DENOUNCING BIGOTRY…. Given my earlier post on this, it’s only fair that I acknowledge Republican officials who did the right thing this morning.

Following reports yesterday that black and openly gay Democratic lawmakers were subjected to spitting and epithets from anti-health care reform protesters outside the Capitol, Republican leaders said Sunday that such incidents were “isolated” and “reprehensible.”

On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) denounced the use of such slurs “in the strongest terms possible.”

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the “isolated incidents” were “reprehensible.”

Later on the same program, Michael Steele, the Republican National Committee’s first black chairman, agreed that the incidents were “reprehensible,” and added, “we do not support that.”

I would have preferred to see Republicans speak out on this sooner, and it would have been nice had they denounced the abhorrent right-wing tactics without waiting to be asked, but it’s nevertheless encouraging to see there are still some lines of decency that even far-right protestors are not supposed to cross.

As for Steele, he tried to characterize yesterday’s ugliest incidents as the actions of a “handful of people who just got stupid.” If I heard him correctly, the RNC chairman went on to denounce “racial epitaphs” like those uttered yesterday.

I’m fairly certain that’s not the proper use of the word “epitaph,” but the sentiment is appreciated anyway.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.