Michigan Lawmakers on Opposing Sides Denounce Threats and Highlight Friendship Amid 'Toxic' Environment

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Debbie Dingell, Fred Upton
Debbie Dingell, Fred Upton

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call Debbie Dingell (left), Fred Upton

Two members of Congress from Michigan, who sit on opposites sides of the aisle in the House, appeared side by side to discuss the vitriolic atmosphere in Washington — and why their friendship should be an example of political opponents working together with kindness to get things done.

Rep. Debbie Dingell, who is a Democrat, and Rep. Fred Upton, who is a Republican, addressed what CNN's Dana Bash called a "hostile work environment" on Capitol Hill during a joint interview on Sunday's episode of State of the Union.

"It's pretty toxic, there's no question about it," Upton said, citing metal detectors outside House chambers and "nasty threats at home" as examples of the fraught atmosphere.

"It's a pretty toxic place," Upton, 68, continued. "I've never seen anything like this before."

Bash then warned viewers about the "disturbing" nature of a threatening voice message Rep. Dingell recently received and played it on the air.

"You god--- old senile b----," a recorded voice said. "I hope your family dies in front of you."

"I've been getting those for a couple of years," the congresswoman, 68, said, adding that the threats began after former President Donald Trump visited Michigan at Christmastime and suggested her late husband, Democrat Rep. John Dingell, went to hell.

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"Once you're in that Trump hate tunnel, you kind of don't escape it," Rep. Dingell told Bash. "There are a lot of good people out there who are really wonderful to me … but we average several of those [calls] a week. And, you know, we're used to it."

Though she said she doesn't want to "normalize" vitriolic remarks she hears, Dingell said, "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."

"We need to really worry about our democracy and find a way that you can disagree with people and do it in a civil and agreeable way," Dingell added.

RELATED: Rep. Debbie Dingell's Office Vandalized and Late Husband's Items Damaged During Break-in: 'This Needs to Stop'

Upton, who voted to impeach Trump after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and in favor of President Joe Biden's infrastructure bill, has also received threats and previously shared a recording with CNN in which a caller said he was a "f---ing piece of s--- traitor."

Dingell and Upton said their friendship — and their desire to help the American people by working together — should be an example of how lawmakers from opposing parties can be civil towards each other while striving to achieve the country's goals.

RELATED: Biden Says Threats Against Republicans Who Voted for Infrastructure Deal Must 'Stop for the Sake of America'

"I can have very strong disagreements, even with Fred, over some policy issues," Dingell said.

"And I'll always make her laugh," Upton added.

"Fred and I are best friends and probably talk five or six times a day about everything," Dingell continued. "I have a lot of friends on the other side of the aisle … What we need to do is all of us get back to just remembering what we all have in common, just respecting each other, treating each other with dignity."

Upton said 2022 will be a "tough year" and addressed how coming together is especially important in light of rising rates of COVID-19 infection in his and Dingell's state.

"What can we do working together trying to help our hospitals or herald our workers and families to make sure they don't get this," he said. "If we don't work together, we're not going to get this thing solved."