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Byrd on Michael Vick: Going to Hell

In a floor speech Thursday, Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W. Va.) lashed out, indirectly, at Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, who was recently charged with running a dog-fighting ring in Virginia. The speech might have seemed unusually apocalyptic to those who don't know how much the octogenarian senator loves dogs (view the video below).

VIDEO | Byrd Likes Dogs


In biblical terms, Byrd -- wearing a navy-blue tie spotted with dog images -- attacked animal cruelty in ways that only he can.

"It is a brutal, sadistic event motivated by barbarism of the worst sort and cruelty of the worst, worst, worst, sadistic kind," Byrd said in a 24-minute address on the matter. "One is left wondering: Who are the real animals? Who are the real animals, who are the real animals -- the creatures inside the ring or the creatures outside the ring?"

Byrd did not specifically address the charges against Vick, a former Virginia Tech football star [We earlier said Vick was a graduate of VT. Vick actually left the school early to join the NFL. Thanks to readers for correcting our mistake], but attacked the nature of Vick's alleged crime in soaring rhetoric usually reserved for war speeches or Supreme Court confirmation battles: "The training of these poor creatures -- weigh those words -- the training of these poor creatures -- weigh them -- the training of these poor creatures to turn themselves into fighting machines is simply barbaric. Barbaric! Barbaric! Barbaric! Let that word resound from hill to hill and from mountain to mountain, from valley to valley across this broad land. Barbaric, barbaric!"

Byrd's love of dogs is a well known fact around the Senate. In April 2002, when his beloved dog Billy Byrd passed away, Byrd announced the death at an Appropriations Committee hearing, darkening the spirit of the Senate, whose galleries had heard the senator invoke his dog on many, many occasions. "I lost one of my best friends today," he said.

That day, when Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) bounded onto the floor for a vote, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) played a trick on Schumer and told him of the dog's passing, encouraging the New Yorker to pay his respects as a way to suck up to the Appropriations chairman. Schumer inquired what the dog's name was.

"Fido," Kennedy replied, hiding the laughter as Schumer bounded across the chamber to offer his condolences.

At the last second Schumer realized something was amiss and barked at Kennedy for trying to embarrass him in front of Byrd.

While Billy, a Maltese, was irreplaceable, Byrd soon got a new Shih Tzu, named Trouble. And trouble is what Vick received in the tongue lashing from Byrd delivered today.

"The Book of Proverbs in the Holy Bible, the King James Bible, tells us a righteous man regardeth the life of his beast but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel," Byrd said. "The immortal Dante tells us the divine justice reserves special places in Hell for certain categories of sinners. Madam president, I am confident -- madam president, I am confident that the hottest places in Hell are reserved for the souls of sick and brutal people who hold God's creatures in such brutal and cruel contempt! I yield the floor."

By Paul Kane  |  July 19, 2007; 7:40 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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