republicans to vote to impeach Trump following the January 6 insurrection, reflected on the attack, which he called “real and shocking,” and its aftermath.

“I was in my office, but I have a balcony and I watched people go down the mall and I saw them come back, and I heard the noise and obviously was watching what happened. But it was real and shocking,” Upton said.

When asked if he was surprised Republicans downplayed the attack in the following months, Upton recalled a reported phone conversation between Trump and House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy that occurred in the midst of the attack.

“I mean that is — it was a scary day,” Upton continued.

Both lawmakers highlighted their friendship as a model for bipartisan unity in Washington. Dingell said her and Upton are regularly at odds over legislation, but Upton was quick to note their friendship took precedence.

“I can have very strong disagreements even with Fred over some policies –” Dingell began to say.

Upton, cutting her off, clarified, “but I’ll always make her laugh at the end.”

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