Public Health Policy
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Katie Couric. [Source: Stylelist (.com)]CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric denounces what she calls the “fear and frustration” being tapped in the sometimes-riotous demonstrations against health care reform. The anti-reform efforts have “stirred [up] a hornets nest,” she writes, and are uncovering “disturbing attitudes and emotions that have nothing to do with policy.” What, she asks, does bringing a handgun to a church where President Obama is speaking have to do with health care policy (see August 11, 2009)? “How does a swastika spray-painted on a congressman’s office further a discussion about Medicare (see August 11, 2009)?” Couric warns her readers that “we can’t let fear and frankly ignorance drown out the serious debate that needs to take place about an issue that affects the lives of millions of people. It’s time for everyone to take a deep breath and to focus on the task at hand before this sideshow drowns out the main event.” [CBS News, 8/14/2009]
John Stossel. [Source: Nashville Scene]The lobbying firm Americans for Prosperity (AFP), which is heavily involved in so-called “Astroturf” protests against health care reform (see April 14, 2009, April 15, 2009, May 29, 2009, July 27, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 5, 2009, Before August 6, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 6-7, 2009, August 10, 2009, and August 12, 2009), announces it will hold three town-hall style meetings in Wisconsin on August 26 and 27. The meetings will take place in the districts of three House members, David Obey (D-WI), Ron Kind (D-WI), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), all of whom AFP feels might be open to pressure. ABC reporter John Stossel will moderate the sessions for AFP. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 8/14/2009] Progressive news watchdog Web site Media Matters questions the propriety of Stossel, a supposedly nonpartisan member of the media, moderating the sessions for AFP, an avowedly partisan organization. [Media Matters, 8/17/2009]
Bloomberg News counts up the number of lobbyists the health care industry is funding to pressure lawmakers to oppose or support the reform legislation proposed by Congressional Democrats and the White House. It finds that some 3,300 lobbyists—six for each of the 535 representatives and senators weighing the issue—are working to convince lawmakers to take their clients’ position on the health care reform package. Over 1,500 organizations, from pharmaceutical firms and medical providers to “grassroots” organizations and citizens’ groups, employ the lobbyists, with three new organizations signing up each day, and each of the 10 largest Washington lobbying firms is involved in the effort. The groups spent a combined amount of $263.4 million on lobbying Congress during the first six months of 2009, exceeding the $241.1 million spent during the same period in 2008. The Sunlight Foundation’s Bill Allison says, “Whenever you have a big piece of legislation like this, it’s like ringing the dinner bell for K Street,” referring to the Washington street where many lobbying firms have offices. “There’s a lot of money at stake and there are a lot of special interests who don’t want their ox gored.” Most lobbyists assume that health care reform is going to happen in some form or fashion, says John Jonas of the lobbying firm Patton Boggs LLP. “They assume health care reform is going to happen and they want to be protected,” he says. Jonas’s firm has three dozen clients in the debate, including Bristol-Myers Squibb and Wal-Mart. Many lawmakers, such as Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), the Senate Finance Committee chairman, see lobbyists every day. Baucus’s office rotates between different schools of lobbyists, seeing representatives of health care providers one week, purchasers the second, and consumers the third. Larry McNeely of the US Public Interest Research Group says, “The sheer quantity of money that’s sloshed around Washington is drowning out the voices of citizens and the groups that speak up for them.” [Bloomberg, 8/14/2009]
Entity Tags: Max Baucus, Bloomberg News, Bill Allison, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Larry McNeely, Senate Finance Committee, John Jonas, Wal-Mart, Sunlight Foundation, US Public Interest Research Group, Patton Boggs LLP
Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda
A 1983 photo of Madelyn Dunham hugging her grandson, Barack Obama, on the occasion of his graduation from college. [Source: Daily Telegraph]Speaking to a crowd of largely pro-health care reform supporters in Colorado, President Obama cites the death of his grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, to debunk the widespread idea that his ideas for reform would include so-called “death panels” (see November 23, 2008, January 27, 2009, February 9, 2009, February 11, 2009, February 18, 2009, May 13, 2009, June 24, 2009, June 25, 2009, July 10, 2009, July 16, 2009, July 17, 2009, July 21, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23-24, 2009, July 24, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 31, 2009 - August 12, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 7, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 10, 2009, Shortly Before August 10, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 12, 2009, August 12, 2009, August 12, 2009, August 13, 2009, August 12-13, 2009, August 13, 2009). “I just lost my grandmother last year,” he says. “I know what it’s like to watch somebody you love, who’s aging, deteriorate and have to struggle with that.” He disputes “the notion that somehow I ran for public office or members of Congress are in this so they can go around pulling the plug on grandma.… When you start making arguments like that, that’s simply dishonest—especially when I hear the arguments coming from members of Congress in the other party who, turns out, sponsored similar provisions” (see August 12-13, 2009). Dunham died of cancer at the age of 86 (see November 10, 2008). “Health care is really hard,” Obama tells the crowd. “This is not easy. I’m a reasonably dedicated student to this issue. I’ve got a lot of really smart people around me who’ve been working on this for months now. There is no perfect painless silver bullet out there that solves every problem, gives everybody health care for free. There isn’t. I wish there was.” Continuing his push on his weekly Internet and radio address, Obama says, “I know there’s plenty of real concern and skepticism out there. I know that in a time of economic upheaval, the idea of change can be unsettling, and I know that there are folks who believe that government should have no role at all in solving our problems.” He says it is imperative for everyone to “lower our voices, listen to one another, and talk about differences that really exist.” [Associated Press, 8/15/2009]
Two Democratic House members say that the media should not “glorify” the contentious, sometimes-riotous anti-reform protests that have recently occurred at health care debates (see June 30, 2009, July 6, 2009, July 25, 2009, July 27, 2009, July 27, 2009, July 31, 2009, August 1, 2009, August 1, 2009, August 2, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 5, 2009, August 5, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 6-8, 2009, August 8, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 11, 2009, and August 11, 2009). Alan Grayson (D-FL) cites the violence that occurred at a debate featuring Representative Kathy Castor (D-FL—see August 6, 2009), saying that the “disrepect” shown at the debate reflects badly not on Castor, but “on the people who show the disrespect for the democratic process.” He adds: “I think in any society, you’re always going to have a certain percentage of people who are nuts. But these are not people who deserve any special recognition, much less glorification. You don’t treat people the way those people treated Kathy Castor. It’s wrong.… I look for intelligent, well-founded criticism of any bill because that’s how you make the bill better. But if you have people running around saying this bill is going to kill every old person in the country (see November 23, 2008, January 27, 2009, February 9, 2009, February 11, 2009, February 18, 2009, May 13, 2009, June 24, 2009, June 25, 2009, July 10, 2009, July 16, 2009, July 17, 2009, July 21, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23-24, 2009, July 24, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 31, 2009 - August 12, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 7, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 10, 2009, Shortly Before August 10, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 12, 2009, August 12, 2009, August 12, 2009, August 13, 2009, August 12-13, 2009, and August 13, 2009), how could you possibly show any respect for that silly point of view? It makes no sense to me.” Patrick Murphy (D-PA) says that the contention that the reform proposal threatens Americans’ freedoms is simply wrong: “I had a guy yesterday try to say to me, ‘You know, I’m worried about my freedoms.’ I say, ‘Sir, I fought for your freedoms [Murphy is a veteran of the Iraq war]. I’m going to protect those freedoms. I took an oath to support and defend those freedoms. And I take that responsibility very seriously. But, you know, we need to understand that the current path for small business, for everday families, for seniors, is unsustainable.” [US House of Representatives, 2009; Think Progress, 8/15/2009]
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch corrects a statement made to its reporters by Roy Blunt (R-MO), the chairman of the House Republican Health Care Solutions Group. Recently, Blunt told Post-Dispatch reporters and editors that he couldn’t get hip replacement surgery in Canada or Great Britain—two havens of socialized medicine—because of his age. “I’m 59,” Blunt said. “In either Canada or Great Britain, if I broke my hip, I couldn’t get it replaced.” The Post-Dispatch checked his claim, and found: “At least 63 percent of hip replacements performed in Canada last year and two-thirds of those done in England were on patients age 65 or older. More than 1,200 in Canada were done on people older than 85.” Blunt promises to modify his rhetoric when confronted by the Post-Dispatch’s findings. “I didn’t just pull that number out of thin air,” he says. The figure came from testimony given to the House Subcommittee on Health by, Blunt notes, “some people who are supposed to be experts on Canadian health care.” He adds: “I had been given that example. I was told that 59 is the cutoff. I’m glad you pointed that out to me. I won’t use that example any more.” The Post-Dispatch writes that it takes Blunt at his word, but notes that he is “not the only Republican leader who has his facts wrong about British and Canadian health care. And some of his colleagues are a bit less contrite” (see August 5, 2009). Blunt has made other false claims, including the assertion that an uninsured American could get a hip replacement through emergency care: “If they go to the emergency room, I think they can get that done.” The Post-Dispatch corrects him, writing: “Emergency rooms don’t do hip replacements, which require both hospital care and weeks of rehabilitation. They do emergency surgery, necessary to save a life. St. Louis hospitals offer discounts to patients who are poor and uninsured. But patients often are asked to make substantial down payments before surgery; they don’t hobble through the ER door and get them done for free.” Blunt has also made untenable claims about the number of Americans without health insurance by falsely saying that nearly 12 million of the 45 million uninsured Americans are illegal immigrants, a claim disproven by research by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, which, according to the Post-Dispatch, “puts the number of uninsured who are immigrants—both legal and illegal—at about 9 million.” Blunt later reduces the number of illegal immigrants in his claims, though the Post-Dispatch notes he still inflates his figures. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 8/16/2009; Plum Line, 8/17/2009]
Author and historian Rick Perlstein reminds Washington Post readers that the kind of conservative-based outrage against health care reform is nothing new in American history. Asking whether the protests are orchestrated or spontaneous, Perlstein says they are both. “The quiver on the lips of the man pushing the wheelchair (see August 6, 2009), the crazed risk of carrying a pistol around a president (see August 11, 2009)—too heartfelt to be an act. The lockstep strangeness of the mad lies on the protesters’ signs—too uniform to be spontaneous. They are both. If you don’t understand that any moment of genuine political change always produces both, you can’t understand America, where the crazy tree blooms in every moment of liberal ascendancy, and where elites exploit the crazy for their own narrow interests.”
Charges of Soviet-Inspired Treason - In the 1950s, Perlstein writes, Republicans referred to the presidencies of Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman as “20 years of treason,” and accused the two of deliberately surrendering the world to communism. Some conservatives leveled the accusation that a new Bible translation was the work of Soviet agents. Then-Vice President Richard Nixon claimed, without proof, that Republicans entering the White House at the beginning of the Eisenhower administration “found in the files a blueprint for socializing America.” When President Kennedy proposed using intercontinental ballistic missiles to form the basis of America’s nuclear defense instead of the traditional long-range bombers, and floated the idea of opening relations with Eastern Bloc nations such as Yugoslavia, conservatives accused him of trying to disarm the US in secret collusion with the USSR.
'National Indignation Convention' - In 1961, thousands of angry conservatives packed a National Indignation Convention in Dallas, where the keynote speaker shouted that he wanted to hang Chief Justice Earl Warren. A Kennedy proposal to expand mental health services included a new facility in Alaska; right-wingers claimed it was actually an internment camp for political dissidents. During the Johnson administration, conservatives claimed that the civil rights movement was conceived and orchestrated in the Soviet Union; many of them claimed that the 1964 Civil Rights Act would “enslave” white Americans.
'Uncanny' Similarities between Then and Now - Perstein notes that the similarities between the protests then and now are “uncanny,” writing: “The various elements—the liberal earnestly confused when rational dialogue won’t hold sway; the anti-liberal rage at a world self-evidently out of joint; and, most of all, their mutual incomprehension—sound as fresh as yesterday’s news. (Internment camps for conservatives? That’s the latest theory of tea party favorite Michael Savage.) The orchestration of incivility happens, too, and it is evil. Liberal power of all sorts induces an organic and crazy-making panic in a considerable number of Americans, while people with no particular susceptibility to existential terror—powerful elites—find reason to stoke and exploit that fear.”
Now, More Success at Manipulating Media, Shaping Policy - Perlstein cites examples of fake “grassroots” letters to newspaper editors written by Nixon administration aides that defended the then-president from Watergate-related charges, and how successful they were in manipulating the discussion. Now, he writes, the “Conservatives have become adept at playing the media for suckers, getting inside the heads of editors and reporters, haunting them with the thought that maybe they are out-of-touch cosmopolitans and that their duty as tribunes of the people’s voices means they should treat Obama’s creation of ‘death panels’ as just another justiciable political claim.” In the 1960s, news anchors such as Walter Cronkite didn’t bother debunking claims about internment facilities for conservative critics, he writes. “The media didn’t adjudicate the ever-present underbrush of American paranoia as a set of ‘conservative claims’ to weigh, horse-race-style, against liberal claims. Back then, a more confident media unequivocally labeled the civic outrage represented by such discourse as ‘extremist’—out of bounds. The tree of crazy is an ever-present aspect of America’s flora. Only now, it’s being watered by misguided he-said-she-said reporting and taking over the forest. Latest word is that the enlightened and mild provision in the draft legislation to help elderly people who want living wills—the one hysterics turned into the ‘death panel’ canard—is losing favor, according to the Wall Street Journal, because of ‘complaints over the provision.’ Good thing our leaders weren’t so cowardly in 1964, or we would never have passed a civil rights bill—because of complaints over the provisions in it that would enslave whites.” [Washington Post, 8/16/2009]
The Office of the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), releases a fact sheet contradicting what it calls “a myth opponents of health insurance reform have been spreading: that people would be ‘forced’ to choose a public health insurance option, and falsely attributes it to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).” The claim has circulated throughout the media, Pelosi’s office notes, and says, “In fact, the public option in America’s Affordable Health Choices Act simply provides those using the Health Insurance Exchange a choice between various private plans and a public plan—with the choice being made by the individual, never an employer.” The fact sheet notes four instances of the claim being made on August 16 alone:
Representative Tom Price (R-GA) tells an Associated Press reporter that the Democrats’ reform bill would force citizens to abandon their private health care plans in favor of a government-run plan, and says the CBO supports his claim.
ABC reporter Jake Tapper, on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos, asks, “How can the administration make the promise that if you like your insurance plan you can keep it, when CBO and other analysts estimate that some people will be switched from private to public?”
Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, on Fox News Sunday, tells his listeners of “a study by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office which found that by 2016, 9 million people will no longer have their employer-based plan under health care reform because businesses would decide in many cases that it’s cheaper simply to pay the penalty and push people into a public plan.”
David Gregory, the anchor of NBC’s flagship Sunday talk show Meet the Press, asks, “Does he [President Obama] undermine his credibility when he makes some claims like, if you like your insurance you can keep your insurance, when a lot of people have said not really; employers could drop people from insurance if they wanted to move people into a public plan, if that existed?”
Pelosi’s office states that, unlike the claims and questions advanced by Price, Tapper, Wallace, and Gregory, the CBO has noted that under all versions of reform legislation, US citizens would retain the choice of whether to keep their existing insurance or join the “public option” government program. [Speaker of the House, 8/17/2009]
Dick Armey (R-TX), the former House Majority Leader who now heads the conservative lobbying firm FreedomWorks, predicts that the Obama administration will try to counter the “grassroots” protests with what he calls a “fear campaign” designed to frighten wavering lawmakers, whom he terms “bed-wetters.” The administration will use false claims of a “swine flu” epidemic in its efforts, Armey says in an interview with the Financial Times: “In September or October there will be a hyped-up outbreak of the swine flu which they’ll say is as bad as the bubonic plague to scare the bed-wetters to vote for health care reform. That is the only way they can push something on to the American people that the American people don’t want.” FreedomWorks reprints the original article, published in London’s Financial Times, on its Web site. [Financial Times, 8/17/2009]
A member of the LaRouche Youth Movement compares the Obama health care reform proposal to Nazi policies. [Source: Darren McCollester / Getty Images]A testy Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) loses patience with a raucous, shouting crowd of angry protesters at a two-hour town hall meeting in Dartmouth, Massachusetts. Frank, who strongly supports the Democrats’ health care reform proposals, attempts to answer the shouted questions and accusations from protesters, who often attempt to shout him down before he can complete his answers, and boo him from the moment he is introduced. Frank repeatedly asks, “You want me to talk about it or do you want to yell?” and asks, “Which one of you wants to yell next?” He also says frequently: “Disruption never helps your cause. It just looks like you’re afraid to have rational discussion.” Frank finally loses patience when Rachel Brown of the LaRouche Youth Movement tells him that President Obama’s health care policies are comparable to those of Nazi Germany, meanwhile waving a pamphlet depicting Obama with a Hitler mustache. “This policy is actually already on its way out,” Brown says. “It already has been defeated by LaRouche. My question to you is, why do you continue to support a Nazi policy as Obama has expressly supported this policy? Why are you supporting it?” Frank, a Jew, retorts: “When you ask me that question, I’m going to revert to my ethnic heritage and ask you a question: On what planet do you spend most of your time? You stand there with a picture of the president defaced to look like Hitler and compare the effort to increase health care to the Nazis.” He says her ability to deface an image of the president and express her views “is a tribute to the First Amendment that this kind of vile, contemptible nonsense is so freely propagated,” and concludes: “Trying to have a conversation with you would be like trying to argue with a dining room table. I have no interest in doing it.” During less contentious moments, Frank rebuts claims that the reform proposal would mandate free health care for illegal immigrants, and attempts to read the pertinent section of the bill through the shouts and catcalls. He asks why protesters demand for him to answer and then scream through his answers: “What’s the matter with you all? I don’t know if you get angrier when I answer the questions, or when you don’t think I do.” [Associated Press, 8/19/2009; CNN, 8/19/2009; Think Progress, 8/19/2009; Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 8/19/2009; Boston Globe, 8/20/2009]
'Look for the Mustache' - A representative of the Massachusetts Republican Party later says Brown and other LaRouche supporters were at the forum “to cause problems,” and denies any Republican involvement in the shouting or pamphleteering. A LaRouche spokeswoman, Nancy Spannaus, says, “LaRouche PAC members are giving leadership to these town hall meetings all around the country so we are being at any one that we possibly can.” The Obama “mustache poster” “symbolizes the fact that the president is attempting to implement a Hitler health care policy,” she adds. “At any town hall, you’ll know LaRouche people are there if you just look for the mustache.” [Washington Post, 8/20/2009]
Fox News: Frank's Remarks Proof that Democrats are 'Alienating Voters' - Fox News talk show host Sean Hannity and a Fox reporter, Griff Jenkins, say that Frank’s retorts to the protesters are proof that Democrats are “alienating voters” with their reform policies. Jenkins tells Hannity that Frank “talked down” to the protesters. Hannity calls Frank’s comments full of “arrogance [and] condescension.” Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN), Hannity’s guest, praises the LaRouche questioner and other protesters as evidence of American “democracy in action.” [Fox News, 8/18/2009]
Representative Wally Herger (R-CA) praises a constituent who describes himself as a “right-wing terrorist,” and tells listeners, “Our democracy has never been threatened as much as it is today” by the Obama administration’s policies. Herger holds a “town hall” meeting to discuss health care reform in Redding, California. The audience is largely made up of reform opponents who cheer when Herger calls the “public option” an “unacceptable” provision of reform. A local reporter writes, “Although Herger called several times for the audience to ‘respect each other’s opinions,’ those opposed to President Obama’s health care were greeted with cheers while the few in favor were interrupted with catcalls.” Two audience members are escorted out by police officers during the event, after arguing over the health care plan. One audience member says, “I am a proud right wing terrorist”; the audience largely cheers his declaration, and Herger beams: “Amen, God bless you. There is a great American.” Most of the audience members who ask questions denounce health care reform as a “socialist” idea. [Mount Shasta Herald, 8/21/2009; Think Progress, 8/22/2009; Daily Kos, 8/26/2009]
Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN) tells Fox News viewers that health care reform is unconstitutional. She says: “It is not within our power as members of Congress, it’s not within the enumerated powers of the Constitution, for us to design and create a national takeover of health care. Nor is it within our ability to be able to delegate that responsibility to the executive.” Ian Millhiser of the progressive news and advocacy Web site Think Progress takes issue with Bachmann’s statement, writing that she “is wrong about both the contents of the health care plan and the requirements of the Constitution.” None of the versions of health care legislation being considered in Congress make any provision for a “national takeover of health care.” Bachmann may be referring to the “public option,” which would create a government-run health care plan that citizens could choose to participate in. Millhiser notes that Article I of the Constitution gives Congress the power to “lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises,” and to “provide for… the general welfare of the United States.” Millhiser writes, “Rather than itemizing specific subject matters, such as health care, which Congress is allowed to spend money on, the framers chose instead to give Congress a broad mandate to spend money in ways that promote the ‘general welfare.’” Millhiser writes that it is unclear what Bachmann means by “delegat[ing] that responsibility to the executive,” but notes that no one has proposed giving the White House anything approaching the authority to run or reconfigure the US health care system. He calls Bachmann’s view of the Constitution “radical,” and writes: “If Congress does not have the power to create a modest public option which competes with private health plans in the marketplace, then it certainly does not have the authority to create Medicare. Similarly, Congress’ power to spend money to benefit the general welfare is the basis for Social Security, federal education funding, Medicaid, and veterans’ benefits such as the VA health system and the GI Bill. All of these programs would cease to exist in Michele Bachmann’s America.” [Think Progress, 8/19/2009]
Charles Grassley (R-IA), a Republican senator considered a key element in the Obama administration’s push for bipartisan health care reform, says that the recent outpouring of anger and resistance at “town hall” forums has “fundamentally altered the nature of the debate and convinced him that lawmakers should consider drastically scaling back the scope of the effort.” Grassley says he believes the public is strongly against the Democrats’ ideas for health care reform, and considers the ideas a run-up to what he calls “a government takeover of health care.” Grassley is a member of the so-called “Gang of Six,” a group of three Republican and three conservative Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee primarily responsible for writing the committee’s reform proposal. In recent days, some Democrats have accused him of attempting to suborn any bipartisanship in the process by his advocacy of “death panels” (see August 12, 2009) and his misleading use of Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA)‘s terminal illness (see August 5, 2009) in his arguments against reform.
Obama Should Prove Commitment to Bipartisanship by Abandoning Public Option - Grassley says that if President Obama is serious about a bipartisan approach to reform, he should abandon his support for the so-called “public option” entirely. Such a statement, he says, is “pretty important… if you’re really interested in a bipartisan bill.” Grassley also says that a reform bill would not be truly bipartisan unless it received far more than a 51-vote majority, or even a 60-vote “supermajority,” enough votes to defeat a filibuster attempt. “It’s not about getting a lot of Republicans. It’s about getting a lot of Democrats and Republicans,” he says. “We ought to be focusing on getting 80 votes.” [Washington Post, 8/20/2009] Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent contrasts Grassley’s contentious position with the more accomodating overtures from the White House. He writes: “Grassley knows the White House is under tremendous pressure to contain a revolt on the left over the public option. It’s hard to imagine any reason for demanding Obama renounce the public option right now, before there’s even a bill out of the finance committee, other than to make life politically difficult for the president. How does that compare with the White House’s treatment of Grassley? When the Senator endorsed the ‘death panel’ claim, the White House reaffirmed its commitment to working with him. Dems quietly let Grassley claim a big victory by dropping the public option from the Senate bill he’s negotiating. And when Rahm Emanuel questioned the sincerity of GOP leaders yesterday, an apparent shot at Grassley, the White House rapidly walked it back. Grassley, meanwhile, has now raised the bar yet again for what will constitute true bipartisanship on the White House’s part. Pretty telling.” [Plum Line, 8/20/2009]
Bipartisanship Not Universally Desired - Other Republicans are less interested in bipartisanship. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) blames Obama for the increasingly strident tone of the debate, and accuses Obama officials of “reject[ing] our efforts to work together.” Governor Tim Pawlenty (R-MN), considered a likely 2012 candidate for president, says flatly: “The Republicans should kill the bill. It’s a bad idea.” House Member James Clyburn (D-SC) says Democrats might do well to abandon any idea of bipartisanship and work on a bill without Republican input, especially since it is unlikely that Republicans will vote for any reform bill at all. But Max Baucus (D-MT), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, says he remains committed to the idea of bipartisanship. [Washington Post, 8/20/2009]
On MSNBC’s Hardball, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) tells a harrowing tale of health care protests he weathered in the 1980s in which protesters “dumped” quadriplegics “on the floor” in front of him to make their point. Asked by host Chris Matthews about the “tea party” agitation and town hall disruptions surrounding the current health care debate, DeLay answers: “Chris, you shouldn’t be surprised about this. This has been going on forever. When I did my town hall meetings, I’ll never forget one back in the ‘80s—on health care, by the way. They brought in quadriplegics on gurneys and dumped them on the floor in front of my podium. I mean, this is not new. What’s new is, the people that came into disrupt my town meetings, we just let them go on because it usually turned off the people that were there. What’s happening here is the American people are on their side.” However, no sources can be found to validate DeLay’s claims. The progressive news Web site TPM Muckraker probes through a variety of news archives and finds a May 1996 article from the Houston Chronicle that reported on a number of protests by the disabilities advocacy group ADAPT. According to the Chronicle: “Groups of protesters, most of them in wheelchairs, barricaded two local political offices Tuesday to demand changes in the way disabled people receive care in America.… A second group of about 150 ADAPT supporters blockaded and occupied US Rep. Tom DeLay’s office in Sugar Land [Texas], until DeLay agreed to meet with them.… Tuesday’s protesters narrowly escaped arrest by Stafford police when DeLay, who is in Washington, DC, agreed to meet with them next month.” TPM Muckraker reporter Justin Elliott writes: “Is it possible that DeLay is thinking of the ADAPT episode—and just replacing ‘90s with ‘80s, district office with health care town hall, protesters in wheelchairs with quadriplegics dumped from gurneys, and not having been there at all with seeing it unfold in front of his podium?” Elliott also notes that “[t]wo reporters who’ve covered DeLay extensively over the years say the quadriplegic story is new to them.” [TPM Muckraker, 8/20/2009]
An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows that the misinformation permeating the debate over health care reform is having an effect. Forty-five percent believe that the reform legislation pending in Congress includes “death panels” (see November 23, 2008, January 27, 2009, February 9, 2009, February 11, 2009, February 18, 2009, May 13, 2009, June 24, 2009, June 25, 2009, July 10, 2009, July 16, 2009, July 17, 2009, July 21, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23-24, 2009, July 24, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 31, 2009 - August 12, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 7, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 10, 2009, Shortly Before August 10, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 12, 2009, August 12, 2009, August 12, 2009, August 13, 2009, August 12-13, 2009, August 13, 2009, and August 15, 2009), and 55 percent believe that illegal immigrants will receive government-funded coverage. These numbers are disproportionately higher among Fox News viewers: 72 percent believe the government will fund coverage of illegal immigrants, 75 percent believe in “death panels,” and 79 percent believe the reform bill will lead to a government takeover of the US health care system. Large minorities of other network viewers believe these same examples of misinformation. MSNBC’s Domenico Montanaro writes: “This is about credible messengers using the media to get some of this misinformation out there, not as much about the filter itself. These numbers should worry Democratic operatives, as well as the news media that have been covering this story.” [MSNBC, 8/19/2009; Think Progress, 8/19/2009] Another poll, from Public Policy Polling, shows that 39 percent of Americans want the government to “stay out of Medicare,” apparently unaware that the government funds, administers, and operates Medicare. The same poll shows that 38 percent of respondents do not believe President Obama is a natural-born American citizen; six percent don’t believe that Hawaii, Obama’s birth state, is part of the United States. The poll does not differentiate between Fox viewers and others. [Think Progress, 8/19/2009]
Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) says he regrets using Senator Edward Kennedy’s name in recent statements he made criticizing Democrats’ attempts to reform health care. Grassley had asserted, falsely, that Kennedy, who suffers from terminal brain cancer, would have been denied care under Great Britain’s national health care system (see August 5, 2009). “I regret using Sen. Kennedy’s name,” Grassley says. But he adds that he has no regrets about vilifying the British health care system, or about more recent remarks he made accusing Democrats of wanting to prematurely end the lives of senior citizens (see August 12, 2009). [National Public Radio, 8/20/2009]
MSNBC reports that FreedomWorks, the non-profit “grassroots” lobbying organization that has spearheaded anti-health care reform efforts (see April 14, 2009, June 26, 2009, August 6-7, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 14, 2009, and August 17, 2009), has recently raised the amount of money it charges organizations to take part in anti-reform protests. FreedomWorks used to charge groups $2,500 to distribute their materials at FreedomWorks-sponsored events; now the price is $10,000. However, the new price includes the opportunity for a group to have a speaker at a FreedomWorks rally. FreedomWorks says it is trying to offset costs for stages, equipment, and other operating costs. [MSNBC, 8/20/2009]
Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) says the Senate should not pass a health care reform bill unless it garners “bipartisan” support. Hatch goes on to say that such a bill would not be bipartisan unless it could win “somewhere between 75 and 80 votes.” Two of Hatch’s colleagues, Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Mike Enzi (R-WY), have made similar statements, with Enzi demanding “a bill that 75 or 80 senators can support.” Progressive news and advocacy Web site Think Progress notes that all three senators have made very different claims in the past:
In 2001, all three boasted that then-President Bush’s $1.35 trillion tax-cut bill was “built upon bipartisanship” after it passed the Senate with 58 votes.
In November 2003, after the Senate passed a prescription drug plan for seniors that was heavily favored by pharmaceutical firms, Grassley praised himself as the “lead Senate architect of the bipartisan legislation.” The bill passed with 54 votes.
In 2005, Senate Republicans harshly criticized Senate Democrats for filibustering seven of President Bush’s 205 nominees to the federal judiciary. Hatch and Grassley argued strongly against those nominees needing to be confirmed by a 60-vote “supermajority.” Hatch called the filubuster “unconstitutional,” and Grassley described judicial filibusters as “an abuse of our function under the Constitution.” [Fox News, 8/20/2009; Think Progress, 8/20/2009]
Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC), during a “telephone town hall” discussion of health care reform, reiterates her opposition to Democratic reform initiatives. Foxx, who has previously claimed that elderly Americans will be “put to death” under Democratic reform proposals (see July 28, 2009), says that any reform attempts by the federal government would be unconstitutional. Moreover, discussions about government reform issues are little more than “distractions” from more important issues. Foxx says: “The Constitution doesn’t grant a right to health care, and most of us are living as much by the Constitution as we can. It also doesn’t give the federal government the authority to deal with health care. As you may know, the 10th amendment, it says if it isn’t mentioned in the Constitution to be done by the federal government, it’s left to the states or the people.… I think one of the problems we have in this country right now is the fact that the federal government is trying to do too much. We need to leave things to the states and the localities.… And unfortunately, we are distracting ourselves from looking after the defense of this nation because we are dealing with issues that should, by right, be the state and individual’s.” Foxx has also claimed that every American has access to health care (see September 17, 2009), and has supported Medicare in past votes. [Think Progress, 8/21/2009]
Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and a key player in the Democrats’ health care reform process, defends his insistence on a bipartisan process that will produce reform supported by both Democrats and Republicans. Yet Baucus admits that Senate Republicans are almost uniformly committed to killing reform outright. Baucus is a member of the Finance Committee’s “Gang of Six,” a group of three conservative Democrats and three Republicans who are working to craft a reform proposal. “I just think if it is bipartisan, it’s more sustainable, it’s more durable, long-lasting,” Baucus says. “There will be more buy-in around the country. We’re going to make some mistakes. If it’s bipartisan, it will be easier to fix the mistakes, work together to fix the mistakes. It’s just better for the country.” However, he says: “The Republican leadership in the Senate and in the House is doing its utmost to kill this bill. They are putting intense political pressure on Chuck Grassley, Olympia Snowe, and Mike Enzi [the three Republican members of the “Gang of Six”], to bow out, because they want to kill it. So I’ve got a challenge ahead of me to work out all this on policy as we go through these meetings. The other thing is the politics of it: ‘People, this is the right thing to do for America. I know you’re under intense political pressure, but do the right thing. I know it’s easy for me to say right now, because I’m getting beat up by both sides, but not nearly as much as you are by the Republican hierarchy.’” Baucus says it is important to craft a bill that can garner the 60 votes needed to defeat a filibuster, which the Republicans will almost certainly invoke to try to delay or kill any reform bill. He does not support the reconciliation process that would allow the bill to pass with a 51-vote majority. [Think Progress, 8/21/2009; Helena Independent, 8/21/2009]
Betsy McCaughey is interviewed by Jon Stewart of ‘The Daily Show.’ [Source: Media Matters]Health care reform opponent Betsy McCaughey (see February 9, 2009, July 16, 2009, July 23, 2009, and July 23-24, 2009) appears on Comedy Central’s satirical news/comedy broadcast, The Daily Show. Host Jon Stewart devotes twice the usual amount of air time to interviewing McCaughey, and even then the interview is not broadcast in its entirety; Comedy Central posts the entire interview on its Web site. Stewart’s main interview tactic is to challenge McCaughey to prove one claim or another, such as her assertion that the health care reform legislation pending in the House would mandate “death panels” or “end-of-life” review committees; McCaughey then tries and fails to find language in the bill itself, and Stewart chastises her for spreading falsehoods. Late in the interview, Stewart calls McCaughey’s rhetoric “hyperbolic” and “dangerous.” [Comedy Central, 8/20/2009; Comedy Central, 8/20/2009; Media Matters, 8/21/2009; Huffington Post, 8/21/2009] He concludes by telling her, “I like you—but I don’t understand how your brain works.” [Salon, 8/21/2009] In an analysis of the interview, The Atlantic’s James Fallows, who lambasted McCaughey’s 1994 arguments against the Clinton administration’s health care reform efforts (see Mid-January - February 4, 1994), says he realizes after watching the interview that “I have been far too soft on Betsy McCaughey. Even when conferring on her the title of ‘most destructive effect on public discourse by a single person’ for the 1990s. She is way less responsible and tethered to the world of ‘normal’ facts and discourse than I had imagined.” Fallows writes that McCaughey succeeds as well as she does in the interview by ignoring Stewart’s points and rebuttals, and echoing her assertions even after Stewart effectively rebuts or mocks them. [Atlantic Monthly, 8/21/2009] Days later, McCaughey will be removed from her position as a director of Cantel Medical Corporation, in part apparently due to her performance on Stewart’s show (see August 20-21, 2009).
Health care opponent Betsy McCaughey either resigns, or is fired, from her post as a director of Cantel Medical Corporation. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow announces that McCaughey is fired; other sources report that she resigned voluntarily. Many media observers believe that part of the reason behind her departure is her poor performance on a recent interview with The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart (see August 20, 2009). McCaughey retains her position as an adjunct fellow at the conservative Hudson Institute, where she has consistently lobbied against health care reform and promoted issues favorable to health care and health insurance firms. In a press statement, Cantel says that “on August 20, 2009 it received a letter of resignation from Ms. Elizabeth McCaughey as a director of the company. Ms. McCaughey, who had served as a director since 2005, stated that she was resigning to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest during the national debate over health care reform.” [Yahoo! Finance, 8/21/2009; Stock Market Today, 8/22/2009]
Health reform organizer Randall Terry pretends to stab an elderly lady in the neck as part of an anti-reform protest. A fellow protester wearing a Barack Obama mask looks on. [Source: Feministe (.us)]Randall Terry, the former head of the extremist anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, gleans headlines during health care protests in the Southeast. In Chattanooga, Tennessee, Terry is nearly arrested while standing outside the federal courthouse stabbing baby dolls. In Nashville, one of Terry’s supporters dons an Obama mask and pretends to assault passers-by. One Nashville resident who witnesses the activities tells a local reporter: “It’s an angry white man in a black man’s mask. They’re just trying to shock people. They’re trying to say, ‘Barack Obama doesn’t care about you, he doesn’t care about your kids, because he’s black.’” During the same protest, Terry and an elderly supporter put on a bit of street theater: the elderly lady mimes seeking medical advice from Terry, who is dressed in a doctor’s jacket, and he pretends to stab her in the neck with a needle and kill her. According to Salon reporter Alex Koppelman, Terry’s twin messages in the protests are his opposition to abortion and to euthanasia—neither of which are supported in any health care reform bills before Congress. Before the protests, Terry wrote his supporters an e-mail: “It is refreshing to see the rage expressed at ‘town hall meetings.’ However, much of this anger is not about child-killing. It’s about the cost of the bill, or rationing, or if we can keep our current plan, or about treatments for the elderly. Our goal is to keep child-killing and euthanasia in the center of this debate until any vestige of taxpayers paying for murder is gone.” [Salon, 8/24/2009] At a Virginia rally soon after, Terry’s group re-enacts slave beatings (see August 24, 2009).
Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), a key player in the Senate battle over health reform, tries to explain his earlier statements that Iowans were right to “fear” that the federal government would “pull the plug on Grandma” by encouraging American senior citizens to end their lives prematurely (see August 12, 2009). During his explanation, Grassley blames President Obama for his words. On CBS’s Face the Nation, he tells host Bob Schieffer that even though he is aware the House health reform bill “doesn’t intend to” kill senior citizens, he feels he has a responsibility to make such statements: “I said that because—two reasons. Number one, I was responding to a question at my town meetings. I let my constituents set the agenda. A person that asked me that question was reading from language that they got off of the Internet. It scared my constituents. And the specific language I used was language that the president had used at Portsmouth (see August 11, 2009), and I thought that it was—if he used the language, then if I responded exactly the same way, that I had an opposite concern about not using end-of-life counseling for saving money, then I was answering.… You would get into the issue of saving money, and put these three things together and you are scaring a lot of people when I know the Pelosi bill doesn’t intend to do that, but that’s where it leads people to.” Schieffer asks Grassley directly if the House legislation “would pull the plug on Grandma.” Grassley responds, “It won’t do that,” but then goes on to say that such claims are effective: “It just scares the devil out of people. So that [provision for end-of-life counseling] ought to be dropped.” The progressive news and advocacy Web site Think Progress notes that Obama did indeed use the phrase “pull the plug on Grandma,” but he “used it as an example of the lies his opponents were pushing around to scare the American public.” [Think Progress, 8/23/2009]
The cover of the VA booklet ‘Your Life, Your Choices.’ The cover text reads: ‘Planning for Future Medical Decisions’ and ‘How to Prepare a Personalized Living Will.’ [Source: American Veteran Magazine]Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace tells his viewers that the Veterans Administration (VA) has a secret “death book” that urges veterans to “pull the plug” and commit suicide. The 51-page booklet is called “Your Life, Your Choices,” and, Wallace says, was pulled for rewriting and reissuance in 2007, yet the VA under President Obama is still using it. In his Fox News blog, Wallace writes: “What makes the book controversial is that—according to critics—it seems to push veterans in the direction of ‘pulling the plug.’ For instance—page 21 is a worksheet in which the veteran is asked to consider various situations and then check—whether in each case, life would be ‘difficult, but acceptable’—‘worth living, but just barely’—or ‘not worth living.’ You might think that the scenarios would involve irreversible comas and the like. But no—they include: ‘I can no longer walk but get around in a wheelchair’—‘I live in a nursing home’—‘I am a severe financial burden on my family’—and ‘I cannot seem to “shake the blues”’.” Wallace’s guest, Wall Street Journal columnist James Towey, whom Wallace describes as helping to “end use of the book under President Bush, and was shocked to see it has now been reinstated,” tells viewers that the message of the book is simple: “hurry up and die.” (Wallace notes that he learned of the VA’s “death book” from Towey’s August 18 Journal column.) And, Wallace writes, quoting Towey, “he says—when government can steer vulnerable individuals to conclude that life is not worth living—‘who needs death panels?’” Wallace briefly notes that he also interviewed VA’s Assistant Secretary, Tammy Duckworth, who noted that the book is “just one of many reference tools the VA makes available—and that it is currently being revised.” [Veterans Administration, 1997 ; Wall Street Journal, 8/18/2009; Fox News, 8/23/2009]
Debunking the Claim - The story of the “death book” is quickly debunked. Richard Allen Smith of the veterans’ organization VetVoice notes that the VA booklet is actually aimed at helping veterans choose not to commit suicide, and provides them with methods and resources to battle depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other conditions which lead veterans to consider prematurely ending their lives. [Richard Allen Smith, 8/23/2009] Progressive media watchdog Web site Media Matters notes that the claim that the Bush administration “rescinded” the booklet in 2007 is false. While it was reviewed in 2007, the Bush administration actively promoted the use of the booklet throughout its tenure; an online document on the VA’s Web site labeled “Reviewed/Updated Date: December 29, 2008,” states, “To learn about a living will, read ‘Your Life, Your Choices.’” Wallace’s claim that the VA mandates all veterans receive the booklet is also false; it is considered an optional reference, not mandatory. [Media Matters, 8/24/2009]
Hidden Agenda? - Smith notes that Towey may have another reason for opposing the VA booklet. In 1996, Towey founded an organization called “Aging with Dignity.” In 1997, the organization released a 12-page pamphlet, “Five Wishes,” that it says does the same job as the VA’s booklet. It gives the ailing veteran a list of five questions that, it claims, when answered will guide your life decisions. For years, Towey has been trying to get the VA to stop distributing its own booklet and instead buy “Five Choices” to use with its veterans. In 2007, Towey did help force the VA to reassess and revise its booklet after complaining that it was biased against the anti-abortion viewpoint. Smith writes bluntly: “Astonishing. Jim Towey is one sick mother f_cker to argue that veterans should be presented with LESS information, not MORE, when it comes to making a living will, all so he can make a profit from peddling his end-of-life pamphlet that is shorter than the books my two-and-a-half-year-old reads.” [Huffington Post, 8/22/2009; Richard Allen Smith, 8/23/2009]
Claim Spread by Conservative Media - Even before Wallace’s August 23 broadcast, some conservative media outlets, having read Towey’s August 18 Wall Street Journal editorial, began spreading the story of the VA’s “death book.” The National Review printed editorials denouncing the booklet, and Fox News host Sean Hannity called it “the equivalent of a death panel.” Former Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK) used her Facebook blog to accuse the VA of “encourag[ing] veterans to forego care as they make end-of-life decisions.” And radio host Rush Limbaugh told his listeners: “This thing is obsessed with death. It’s obsessed with you deciding—or with some—maybe some influence—that your life isn’t worth living. It’s—there’s nothing positive in this.” [Media Matters, 8/24/2009]
Entity Tags: Chris Wallace, Media Matters, National Review, James Towey, Fox News, Obama administration, Bush administration (43), Tammy Duckworth, Richard Allen Smith, Rush Limbaugh, US Veterans Administration, Sarah Palin, Sean Hannity
Timeline Tags: US Health Care
BlueCross BlueShield logo. [Source: TopNews (.us)]Health insurers have mobilized tens of thousands of employees to fight against the Democrats’ health care reform initiative, according to reports by the Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal. The insurance industry’s primary motive seems to be financial gain, according to the Times reporters. Many of the nation’s largest insurers, including UnitedHealth, have urged their employees to become involved in protesting health care reform, and provided advocacy “hot line” telephone numbers, printed “talking points,” sample “letters to the editor,” and other materials in almost every Congressional district throughout the nation. And many insurers, including BlueCross Blue Shield, have sponsored anti-reform television ads targeting conservative “Blue Dog” Democrats, many of whom are considered vulnerable to pressure from the industry. The insurance industry is paying for over 900 lobbyists, spending $35 million in the first half of 2009 lobbying Congress and the White House. AFL-CIO spokesman Gerald Shea says: “They have beaten us six ways to Sunday. Any time we want to make a small change to provide cost relief, they find a way to make it more profitable.” [Los Angeles Times, 8/24/2009; Wall Street Journal, 8/24/2009]
Jamming the 'Town Halls' - Insurers like UnitedHealth and others are sending their employees to “town hall” meetings to protest against reform. The Journal reports, “[T]he industry employees come armed with talking points about the need for bipartisan legislation and the unintended consequences of a government-run health plan to compete with private insurers.” But they are instructed not to become contentious and argumentative, according to a “Town Hall Tips” memo provided by the industry’s chief lobbying organization, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP—see Before August 6, 2009). The memo warns those attending the meetings to expect criticism, and to stay calm. “It is important not to take the bait,” the memo cautions. AHIP president Karen Ignagni says the town hall meetings are an opportunity “to strongly push back against charges that we have very high profits. It’s very important that our men and women… calmly provide the facts and for members of Congress to hear what these people do every day.” Larry Loew, who works for the insurance administration firm Cornerstone Group, says he attended a recent town hall meeting hosted by Representative Alan Mollohan (D-WV) because “my whole industry is being threatened.” Loew claims he was not coached by AHIP, but admits to preparing for the meeting by gathering talking points from hospital and insurance company Web sites. AHIP spokesman Robert Zirkelbach says about 50,000 employees have been engaged in writing letters and making phone calls to politicians or attending town hall meetings. [Wall Street Journal, 8/24/2009]
'Hallelujah!' - One industry proposal that is gaining traction among some in Congress is the so-called “individual mandate,” which would require all citizens to buy some form of health insurance. That provision would guarantee insurers tens of millions of new customers—many of which would receive government subsidies to help pay the premiums. Robert Laszewski, a former health insurance executive who now heads the consulting firm Health Policy and Strategy Associates, says of the provision, “It’s a bonanza.” The industry’s reaction to early negotiations can, Laszewski says, be summed up in a single word: “Hallelujah!” Linda Blumberg, a health policy analyst at the nonpartisan Urban Institute, says, “The insurers are going to do quite well” with health care reform. “They are going to have this very stable pool, they’re going to have people getting subsidies to help them buy coverage, and… they will be paid the full costs of the benefits that they provide—plus their administrative costs.” Aetna’s chief executive, Ron Williams, says: “We have to get everyone into the insurance market. That is a huge, big deal [and] everyone has coalesced around that.” [Los Angeles Times, 8/24/2009; Wall Street Journal, 8/24/2009]
Battling the Public Option, - Insurers have fought most strongly against the so-called “public option,” which would create a government-run, non-profit alternative to private health insurance. Some polls are showing public support for the public option has declined, and stock prices for the insurance corporations have tracked upwards. Other insurance industry proposals are gaining ground. The Senate Finance Committee is considering a proposal to lower the proposed mandatory reimbursement rate for insurers to policyholders from 76 percent to 65 percent, and the industry is pressuring Congress to lower the limit that insurers must meet to cover a policyholder’s medical bills, leaving more of the money it gleans from premiums as profits. “These are a bad deal for consumers,” says J. Robert Hunter, a former Texas insurance commissioner who works with the Consumer Federation of America. Insurance companies would reap huge profits by providing less insurance “per premium dollar,” he says. Former Cigna executive Wendell Potter says, “It would be quite a windfall” for the insurance industry. [Los Angeles Times, 8/24/2009]
Entity Tags: Consumer Federation of America, UnitedHealth Group, Urban Institute, Wall Street Journal, BlueCross Blue Shield, Alan Mollohan, Senate Finance Committee, AFL-CIO, Aetna, America’s Health Insurance Plans, Wendell Potter, Robert Laszewski, Health Policy and Strategy Associates, Gerald Shea, Cornerstone Group, J. Robert Hunter, Robert Zirkelbach, Ron Williams, Linda Blumberg, Karen Ignagni, Larry Loew, Los Angeles Times
Timeline Tags: US Health Care
Health care reform supporters pack a 2,700-seat high school gymnasium in Reston, Virginia, to hear former Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairman Howard Dean and Representative James Moran (D-VA) discuss the Democrats’ reform proposals. Two pro-health care groups, Organizing for America and Change that Works, helped turn out the crowd, gathered signatures, and passed out signs, some of which resembled campaign signs for President Obama’s campaign, and some that were drawn in magic marker to appear homemade. One supporter says she goes because “I’ve heard these town hall meetings have been rude and out of control. I wanted to lend my support to the side that supports health care reform. I’m here to show my presence, wave my sign, and show that a good portion of Northern Virginia supports health care reform.”
Violent Street Theater - Anti-reform protesters gather outside the gym, and former Operation Rescue leader Randall Terry entertains the crowd with some street theater similar to what he has performed in recent days (see August 22-23, 2009). Terry and his supporters put on a skit with a man in an Obama mask pretending to whip a bloodied woman, who repeats the line: “Massa, don’t hit me no more. I got the money to kill the babies.” Terry also re-enacts his previous performance of a doctor pretending to stab an elderly woman to death. He explains his performance, saying, “There’s no way to pay for this thing without killing granny.” Two other protesters heckle supporters as they enter the gym; they wave signs and wear large flags around their shoulders adorned with a large machine gun and the words, “Come and take it.” (Guns are forbidden at the event because it takes place on school property.)
Police Remove Protesters - Inside, a small number of protesters try to shout down the rabbi who gives a preliminary invocation, but reform supporters drown out their boos and screams with cheers. Moran accepts only pre-screened questions, in an attempt to forestall raucous outbursts, but this process is disrupted when one protester pretends to be someone else who had been called upon to ask their question, and shouts out his objections to health care reform. In general, Moran is able to speak over the top of the near-constant heckling by using an amplifier and ignoring the taunts and jeers. However, when Dean takes the podium, the protesters erupt, and Moran orders some of them to leave. Police escort Terry and at least one other person out of the gym as the majority of the crowd chants, “Kick him out!” Although Dean is known as a fiery supporter of the government-run “public option,” his presentation is low-key and somewhat technical. [The Hill, 8/25/2009]
Opponents of health care reform lead the debate during a speech and followup session by Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY), one of the so-called “Gang of Six” who are helping to write the Senate Finance Committee’s health care reform proposal. Around 500 people attend the event, held in a high school gym in Gillette, Wyoming. Enzi lambasts Senate Democrats and the White House for not engaging in what he calls “bipartisan collaboration” on reform, and calls for “market-based” health care solutions. Enzi says he has no use for a so-called “public option,” which would mandate a government-run alternative to private health care. “A government option is a monopoly, and it’s no option,” Enzi says, earning a strong round of applause. State Representative Timothy Hallinan, a Gillette Republican, earns more applause when he urges Enzi to pull out of negotiations with Senate Democrats and oppose any reform bill. When urged to do so by an audience member who identifies himself as a Republican, Enzi claims: “If I hadn’t been involved in this process as long as I have and to the depth as I have, you would already have national health care.… Someone has to be at the table asking questions. If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.… It’s not where I get them to compromise, it’s what I get them to leave out.” Some pro-reform members of the audience note the large amounts of campaign contributions Enzi has taken, and argue for the public option. Enzi retorts by claiming two government-run medical programs, Medicare and Medicaid, are “going broke,” and a public option program would suffer the same fate. [Associated Press, 8/25/2009]
Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh tells his audience in two separate broadcasts that President Obama “wants to mandate circumcision” as part of the Democrats’ health care reform proposal. On August 24, Limbaugh says: “Not that I’m against circumcision, but it’s a family’s decision. Leave our penises alone, too, Obama!” On August 25, he says: “[I]t is President Obama who wants to mandate circumcision. We had that story yesterday; and that means if we need to save our penises from anybody, it’s Obama.” Limbaugh cites as his source a Fox News story based on an upcoming report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that may recommend circumcision for newborn boys in order to help prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS (the procedure can, later in life, reduce transmission of the disease from women to men). The CDC has not yet decided whether to make the recommendation. It is also considering whether to recommend circumcision for adult men who are at high risk for HIV infection. CDC spokesman Scott Bryan tells the St. Petersburg Times that any such recommendations “will be completely voluntary,” both for parents and for adult males. The St. Petersburg Times’s PolitiFact investigative team researches what involvement Obama may have had in the CDC’s potential recommendation, and finds none. “From what we found, Obama has not used the word ‘circumcision’ in any public statement as a candidate or as president,” the reporters note. “We also found no evidence that he has recommended circumcusion to the CDC. The only link—and it’s an indirect one—that we could find between Obama and the CDC’s efforts was a press release on the White House Web site announcing a series of HIV/AIDS community discussions, the first one being held in conjunction with the National HIV Prevention Conference we mentioned earlier. But the release did not mention circumcision. It turns out that circumcision recommendations have been under discussion since 2007, when George W. Bush was president. Given the fact the CDC was pondering the idea back then, it is no more accurate to say Obama wants to mandate circumcision than to say Bush did.” The Times calls Limbaugh’s assertions “ridiculous.” [St. Petersburg Times, 8/27/2009]
In an interview with NPR, Michael Steele, the chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC), finds it difficult to both support Medicare and attack government-run health care. Steele is interviewed by Steve Inskeep, and tells him that government-run health care is never a good option, but simultaneously demands that health care reformers protect Medicare and retain its funding.
Says Democrats Want to Cut Medicare, Then Advocates Cutting Medicare - Steele calls Medicare “a valuable program” that is “the last line of opportunity” for elderly Americans to receive health care. He accuses Democrats of wanting to “raid” the program to fund health care reform, and says accusations that he wants to cut Medicare spending is “a wonderful interpretation by the left” that he wants to reduce such funding. However, in response to the next question, Steele says he supports cutting Medicare spending; Inskeep asks, “[Y]ou would be in favor of certain Medicare cuts?” and Steele says: “Absolutely. You want to maximize the efficiencies of the program. I mean, anyone who’s in the program would want you to do that, and certainly those who manage it want you to that.”
Protecting and Attacking Medicare Simultaneously - Inskeep pins Steele down on the dichotomy by noting that he has previously written about the need to protect Medicare while attacking the idea of President Obama’s “plan for a government-run health care system.” Inskeep observes, “You’re aware that Medicare is a government-run health care program,” and Steele retorts: “Yeah, look how it’s run. And that’s my point. Take Medicare and make it writ large across the country, because here we’re now—how many times have we been to the precipice of bankruptcy for a government-run health care program?” In the following exchange, Steele, according to Think Progress reporter Amanda Terkel, “tie[s] himself into knots”:
Inskeep: “It sounds like you don’t like Medicare very much at all.”
Steele: “No, I’m not saying that. No, Medicare…”
Inskeep: “… But you write in this [Washington Post] op-ed that you want to protect Medicare because it’s politically popular. People like Medicare.”
Steele: “No, no, no, no, no. Please, don’t…”
Inskeep: “That’s why you’re writing to protect Medicare.”
Steele: “Well, people may like Medicare, and liking a program and having it run efficiently is sometimes two different things. And the reality of it is simply this: I’m not saying I like or dislike Medicare.… My only point is that, okay, Medicare is what it is. It’s not going anywhere. So let’s focus on fixing it so that we don’t every three, five, 10 years have discussions about bankruptcy and running out of money.”
'You're Doing a Wonderful Little Dance' - Inskeep continues to drill into Steele’s support for Medicare and his simultaneous opposition to government-run health care, leading Steele to note, “I want to protect something that’s already in place and make it run better and run efficiently for the senior citizens that are in that system does not mean that I want to automatically support, you know, nationalizing or creating a similar system for everybody else in the country who currently isn’t on Medicare.” When Steele says the government could regulate the private industry to make sure that private insurers don’t make decisions for citizens’ health care based on profit, Inskeep asks: “Wait a minute, wait, wait. You would trust the government to look into that?” After a brief, spluttering exchange, Steele says, “I’m talking about those who—well, who regulates the insurance markets?” Inskeep notes, “That would be the government, I believe.” Steele then accuses Inskeep of trying to manipulate the conversation: “Well, and so it—wait a minute, hold up. You know, you’re doing a wonderful little dance here and you’re trying to be cute, but the reality of this is very simple. I’m not saying the government doesn’t have a role to play. I’ve never said that. The government does have a role to play. The government has a very limited role to play.”
Insists that 'No One's Trying to Scare' Americans about Reform - Towards the end of the interview, Inskeep asks whether it is difficult to explain health care to Americans in a way that “doesn’t just kind of scare people with soundbites.” Steele replies: “No one’s trying to scare people with soundbites. I have not done that, and I don’t know any leaders in the House and the Senate that have done that.” [National Public Radio, 8/27/2009; Think Progress, 8/27/2009] Steele has called the Democrats’ health care reform plan “socialism” and accused Congressional Democrats of being in a “cabal” to enact government-controlled health care over the objections of the American populace (see July 20, 2009). And his RNC has sent out a survey suggesting that the Democrats’ reform proposal would discriminate against Republicans (see August 27, 2009).
The question from the RNC survey asking about possible discrimination against Republicans. [Source: Washington Independent]The Republican National Committee (RNC) mails a survey to thousands of recipients that implies the Democrats’ health care reform efforts will use voter registration information to ration health care, and to deny care to Republicans. A question in the survey asks: “It has been suggested that the government could use voter registration to determine a person’s political affiliation, prompting fears that GOP voters might be discriminated against for medical treatment in a Democrat-imposed health care rationing system. Does this possibility concern you?”
'Inartfully' Worded - Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Brandi Hoffine retorts, “Even we can’t believe the latest in the RNC’s effort to scare voters, lie to the public, and ‘kill’ health insurance reform.” RNC spokeswoman Katie Wright says the question might have been “inartfully” written, but reflects legitimate concerns about confidentiality: “Americans have reason to be concerned about the failure of the Democrats’ health care experiment to adequately protect the privacy of Americans’ personal information.” Politico’s Glenn Thrush says of Wright’s wording, “‘Inartfully’ seems to fall short of a loaded question which seems to have little basis in reality.” He notes that though the House bill gives the government the right to glean “point of service” data about someone’s health care payments or remittances through the use of an electronic benefits card, “nowhere in the proposed bill is any reference to tapping voter registration information.” [Politico, 8/27/2009; Republican National Committee, 8/27/2009 ]
AMA Criticizes Survey - The American Medical Association (AMA) denounces the survey’s implication, writing, “Patients should rest assured that the health care legislation under consideration in the House does not ration medical care or discriminate based on political affiliation.” [TPMDC, 8/27/2009] Progressive television host Rachel Maddow says of the survey, “In the horrible Hobbesian, no rules, no shame, free-for-all of lies, overstatements, and outrageous mischaracterizations that has been the health care debate this summer thus far, this one—this health reform is a secret plot to kill Republicans lie offered up by the Republican Party itself—was so bad that the Republican Party actually had to apologize for it today.” [MSNBC, 8/28/2009]
'Fundraising Appeal' Designed to 'Inflam[e] the Republican Base' - Retired insurance underwriter Raymond Denny, who received the survey, equates the question to the classic “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?” He says: “It’s so blatantly lopsided. I called them [the RNC] up and said, ‘This is ridiculous!’ They just said, ‘All right.’” Denny tells a reporter he is concerned that such baseless insinuations—that the Obama administration would deny health care to Republicans—would become yet another talking point for anti-reform proponents. Another question asks: “Rationing of health care in countries with socialized medicine has led to patients dying because they were forced to wait too long for treatment.… Are you concerned that this would be inevitable in the US under the Democrats’ plan?” Denny says: “I wrote insurance policies. I know how words can be used to make people do what you want them to do. The law allows a lot of latitude with politicians. That I understand. Some of these techniques are used by both parties. But this to me seems way over the edge of normal politics.” Pollster Mike Riley says the survey is not, apparently, a legitimate information-gathering device, but rather a means of inflaming the Republican base and garnering donations. Such “surveys” are standard practice, he notes. “It’s common, trying to stir the pot to see what kinds of issues get attention. Both parties do that. They are using some of the hot-button issues to see what activates the voters. It’s politics as usual within the party faithful. No one that I know puts any credibility in these types of polls.” Another pollster, Bob Moore, calls the “survey” little more than “a fundraising appeal.” If such tactics “weren’t effective, they wouldn’t be using them,” he says. [The Columbian, 8/27/2009; Washington Independent, 8/27/2009; Washington Independent, 8/27/2009]
Entity Tags: American Medical Association, Bob Moore, Brandi Hoffine, Democratic National Committee, Glenn Thrush, Katie Wright, Republican National Committee, Mike Riley, Rachel Maddow, Raymond Denny, Republican Party
Timeline Tags: US Health Care
Newsweek publishes an extensive article detailing what it calls “the five biggest lies in the health care debate.” Despite the title, the article actually debunks seven.
The government will have electronic access to your bank accounts and steal citizens’ money (see (July 30, 2009) and After). The bill passed by the House Ways and Means Committee indeed calls for electronic fund transfers, but only from insurers to doctors and other providers. Patients are not involved in such transactions.
You’ll have no choice in what health benefits you receive. This story seems to originate from a blog, Flecks of Life, which features a picture of President Obama made up as the Joker from the Batman films. The House bill provides for a “health care exchange,” including a list of private insurers and a single government plan, allowing people without health insurance to choose from the list. The government will prevent insurers from refusing clients with “preexisting conditions,” and require them to offer at least minimum coverage. However, Newsweek observes, “The requirements will be floors, not ceilings, however, in that the feds will have no say in how generous private insurance can be.”
No chemo for older Medicare patients. Newsweek calls this a “vicious” rumor coming from the so-called “deather” camp (see November 23, 2008, January 27, 2009, February 9, 2009, February 11, 2009, February 18, 2009, May 13, 2009, June 24, 2009, June 25, 2009, July 10, 2009, July 16, 2009, July 17, 2009, July 21, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23-24, 2009, July 24, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 31, 2009 - August 12, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 7, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 10, 2009, Shortly Before August 10, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 12, 2009, August 12, 2009, August 12, 2009, August 13, 2009, August 12-13, 2009, August 13, 2009, August 15, 2009, August 18, 2009, and August 23-24, 2009). The claim is that Medicare will refuse cancer patients over 70 years of age anything other than end-of-life counseling, including chemotherapy and other life-extending treatments. The claim, Newsweek says, “has zero basis in fact. It’s just a vicious form of the rationing scare.”
[H]ealth-care reform will be financed through $500 billion in Medicare cuts. Again, nothing in the House bill or anything being considered in the Senate exists to back this claim. There are proposed decreases to increases in future Medicare funding, essentially reducing Medicare expenditures from the forecast of $803 billion by 2019. $560 billion would be removed from future Medicare increases over the next 10 years, and would not come from funds slated to provide actual care to seniors. And the House bill proposes increasing Medicare funding by $340 billion over the next 10 years. According to Medicare expert Tricia Newman of the Kaiser Family Foundation, the money would pay for office visits, eliminate copays and deductibles, and close the so-called “donut hole” in Medicare drug benefits.
Illegal immigrants will get free health insurance. While a 1986 law allows illegal immigrants to receive free emergency care through emergency room clinics like everyone else in America, the House bill does not give anyone free health care. Illegal immigrants will not be eligible for subsidies to buy health insurance. In July, the House defeated a Republican-sponsored amendment to require anyone enrolling in a public plan or seeking subsidies to purchase health insurance to provide proof of citizenship. After the amemdment was defeated, Representative Steve King (R-IA) began spreading the false claims that since proof of citizenship would not be mandated, illegal immigrants would indeed be able to obtain government-funded health insurance. Newsweek writes: “Can we say that none of the estimated 11.9 million illegal immigrants will ever wangle insurance subsidies through identity fraud, pretending to be a citizen? You can’t prove a negative, but experts say that Medicare—the closest thing to the proposals in the House bill—has no such problem.”
Death panels will decide who lives. So-called “death panels” form the heart of the “deather” claims that the government would mandate “end of life counseling sessions” that would encourage elderly and seriously ill patients to allow themselves to die. Newsweek calls the claim a “lie” that “springs from a provision in the House bill to have Medicare cover optional counseling on end-of-life care for any senior who requests it. This means that any patient, terminally ill or not, can request a special consultation with his or her physician about ventilators, feeding tubes, and other measures. Thus the House bill expands Medicare coverage, but without forcing anyone into end-of-life counseling.”
The government will set doctors’ wages. This is another claim that seems to have originated on the Flecks of Life blog. Like the earlier claim, it is false. The House bill, according to Newsweek, “says that physicians who choose to accept patients in the public insurance plan would receive five percent more than Medicare pays for a given service, [but] doctors can refuse to accept such patients, and, even if they participate in a public plan, they are not salaried employees of it any more than your doctor today is an employee of, say, Aetna.” Amitabh Chandra of Harvard University says, “Nobody is saying we want the doctors working for the government; that’s completely false.” [Newsweek, 8/29/2009]
Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN) gives a speech to an audience at the conservative Independence Institute in Denver, Colorado. Bachmann tells the audience that “we… have to make a covenant, to slit our wrists, be blood brothers” to defeat health care reform. Bachmann, whose speech is frequently punctuated by cheers, says health care reform has “the strength to destroy this country forever.… Right now, we are looking at reaching down the throat and ripping the guts out of freedom. And we may never be able to restore it if we don’t man up and take this one on.” She continues: “Something is way crazy out there.… This cannot pass.… What we have to do today is make a covenant, to slit our wrists, be blood brothers on this thing. This will not pass. We will do whatever it takes to make sure this doesn’t pass.… You’re either for us or against us on this issue.” Calling her speech a “personal legislative briefing,” Bachmann tells the audience that many Americans pay half of their incomes in taxes, and thusly, “This is slavery. It’s nothing more than slavery.” The Colorado Independent characterizes Bachmann’s speech as “filled with urgent and violent rhetoric.” She proudly calls herself the nation’s “second-most hated Republican woman,” behind only former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK), and calls herself first on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)‘s list of “top targets,” presumably for defeat in the 2010 elections. Bachmann provides her own proposal for health care reform: “Erase the boundaries around every single state when it comes to health care,” enabling consumers to purchase insurance across state lines; increase the use of health savings accounts and allow everyone to “take full deductibility of all medical expenses,” including insurance premiums; include tort reform; and, she concludes: “Do a few other tweaks and you’re there. Your whole crisis is gone.” [Colorado Independent, 8/31/2009; Think Progress, 9/1/2009]
Three Senate Republicans—Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), former presidential candidate John McCain (R-AZ), and Christopher “Kit” Bond (R-MO)—hold a “Health Care Reform Forum” at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City. The event is closed to the public. The attendees were invited either by the senators or the hospital administration. McConnell tells the audience that he believes it is time to “step back and start over” on health care reform. McConnell and McCain intend to take part in two more health care forums, in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Hialeah, Florida, but both events will also be closed to the public. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), who has taken part in several contentious town hall audiences (see July 27, 2009 and August 11, 2009), criticizes the Republican senators for not allowing citizens to take part in the discussions, saying: “I’m disappointed that the Republican leader of the Senate is coming to Kansas City on Monday and participating in a forum, but they’re not opening it up to the public. It’s invitation-only. I think it might be helpful for the leadership in the Republican Party to have some of the experiences I’ve had over the last week, where some of the meetings are wildly in favor of reform, and other meetings are wildly against it. I think having that pulse is important, and I think the Republican leader would benefit from that.” [Think Progress, 8/31/2009; Charlotte Observer, 8/31/2009]
A ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’ poster featuring the name of a Charlotte-area abortion provider. [Source: Women's Rights (Change.org)]A women’s clinic in Charlotte, North Carolina, the Family Reproductive Health Clinic, is targeted with a series of “Wanted” posters naming the clinic’s doctors, and claiming they are “Wanted Dead or Alive” for the “crime” of abortion. The posters read in part: “We would like to introduce you to [two named doctors]. Their specialties are obstetrics, gynecology, and murder. Not only do these two men assist women and deliver babies, but they also harm women and kill babies.… You may contact them at their office or the clinic in which they perform the abortions.” The posters list the addresses of the named doctors’ private practices. The practice of anti-abortion organizations using such posters began as early as 1995 (see 1995 and After) and was ruled an illegal threat in 2002 (see May 16, 2002). The practice has allegedly resulted in the murders of three abortion doctors (see March 10, 1993, December 30, 1994 and After, and October 23, 1998), who were all named in similar “Wanted”-style posters. The practice has continued in spite of the court verdict (see January - April 2003). The clinic has been targeted for closure since 2002, when the Reverend Flip Benham, the head of Operation Save America (formerly Operation Rescue—see 1986), moved to the Charlotte area and vowed to shut it down. Since then, Benham and his group’s members have harassed and intimidated the clinic’s staffers and patrons; Benham has been videotaped screaming at patients that “Satan will drink the blood of your babies” and that the women will “go to your deaths” if they have abortions. Benham and his followers often use microphones amplified to what a clinic official calls “deafening levels” to speak to the patients, “swarm” patients’ cars as they enter the parking lot, and follow them up to the doors of the clinic, often stepping within inches of the patients as they harangue them. The clinic official says of the patients, “We try to prepare them for this when they make their appointment, but until you go through something like this, you can’t imagine what it’s like.” The police do little to curb the protesters’ actions, the official says. [Ms. Magazine, 9/2009]
Representative Anthony Weiner (D-NY), a vocal supporter of health care reform and an advocate of universal health care for all Americans (see July 30, 2009), engages in a contentious on-air debate on MSNBC with CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo. Weiner extolls the virtues of Medicare, a US-run health care system for all citizens 65 or older: “The United States of America, 40 percent of all tax dollars go through a public plan. Ask your parent or grandparent, ask your neighbor whether they’re satisfied with Medicare. Now, there’s a funding problem, but the quality of care is terrific. You get complete choice and go anywhere you want. Don’t look at—” Bartiromo interrupts Weiner by snapping: “How come you don’t use it? You don’t have it. How come you don’t have it?” Weiner replies: “Because I’m not 65. I would love it.” Bartiromo, seemingly unaware that Medicare is only for those aged 65 or older, and also that Weiner is 20 years too young for the system, retorts, “Yeah, come on.” Weiner says: “Medicare for someone age 45? I would take it in a heartbeat.” [Washington Post, 9/1/2009; Huffington Post, 9/1/2009]
Michael Steele, the chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC), speaks to an audience of around 150 at Howard University in Washington. Steele’s speech is part of his outreach to historically African-American colleges and universities. Unfortunately for his outreach program, the first few rows in the auditorium are reserved for local Young Republicans; all of the attendees from that organization are white. Steele’s dialogue has few moments for the audience to contribute, as he delivers a long speech about providing for your own future, with all questions submitted in writing while he speaks. However, the dynamic changes when 23-year-old Amanda Duzak, a Towson University graduate, stands up against the rules of engagement and speaks out of turn. Steele had finished criticizing the idea of the “public option,” the proposed government-run alternative to private health insurance. Duzak says: “My mother died of cancer six months ago because she could only afford three of her six prescription chemotherapy medications. There are 50 million people in this country who could end up like my mom, suffering or dying because they do not have adequate health care (see September 17, 2009). Everyone in this room and everyone in this country should have access to good health care.” Duzak receives a solid round of applause, and Steele answers her. After saying he believes in mature, honest discussion, he says, “People are coming to these town meetings and they’re like [he then shakes].” Gesturing directly at Duzak, he adds: “It makes for great TV. You’ll probably make it tonight, enjoy it.” Steele then turns his back on Duzak as the crowd continues to applaud her. [Think Progress, 9/2/2009; Huffington Post, 9/2/2009; Washington Independent, 9/2/2009]
Health insurance corporations defend their use of “rescissions,” or denials of care due to what they term “pre-existing conditions” among their customers. Washington Post reporters interview Los Angeles businesswoman Sally Marrari, who in 2006 had her coverage canceled by Blue Cross & Blue Shield after the firm claimed she had withheld information from them about a back problem. Marrari was undergoing treatment for a thyroid disorder, a heart problem, and lupus. After her coverage was canceled, Marrari was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and quickly racked up over $200,000 in medical bills. She says she had no idea at the time that she had any back issues. She is currently suing the company, and is getting health care by trading office visits for work on her doctor’s 1969 Porsche at the garage she owns with her husband. Marrari’s tale is one of many cited by the Post as illustrative of the insurance industry’s unpopular practice. The Post writes, “Tales of cancellations have fueled outrage among regulators, analysts, doctors, and, not least, plaintiffs’ lawyers, who describe insurers as too eager to shed patients to widen profits.” Insurance company spokespersons claim to have little knowledge of just how and why particular patients are subjected to rescission, and Congressional investigators point to a patchwork of state laws and policies which lead to confusion. Since 2008, California’s five largest insurers have paid almost $19 million in fines for unfairly canceling policyholders’ insurance after those clients filed claims. One insurer, Health Net, has admitted to offering bonuses to employees for finding reasons to cancel policies. Gerald Kominski of the Center for Health Policy says: “This is probably the most egregious of examples of health insurers using their power and their resources to deny benefits to people who are most in need of care. It’s really a horrendous activity on the part of the insurers.” But insurers say the rescissions are necessary to combat fraud among policyholders. An Anthem Blue Cross spokeswoman says: “We do not rescind a policyholder’s coverage because someone on the policy gets sick. We have put in place a thorough process with multiple steps to ensure that we are as fair and as accurate as we can be in making these difficult decisions.” Blue Cross has been fined $11 million over the last two years by California state overseers, and required to reinstate dozens of canceled policies. Officials from three insurance companies recently told a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee they had saved $300 million by canceling about 20,000 policies over five years. [Washington Post, 9/8/2009]
Joe Wilson attempting to shout down President Obama. [Source: Politics Daily]President Obama gives a speech touting his administration’s health care reform efforts to a joint session of Congress. The speech, at times forceful and other times attempting to reach across party lines for a bipartisan reform effort, is primarly designed to unify Democrats against a near-unified Republican opposition. Obama denounces some of the most egregious misrepresentations about the health care reform effort, including the so-called “death panel” claim (see August 7, 2009, August 15, 2009, and August 23-24, 2009), in which he calls the people who spread the tale “liars.” He warns Republicans that he will brook no more gamesmanship from them in the effort to craft a reform bill. “What we have also seen in these last months is the same partisan spectacle that only hardens the disdain many Americans have toward their own government,” he says. “Too many have used this as an opportunity to score short-term political points, even if it robs the country of our opportunity to solve a long-term challenge. And out of this blizzard of charges and counter-charges, confusion has reigned. Well, the time for bickering is over. The time for games has passed.” Democrats roundly cheer Obama’s words; Republicans generally do not. [Politico, 9/9/2009; Washington Post, 9/9/2009; Salon, 9/9/2009] The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza later notes that the speech is stronger on rhetoric than it is on specifics. [Washington Post, 9/9/2009] Salon’s Joan Walsh, an avowed progressive, calls the speech “great” and writes: “What was most important about Obama’s address was his declaration that he won’t tolerate any more ‘lies’ or ‘bogus claims’ from the GOP. Yes, he used those terms.… My only real criticism is I wish he’d found a way to do this two months ago. Obama has never before been so lucid in explaining why reform is crucial.” [Salon, 9/9/2009]
Health Care an Economic Issue - Obama insists that reforming health care is critical to managing America’s continuing economic crisis, and key to shrinking the huge deficit. He says: “Put simply, our health care problem is our deficit problem. Nothing else even comes close.” However, as Walsh writes: “I was not crazy about his firm promise, ‘I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficit.’ I’m not sure he can keep that promise, for one thing, and it’s not a pledge he makes when asking for more money for Afghanistan, or for the not terribly stimulative tax cut he included in the stimulus bill.” [Salon, 9/9/2009; Salon, 9/9/2009]
No Commitment to the Public Option - While Obama’s rhetoric is at times tough, he does not directly embrace the idea of a “public option,” the proposed government-run, non-profit alternative to private health insurance. Many Democrats, particularly those in the progressive wing of the party, are strongly in favor of such a measure. “It is only one part of my plan,” Obama says of the option. “To my progressive friends, I would remind you that for decades, the driving idea behind reform has been to end insurance company abuses and make coverage affordable for those without it. The public option is only a means to that end—and we should remain open to other ideas that accomplish our ultimate goal.” [Politico, 9/9/2009; Salon, 9/9/2009] He notes that he has no interest in punishing the health care insurance industry, saying, “I don’t want to put insurance companies out of business, I just want to hold them accountable.” [Salon, 9/9/2009]
Evoking Senator Kennedy - Near the end of the speech, Obama evokes the memory of former Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA), who died recently of brain cancer. Kennedy characterized health care reform as the centerpiece of his political agenda, and fought for it throughout his lengthy stay in the Senate. Obama reveals that Kennedy sent the White House a letter in his last days (see May 12, 2009), asking Obama and his fellow members of Congress to keep fighting for health care reform for the betterment of all Americans. Referring to Kennedy’s message, Obama closes with the line: “We did not come here to fear the future. We came here to shape it.” [Washington Post, 9/9/2009] Walsh says of the letter, “It let Obama return to his theme that health care in this wealthy nation is a moral issue and a matter of social justice.” [Washington Post, 9/9/2009]
'You Lie!' - During the speech, when Obama says that the health care legislation being crafted by Congressional Democrats does not offer free health care to illegal immigrants, Representative Joe Wilson (R-SC) shouts, “You lie!” Many lawmakers gasp at Wilson’s outburst, but Obama merely points an admonishing finger in the direction of the shout and continues his address. (It takes some time to identify Wilson as the shouter, as he quickly sinks back into his seat among his fellow Republican House members.) The Associated Press writes, “The nastiness of August reached from the nation’s town halls” in Wilson’s outburst; Politico’s Glenn Thrush later calls Wilson’s shout “boorish,” and notes that his outburst “enraged audience members on both sides of the aisle.” Wilson’s disruptive behavior is only one of a number of displays of disagreement from Republicans during the address; many spend time during the speech texting on their Blackberries or waving copies of GOP reform proposals. After the speech, Wilson is chastised by, among others, Senator John McCain (R-AZ), and he offers an apology to Obama through the White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel (see September 9-10, 2009). [Politico, 9/9/2009; Associated Press, 9/9/2009] Cillizza later writes that the image of Republicans shouting at the president or showing their contempt for his message by texting during the speech gives a poor impression of them. “The more Republicans look like they are opposing the Democratic plan for partisan reasons, the more danger they are in politically,” he writes. [Washington Post, 9/9/2009]
Responses - Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE), considered a possible opponent to many reform provisions, says he came away from the speech impressed. “I think it was a bit of a game-changer,” he says. Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, says, “The speech galvanized support along the Democratic Caucus across the political spectrum, from the progressive caucus to the Blue Dogs, and everybody left determined to get something done this year.” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has a different response, ignoring the behavior of his own party members to accuse Obama of behaving in an undignified manner. “I was incredibly disappointed in the tone of his speech,” he says. “At times, I found his tone to be overly combative and believe he behaved in a manner beneath the dignity of the office. I fear his speech tonight has made it more difficult—not less—to find common ground. He appeared to be angry at his critics and disappointed the American people were not buying the proposals he has been selling.… If the Obama administration and Congressional Democrats go down this path and push a bill on the American people they do not want, it could be the beginning of the end of the Obama presidency.” Representative Mark Kirk (R-IL), who is running for the Illinois Senate seat once occupied by Obama, says: “He talked at us. He didn’t listen to us.… It was a missed opportunity.” However, Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), one of the Obama administration’s most consistent critics, calls the speech “good,” and says: “I’m willing to compromise to get things fixed. But I’m not willing to put the government in charge because we don’t have a good track record.” [Politico, 9/9/2009] Political scientist Morris Fiorina calls Wilson’s outburst “a new low for the contemporary era,” and adds, “Some politicians seem to be adopting radio talk show hosts and cable TV commentators as their role models.” [USA Today, 9/10/2009]
Armed Man Attempted to Get to Capitol before Speech - Shortly before Obama’s speech, Capitol Police arrested a man trying to enter the Capitol grounds with a shotgun and a rifle (see September 9, 2009).
Entity Tags: Glenn Thrush, Tom Coburn, Barack Obama, Chris Van Hollen, Chris Cillizza, Rahm Emanuel, Ben Nelson, Mark Steven Kirk, Joan Walsh, Morris Fiorina, Joe Wilson, Edward Kennedy, John McCain, Lindsey Graham
Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda
Joshua Bowman, a resident of Falls Church, Virginia, is arrested by US Capitol Police after attempting to gain access to the Capitol grounds as President Obama begins addressing a joint session of Congress on health care reform (see September 9, 2009). Bowman attempts to bypass a barricade impeding access to the Capitol building, asking officers if he can park in a secure lot. The lot requires a permit and a vehicle search. The officers, suspicious of Bowman’s timing, search his Honda Civic, and find a shotgun, a rifle, and ammunition in the trunk. Bowman is arrested for carrying two unregistered firearms. His intentions are unclear, according to police spokeswoman Sergeant Kimberly Schneider. The Capitol Police and Secret Service are on high alert during Obama’s speech, which features several members of the White House and almost the entire body of Congress present in a single location. [The Hill, 9/10/2009; Associated Press, 9/10/2009]
Charles Boustany. [Source: US House of Representatives / Wonkette (.com)]Representative Charles Boustany (R-LA), a cardiac surgeon, gives the Republican rebuttal to President Obama’s speech on health care reform (see September 9, 2009). [Politico, 9/9/2009] Boustany tells his listeners that Americans “want health care reform,” but wanted to hear Obama “tell Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi, Majority Leader [Harry] Reid and the rest of Congress that it’s time to start over on a common-sense, bipartisan plan focused on lowering the cost of health care while improving quality.” Boustany acknowledged in an interview that the Republicans had done almost nothing themselves to address the health care crisis, but says in his speech that the Democrats’ reform proposals are too big, too expensive, and too ineffective. [Wall Street Journal, 9/9/2009]
Large Campaign Donations from Health Care Corporations - Boustany is an unusual choice for the response, as the Center for Responsive Politics notes that he has received $1,256,056 from health and health insurance interests in his five-year political career. Such donations make up over 20 percent of his total fundraising. David Donnelly of Public Campaign Actions Fund notes: “There is a conflict of interest when members of Congress stand before the public and recite the same talking points put forth by lobbyists and the heads of insurance and HMO giants opposing health care legislation. Rep. Boustany has taken more than $160,000 in campaign contributions from insurance and HMO interests alone. Do you think he’ll disclose that to his national audience tonight?” Boustany makes no such mention during his response. [US Newswire, 10/9/2009]
Voted against Children's Health Care, Flu Vaccination Funding - The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) notes that Boustany voted against the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP), did not support a supplemental appropriations bill that included an increase in flu vaccination funding, and voted against an expansion of COBRA funding, a government program designed to supplement working Americans’ health coverage. DCCC spokeswoman Jessica Santillo says: “Congressman Boustany’s no votes on issues ranging from providing health insurance for children, to fighting pandemic flu, to keeping the doors open at community health centers makes him a credible voice for special interests, but not for hardworking Louisianians who struggle with health insurance companies.” Boustany has explained that his vote against S-CHIP funding was to encourage a different way to expand the program: “I proudly support S-CHIP, so we must ensure our children are getting the quality health care they need. A massive increase of S-CHIP further neglects those children who already slipped through the cracks. These children need to see a doctor to receive care.” [The Hill, 9/9/2009]
Other Details of Boustany's Life and Career Brought Up - Politico notes that Boustany had three malpractice suits filed against him while he was a practicing doctor. Two of the cases were ruled against Boustany, and the third was settled out of court for an undisclosed monetary amount. [Politico, 9/9/2009] Boustany has previously indicated his doubts that Obama is actually an American citizen, aligning him with the “birther” movement [Daily Kingfish, 9/9/2009] , a position he later recanted. [Huffington Post, 9/9/2009] And several progressive blogs delight in recounting his 2004 attempt to purchase an English lordship from a British con artist. [Daily Kos, 9/9/2009]
A T-shirt being marketed in support of Joe Wilson’s re-election campaign. [Source: Palmetto Scoop]Representative Joe Wilson (R-SC), who shouted “You lie!” at President Obama during his speech to a joint session of Congress earlier in the evening (see September 9, 2009), apologizes publicly for his behavior during the speech. In an e-mail to reporters, he writes: “This evening, I let my emotions get the best of me when listening to the president’s remarks regarding the coverage of illegal immigrants in the health care bill. While I disagree with the president’s statement, my comments were inappropriate and regrettable. I extend sincere apologies to the president for this lack of civility.” He also apologizes to White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. [Politico, 9/9/2009; Politico, 9/9/2009]
Slammed by Republicans and Democrats - Before Wilson makes his apologies, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) calls his actions “totally disrespectful,” and adds, “There is no place for it in that setting, or any other, and he should apologize for it immediately.” Vice President Joe Biden, a longtime senator, says the next morning: “I was embarrassed for the chamber and a Congress I love. It demeaned the institution.” Representative Eric Cantor (R-VA) says after the speech: “Obviously, the president of the United States is always welcome on Capitol Hill. He deserves respect and decorum. I know that Congressman Wilson has issued an apology and made his thoughts known to the White House, which was the appropriate thing to do.” Cantor spent much of the speech ostentatiously texting on his Blackberry, and later claimed to be taking notes on the proceedings. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) says angrily upon leaving the House chambers: “I’ve been here for 35 years. I’ve been here for seven presidents. I’ve never heard anything like that.… It strengthens the president, because it demonstrates what he is facing. Most people have respect for the president.” Wilson’s fellow South Carolinian James Clyburn (D-SC) says the outburst is just another in a long line of political attacks by Wilson. “Joe Wilson took our state’s reputation to a new low,” he says. “I thought [Governor] Mark Sanford had taken it as low as it could go, but this is beyond the pale.” (Sanford is under fire for having a long-term affair and spending state tax monies on visiting his paramour in Argentina.) “To heckle is bad enough, but to use that one word, the one three-letter word that was not allowed to be used in my house while I was growing up, is beyond the pale.” Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA) says of Wilson’s outburst: “It was just something that nobody had ever witnessed before. We all felt embarrassed.” Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) predicts Wilson’s outburst will have political consequences: “The person who said it will pay a price. I think the average American thinks that the president and the office deserve respect, and that was a disrespectful comment. They’ll pay a price in the court of public opinion.” [Politico, 9/9/2009; Associated Press, 9/10/2009; Associated Press, 9/10/2009; Time, 9/10/2009]
Acceptance - The White House quickly accepts Wilson’s apology. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi agrees, saying, “It’s time for us to talk about health care, not Mr. Wilson.” [USA Today, 9/10/2009]
Resolution of Disapproval - House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) says the House may call for a rebuke of some sort against Wilson. “There’ll be time enough to consider whether or not we ought to make it clear that that action is unacceptable in the House of Representatives,” he says after the speech. “I’ve talked to Republican members who share that view.” [Associated Press, 9/10/2009] On September 15, the House will pass a “resolution of disapproval” against Wilson, with only six Republicans voting for the resolution. [McClatchy News, 10/4/2009] The resolution is brought in part due to Wilson’s refusal to apologize to either Obama or to the House of Representatives on the floor of the House. [USA Today, 9/10/2009]
Using Wilson's Outburst against the GOP - The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent writes that Democratic strategists will use Wilson’s outburst to portray the Republican opposition to reform “as obstinate, angry, and irrevocally hostile towards Obama and his agenda.” [Plum Line, 9/10/2009] In the weeks after the speech, the Republican Party will use Wilson’s outburst as the centerpiece of a fundraising effort around the nation. The National Republican Congressional Committee will call Wilson a “national figure” who is raising important concerns about health care reform. The House Democratic campaign organization will respond, saying of Wilson and his Republican supporters, “[T]he very liars who heckled President Obama for calling them out are raising millions of dollars off of their rude, dishonest attack.” [Fox News, 9/26/2009] Salon’s Joan Walsh asks: “How is it that Obama hasn’t faced a single heckler in his own health care town halls, but he’s not safe from the angry, uninformed mob when he speaks to Congress? The next time you see an important Republican leader claim the town-hell hecklers are just fringe elements and bad apples, remind them of Rep. Wilson.” [Salon, 9/9/2009]
Raising Millions - In the days after the speech, Wilson will send e-mails to his supporters claiming to be the target of “liberals who want to give health care to illegals” for his outburst, and asking for donations. Wilson’s campaign will claim that it raises over $1 million in donations in the first 48 hours after the speech. [CNN, 9/12/2009] By the time the September 30 deadline passes, Wilson and the challenger for his House seat, Rob Miller (D-SC), a retired Marine, will have raised over $4 million between them. Wilson will attend fundraisers as far afield as Michigan and Missouri. When Wilson boasts of being given “hundreds of invitations” to appear with Republicans in other states, Miller will retort: “He’s out there on his ‘thank you tour.’ He should be doing an apology tour. He should be apologizing to every teacher, every law enforcement official, every man, woman, and child in South Carolina for being disrespectful to the president.” [McClatchy News, 10/4/2009]
Entity Tags: Steny Hoyer, Barack Obama, Rob Miller, Eric Cantor, James Clyburn, Joan Walsh, Greg Sargent, Richard (“Dick”) Durbin, Joe Wilson, Patrick J. Leahy, John McCain, Rahm Emanuel, Marshall Clement (“Mark”) Sanford, Jr, Joseph Biden, Nancy Pelosi, National Republican Congressional Committee, Maxine Waters
Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda
Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh applauds Representative Joe Wilson (R-SC) for shouting “You lie!” at President Obama during the president’s address to Congress (see September 9, 2009), and tells his listeners he wished Wilson had not apologized for his outburst (see September 9-10, 2009). Limbaugh calls Obama’s assertion that health care reform would not include free care for illegal immigrants “a blatant lie,” and says he is disgusted that so many Republicans called on Wilson to apologize for his behavior. The Obama administration, Limbaugh claims, “is trying to totally tear down the institutions and traditions that have made this country great,” and he says Wilson is merely speaking the truth. Obama “is lying… from the moment he opens his mouth until he ends the speech. I was shouting ‘You’re lying!’ throughout the speech, at the television. ‘You’re lying!’ ‘That’s a lie!’ Joe Wilson simply articulated what millions of Americans were saying.” [Media Matters, 9/10/2009] Time’s Michael Scherer notes that the Senate Finance Committee’s working draft contains the line, “No illegal immigrants will benefit from the health care tax credits.” HR 3200, the House reform bill, contains Section 246, which is titled “NO FEDERAL PAYMENT FOR UNDOCUMENTED ALIENS.” [Time, 9/10/2009]
Mark McKinnon. [Source: Houston Chronicle]Mark McKinnon, a Republican political strategist who worked on both the George W. Bush and John McCain presidential campaigns, says Republican Joe Wilson (R-SC), who shouted at President Obama during his recent speech (see September 9, 2009), should pay by being voted out of office. “Make Joe Wilson pay,” McKinnon writes for the online news source The Daily Beast. “And by pay, I mean beat his sorry _ss at the polls and send him to the private sector. That is the only way to change the political discourse in America today. Because as long as louts like Joe Wilson can spout off and call the president a liar and get rewarded with re-election, then louts will continue to spout off. And we [the Republican Party] will continue to claw our way to the very bottom of the political swamp.” McKinnon says the Republican Party will never rebuild itself and become a serious contender for national leadership until it “get[s] rid of the partisans like Joe Wilson.” He finds Wilson’s shout reprehensible, both because of the blatant disrespect it showed to the president and to Congress and because of his error—Wilson wrongly asserts that Obama is lying about the Democrats’ health care reform not funding free health care for illegal immigrants. McKinnon says Wilson’s apology to Obama (see September 9-10, 2009) lacks “class,” and writes: “He made it clear he was saying ‘sorry’ only because he’d been forced to by the Republican House leadership: ‘Well, I, uh, last night I heard from the leadership that they wanted me to contact the White House and, uh, say that, uh, my statements, uh, were inappropriate. I did.’ Apologies should extract some moral or material cost.… Now, proving he has no real remorse or character, Wilson has created a YouTube video and is trying to raise money off his transgression.” McKinnon concludes: “There’s only one way we’re going to change our political climate and ensure we establish some respect in our discourse. And that is to show there is a real price to pay for being a disrespectful partisan idiot.” [Daily Beast, 9/11/2009]
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) acknowledges it has funded a series of television advertisements in support of legislation primarily written by Max Baucus (D-MT), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, to reform US health care. The television ads are part of an agreement between the Obama administration, Baucus, and PhRMA in June, where the organization agreed to various givebacks and discounts designed to reduce America’s pharmaceutical spending by $80 billion over 10 years. PhRMA then set aside $150 million for advertising to support health care legislation. More progressive House Democrats such as Henry Waxman (D-CA) are pushing for stiffer drug industry givebacks than covered in the deal. PhRMA is led by Billy Tauzin, a former Republican congressman. Until recently, the organization spent some $12 million on ads by an offshoot coalition called Americans for Stable Quality Care, and aired television ads such as “Eight Ways Reform Matters to You.” PhRMA’s new ads will specifically support the Baucus bill. Many are critical of the deal, with James Love of the progressive research group Knowledge Ecology charging, “Essentially what the US got was not $80 billion, but $150 million in Obama campaign contributions.” [New York Times, 9/12/2009] Investigative reporter Matt Taibbi agrees with Love, accusing the White House of colluding with Baucus and Tauzin’s PhRMA to orchestrate a “big bribe” in exchange for the Democrats’ dropping of drug-pricing reform in the Baucus bill. Taibbi writes that in June, White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel met with representatives from PhRMA and drug companies such as Abbott Laboratories, Merck, and Pfizer to cut their deal. Tauzer later told reporters that the White House had “blessed” a plan involving the $150 million in return for the White House’s agreement to no longer back government negotiations for bulk-rate pharmaceuticals for Medicare, and to no longer support the importation of inexpensive drugs from Canada. Taibbi writes that the White House worked with Baucus and PhRMA to undercut Waxman’s attempts to give the government the ability to negotiate lower rates for Medicare drugs. PhRMA’s ads are being aired primarily in the districts of freshmen Democrats who are expected to face tough re-election campaigns, and in the districts of conservative “Blue Dog” Democrats, who have sided with Baucus, Obama, and PhRMA to oppose the Waxman provision in favor of PhRMA’s own provision, which would ban the government from negotiating lower rates for Medicare recipients. [True/Slant, 9/14/2009]
Entity Tags: James Love, Henry A. Waxman, Americans for Stable Quality Care, Abbott Laboratories, Rahm Emanuel, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, Senate Finance Committee, Obama administration, Medicare, Max Baucus, Matt Taibbi, Pfizer, Merck, W.J. (“Billy”) Tauzin
Timeline Tags: US Health Care
One of many signs held by protesters at the 9/12 rally in Washington. [Source: Daily Kos]An organization called the “9/12 Project” (see March 13, 2009 and After), sponsored by Fox News talk show host Glenn Beck, holds a protest rally on the Capitol Mall in Washington. Other sponsors include lobbying firm FreedomWorks (see February 16-17, 2009, February 19, 2009 and After, February 27, 2009, March 2, 2009, March 13, 2009 and After, April 14, 2009, and April 15, 2009), ResistNet (see August 10, 2009) and Tea Party Patriots (see July 17, 2009 and Late July, 2009). Many protesters credit Beck for inspiring them to come to the protest, though Beck himself does not attend. [Talking Points Memo, 9/12/2009; Washington Post, 9/12/2009] Many of the signs praise Beck and Fox News, while others celebrate former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK), Representative Ron Paul (R-TX), and other conservative figures. Still others further the claim that health care reform will “kill Grandma” (see August 12, 2009) and “kill babies.” One sign, referring to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), reads, “I need my health care… Pelosi makes me sick!” Many signs depict President Obama as a Communist or socialist; one claims, “I work hard so Obama voters don’t have to!” and another refers to “Comrade Obama.” One sign, declaring “Yes! We are a Christian nation!” is signed by one of the rally speakers, Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC). [John Lewandowski, 9/12/2009]
Inflating the Numbers - Reports by local police and fire officials estimate the crowd at between 60,000 and 70,000, which columnist Josh Marshall calls “smallish by big DC protest/event standards but definitely respectable.” The Washington Post reports, “Tens of thousands protest Obama initiatives and government spending.” However, estimates by conservative radio hosts, bloggers, and media commentators put the numbers far higher, at up to two million. (TPMDC’s Brian Beutler notes that expectations were inflated the day before by a Democratic House staffer, who sent out an e-mail predicting a turnout “ranging from hundreds of thousands to two million people.” Beutler writes: “For reference, two million is just a hair under four times the total population of Washington, DC, and approximately the number of people who showed up to the history-making inauguration of President Barack Obama. Sound like a bit of an exaggeration? It probably is.” He also notes, “A source at a major liberal organization in Washington says, ‘one of the things we decided to do was try to raise expectations for turnout.’” When the initial figures are published in the media, protest organizers and various participants begin claiming that the actual turnout was somewhere between one and two million, but the numbers are being suppressed by pro-Obama media outlets. [TPMDC, 9/11/2009; Talking Points Memo, 9/12/2009] One conservative blogger writes: “‘Media’ estimates range from 60,000 to 500,000 to around two million (yes, 2,000,000). Those estimates, the language employed, and the visuals chosen for use in reporting the rally and representing the people gathered, vary greatly based solely on bias.” [St. Petersburg Times, 9/14/2009] Conservative blogger Michelle Malkin initially reports third-hand claims that ABC News is reporting turnouts between 1.2 and two million, then updates her report to note ABC denies making any such claim. She quotes another conservative blogger who writes, “However big it was, it was bigger than expected.” By day’s end, Malkin notes an ABC report that the wildly inflated crowd estimate came from FreedomWorks: “Matt Kibbe, president of FreedomWorks, the group that organized the event, said on stage at the rally Saturday that ABC News was reporting that one million to 1.5 million people were in attendance. At no time did ABC News, or its affiliates, report a number anywhere near as large. ABCNews.com reported an approximate figure of 60,000 to 70,000 protesters, attributed to the Washington, DC, fire department. In its reports, ABC News Radio described the crowd as ‘tens of thousands.’ Brendan Steinhauser, spokesman for FreedomWorks, said he did not know why Kibbe cited ABC News as a source.” Malkin then writes, “The Left, of course, has seized on the error to discredit the undeniably massive turnout today.” [Michelle Malkin, 9/12/2009; ABC News, 9/13/2009] The next day, unidentified people circulate a photo from 1997 to ‘prove’ that the rally actually attracted over a million protesters (see September 13-14, 2009). Two days after the event, London’s Daily Mail reports “up to two million” at the rally. [London Daily Mail, 9/14/2009]
Fears of Socialism - The Post reports that many protesters wave signs and tell reporters about their fears of a “socialist America” under Obama, and warn that the Democrats’ attempts to reform US health care are undermining the Constitution. One protester bellows into a bullhorn: “You want socialism? Go to Russia!” “Hell hath no fury like a taxpayer ignored,” Andrew Moylan, head of government affairs for the National Taxpayers Union, tells the crowd, which responds with lusty cheers. One speaker, Representative Tom Price (R-GA), tells the crowd: “You will not spend the money of our children and our grandchildren to feed an overstuffed government. Our history is decorated by those who endured the burden of defending freedom. Now a new generation of patriots has emerged. You are those patriots.” Many of the signs support Representative Joe Wilson (R-SC), who days before accused Obama of lying during the president’s appearance before Congress (see September 9, 2009). [Washington Post, 9/12/2009]
Exhortations to Violence? - Some of the signs and slogans chanted by the protesters strike observers as perhaps calling for violence against elected officials or citizens who disagree with the protesters’ views, or are racist and/or personally slanderous. One sign depicts an assault rifle and the words, “We came unarmed from Montana and Utah… this time!” Another reads, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time… Pennsylvanians are armed and ready!” Another, referencing proposed “triggers” that would launch a government program to provide health insurance, depicts a rifle with the caption, “I got your ‘trigger’ right here… it’s called the Second Amendment!” A number of protesters hold professionally printed signs referencing the recent death of Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), reading, “Bury ObamaCare with Kennedy.” Another, referencing the Cleveland Zoo and the discredited “birther” theory, asks: “What’s the difference between Cleveland and the White House? One has an African lion and another a lyin’ African!” A related sign calls Obama the “president of Kenya.” Another, purporting to speak in “ghetto slang,” asks, “Where my white privilege males at?” A protester waves a sign reading, “Fascist are [sic] now in control they [sic] are like a cancer slowly killing America WAKE UP.” The now-familiar signs of Obama with a Hitler mustache, and of “socialist” Obama made up like the Joker from Batman comics and movies, are also in evidence. One speaker calls Obama the “parasite-in-chief.” [Washington Post, 9/12/2009; London Daily Mail, 9/14/2009]
Reaction from Democrats - The reaction from Congressional Democrats is tepid. Doug Thornell, an adviser to Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), tells reporters, “There is a lot of intensity on the far right to defeat the president’s agenda, but I am not sure that holding up signs that say we have to bury health reform with Senator Kennedy will go over well with moderates and independent voters.” [Washington Post, 9/12/2009]
Entity Tags: Michelle Malkin, Matt Kibbe, Nancy Pelosi, Joshua Micah Marshall, Tom Price, Sarah Palin, Ron Paul, Washington Post, Tea Party Patriots, Joe Wilson, National Taxpayers Union, Jim DeMint, ResistNet, FreedomWorks, 9/12 Project, ABC News, Barack Obama, Andrew Moylan, Brian Beutler, Brendan Steinhauser, Fox News, Glenn Beck, Doug Thornell
Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda
This 1997 photograph was circulated as ‘proof’ that the September 12, 2009 rally had millions in attendance. [Source: St. Petersburg Times]Conservative bloggers attempting to give credence to discredited claims that the “9/12 rally” held in Washington attracted up to two million participants (see September 12, 2009) circulate a photo which they say proves the size of the crowd. The photo shows a crowd packing the National Mall and spilling into the streets beyond. Unfortunately, the photo is quickly shown to have been taken at least five years before the rally took place. The St. Petersburg Times asks Pete Piringer, public affairs officer for the DC Fire and Emergency Department, if the rally had been big enough to fill that area. Piringer says it had not, and notes that the photo being circulated could not have been taken in 2009. He says the crowd “only filled the Capitol grounds, maybe up to Third Street.” Moreover, the photo does not include the National Museum of the American Indian, a building located at the corner of Fourth Street and Independence Avenue that opened on September 14, 2004. The museum should be in the upper right corner of the National Mall, next to the Air and Space Museum. The Times says the photo was likely taken in 1997. A Democratic media strategist says of the false photo: “I’ve seen bigger crowds at Montreal Expos games, but I still wouldn’t fake a photo just to justify your predictions of millions descending on Washington. This is grade-A stupid and just plays into the argument that these were astroturf protests to begin with. They’ve always brought the noise, but the question that was supposed to be answered this weekend was, could they bring the numbers? In that respect this was an unmitigated disaster.” By September 14, many of the conservative blogs that had originally posted the photo have taken them down, though some are claiming that the picture is a result of a liberal conspiracy to discredit the event. Many conservatives still argue that over a million people attended the rally. [Huffington Post, 9/14/2009; St. Petersburg Times, 9/14/2009]
The Public Campaign Action Fund (PCAF), a campaign finance watchdog organization, finds that insurance and health management organizations (HMOs) have spent over $700,000 a day during the first half of 2009 to defeat health care reform. It also notes that health care and insurance interests, which include organizations outside of the HMOs and insurance companies, have spent roughly $1.4 million a day during the first quarter of 2009 to defeat reform efforts. During the first six months of 2009, the companies spent $126,430,438, mostly on hired lobbyists, to oppose the health care reform legislation working its way through Congress. Since 2007, the companies have spent around $585 million to defeat health care reform. “The insurance and HMO interests are fighting health care reform with hundreds of millions of dollars,” says PCAF’s David Donnelly. “Why are so many in Congress willing to listen to an industry that is spending tens of millions every month on politics rather than on lowering their premiums or helping to address the costs of health care? They need the cash to pay for their campaigns.” The HMO and insurance companies have 1,795 lobbyists registered in Washington to represent their concerns to Congress and members of the Obama administration; the same firms hired almost 2,000 lobbyists in 2008. PCAF says it compiled its data from information provided by the Center for Responsive Politics and the Senate lobbying disclosure Web sites. [Public Campaign Action Fund, 9/15/2009]
Max Baucus (D-MT), the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, releases his committee’s final version of health care reform, a version known as the “chairman’s mark.” None of the Republicans on the committee support the bill (known as the “America’s Healthy Future Act,” or AHFA), and some Democrats, including John D. Rockefeller (D-WV), have serious questions about it as well. Baucus says: “The $856 billion dollar package will not add to the federal deficit. The Finance Committee will meet to begin voting on the chairman’s mark next week.” An analysis by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) shows that the bill will actually “result in a net reduction in federal budget deficits of $49 billion over the 2010-2019 period.” Senators Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Mike Enzi (D-WY) have said that they want a much smaller bill that imposes no fees on health insurance companies, prevents legal immigrants from gaining coverage for five years, and bans any federal coverage for abortions. The Baucus bill does not allow for federal monies to be used for abortions, as Republicans have insisted upon, with the exception of situations involving rape or incest. Illegal immigrants are not provided coverage through the bill; legal immigrants cannot get government subsidies and must wait five years before qualifying for Medicaid. Immigrants’ citizenship status will be verified, as Republicans have requested. Another Republican provision, “tort reform” (efforts to reduce legal claims against doctors and HMOs), is part of the bill. There is no “public option” for government-financed health care for uninsured citizens, as Republicans and conservative Democrats have demanded. The bill allows for the purchasing of insurance across state lines, for “high-deductible” policies, and for so-called “high-risk pools,” three provisions Republicans have demanded. And, beginning in 2014, federal monies will be made available “to all states to defray the costs of covering newly-eligible beneficiaries.” [111th Congress, 1st Session, 9/16/2009; Think Progress, 9/16/2009; Think Progress, 9/17/2009] Even after seeing a bill with so many inclusions they have asked for, Senate Republicans continue to insist that there is nothing in the bill they can support. [Think Progress, 9/17/2009]
Researchers for Harvard Medical School and the Cambridge Health Alliance release a report that shows approximately 45,000 Americans a year—122 a day or one every 12 minutes—die as a result of a lack of health insurance and a subsequent inability to receive medical care. The study’s co-author, Harvard medicine professor Dr. David Himmelstein, tells a reporter, “We’re losing more Americans every day because of inaction… than drunk driving and homicide combined.” Lead author Dr. Andrew Wilper, a medical professor at the University of Washington, says: “The uninsured have a higher risk of death when compared to the privately insured, even after taking into account socioeconomics, health behaviors, and baseline health. We doctors have many new ways to prevent deaths from hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease—but only if patients can get into our offices and afford their medications.” The study also shows that Americans aged 64 and below have a 40 percent higher risk of death than those who have coverage. The study is published in the online edition of the American Journal of Public Health, and released by Physicians for a National Health Program, which favors government-backed or “single-payer” health insurance. In 1993, a similar study showed those lacking insurance had a 25 percent higher risk of death. In 2002, the Institute of Medicine estimated that around 18,000 Americans a year died because they lacked coverage. Himmelstein says the sharp rise in risk is due to the swelling ranks of the uninsured. Around 46.3 million people in the United States lacked coverage in 2008, according to the US Census Bureau, an increase over the 45.7 million figure from 2007. Another factor is the dwindling resources where the uninsured can receive care. Public hospitals across the country are either denying uninsured people any care at all, or restricting the care they offer. Co-author Dr. Steffie Woolhandler says the findings show that without proper care, uninsured people are more likely to die from complications associated with preventable diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. The National Center for Policy Analysis, a conservative think tank, calls the study flawed; a spokesman for the Center says: “I think you can’t trust the results. Having said that, we ought to do something for the uninsured.” Woolhandler says the study followed similar protocols to those used by earlier government and private studies. “For any doctor… it’s completely a no-brainer that people who can’t get health care are going to die more from the kinds of things that health care is supposed to prevent,” she says. “Historically, every other developed nation has achieved universal health care through some form of nonprofit national health insurance. Our failure to do so means that all Americans pay higher health care costs, and 45,000 pay with their lives.” [Reuters, 9/17/2009; Harvard Science, 9/17/2009; CBS News, 9/17/2009]
President Obama makes the rounds of the Sunday morning network news talk shows to discuss health care reform, in what ABC News calls “an unprecedented presidential blitz of media appearances.” Obama appears for interviews on Sunday morning shows from ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, and Univision. In recent days, he has also appeared on CBS’s 60 Minutes, and will soon appear on CBS’s Late Night with David Letterman. However, the White House refuses to include Fox News in Obama’s appearances. When asked about the apparent snub, White House spokesman Josh Earnest replies, “We figured Fox would rather show ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ than broadcast an honest discussion about health insurance reform,” referring to the Fox network’s decision not to air Obama’s September 9 speech to a joint session of Congress on its regular broadcasting stations (see September 9, 2009). Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace says of the Obama White House, “They are the biggest bunch of crybabies I have dealt with in my 30 years in Washington.” Earnest responds that Wallace’s Fox News is not a legitimate news outlet, saying: “Fox is an ideological outlet where the president has been interviewed before and will likely be interviewed again. Not that the whining particularly strengthens their case for participation any time soon.” [Media Matters, 9/18/2009; ABC News, 9/19/2009]
Max Baucus (D-MT), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, makes several revisions to the “final” draft of the Chairman’s Mark of the America’s Healthy Future Act (AHFA, the name for health care reform legislation—see September 16-17, 2009). The “chairman’s mark” is a recommendation by a committee or subcommittee chair of measures to be considered in a markup, and is usually drafted as a bill. Baucus says in a statement: “The modifications focus largely on making care more affordable for low and middle income Americans by increasing the Health Care Affordability Tax Credit, lowering the penalties for people who fail to meet the individual requirement to have health insurance, and increasing the High Cost Insurance Excise Tax threshold for people whose basic health care is more expensive… and effectively slows the growth of skyrocketing health care costs.… This modification incorporates important ideas from my colleagues on both sides of the aisle.” According to Baucus, AHFA as it now stands will make it easier for families and small businesses to buy health care coverage, ensure Americans can choose to keep the health care coverage they have if they like, and slow the growth of health care costs over time. “It will bar insurance companies from discriminating against people based on health status, denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions, or imposing annual caps or lifetime limits on coverage.” Baucus continues to assert that AHFA will not add to the federal deficit. Some of the new provisions include:
Lowering the amount that insurance companies can vary premiums based on age, ensuring that these companies cannot charge elderly clients far more than younger ones. The provision was first submitted by Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR).
Providing $5 billion in additional assistance to small businesses attempting to provide coverage for their workers. The provision was first submitted by Senators Kerry and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).
Including more senior citizens in the Medicare Advantage program.
Making prescription drugs more affordable for senior citizens by reducing co-payments. This provision was first submitted by Senators John D. Rockefeller (D-WV), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), and Ben Nelson (D-NE).
Improving Medicare beneficiary access to bone density tests, a provision first submitted by Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR).
Creation of a three-year Medicare Hospice Concurrent Care (HCC) demonstration program that would provide Medicare patients eligible for hospice care with all other Medicare-covered services during the same period of time. This provision was first submitted by Senator Wyden.
Improving access to Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) for low income individuals in Medicaid who are in need of long-term care, a provision first submitted by Senator Kerry.
Creating nursing home alternatives for patients in need of long-term care, a provision first submitted by Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA).
Provide alternatives to nursing home care for disabled individuals on Medicaid, a provision first submitted by Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY).
Improving access to mental health care for Medicaid patients, a provision first submitted by Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME).
Financial assistance for “high-need” states having difficulty paying for their Medicaid obligations, and use of surplus Medicaid funds to improve the program.
Create an exemption to encourage health care beneficiaries to use generic prescription drugs by waiving co-payments, a provision first submitted by Senator Stabenow.
Remove the mandate that would require states to cover all prescription drugs for Medicaid beneficiaries.
Direct the secretary of health and human services to implement programs to reduce waste in the way drugs are dispensed to seniors in long term care facilities. [Senior Journal, 9/22/2009; New York Times, 9/22/2009; The Capitol (.net), 2011]
Entity Tags: Blanche Lincoln, Ben Nelson, Debbie Stabenow, Jeff Bingaman, Charles Schumer, John D. Rockefeller, America’s Healthy Future Act, Maria Cantwell, Max Baucus, Olympia Snowe, Ron Wyden, Senate Finance Committee, John Kerry
Timeline Tags: US Health Care
Peter Fleckenstein, a conservative blogger whose claims are used by Representative Bachmann. [Source: Peter Fleckenstein / Denver Post]Representatative Michele Bachmann (R-MN) issues a warning from the floor of the House: If the Democrats’ health care package passes, US public schools will be forced to host “sex clinics” that provide abortions and condoms on demand. Bachmann tells the nation: “There’s something that hasn’t been talked about much, and it’s the whole idea of school-based clinics in schools all across America, and that’s in HR 3200. Now this would raise the hackles on the necks of school parents all across this country. When they understand that Section 2511 of HR 3200, the House government takeover of health care, has a section—it’s called school-based health clinics, and it would allow a nonprofit health agency—just say Planned Parenthood because that’s what this is written for. Again, we need to be serious. Planned Parenthood is an organization that is the largest abortion provider in United States. And written in this bill is a provision whereby Planned Parenthood could become a proprietor for school-based clinics in every school across United States.”
'Sex Clinics' - Bachmann continues: “These have been more accurately called school sex clinics.… Now the federal government is going the final step, and they’re saying, ‘Let’s put sex clinics in our schools.’ Can you believe this, Mr. Speaker? Let’s put sex clinics in our school. And let’s put Planned Parenthood in charge of our sex clinics because the bill that the school—under this provision, Planned Parenthood would be authorized to serve as a sponsoring facility for the nation’s schools. As a matter of fact, the bulk of this health care bill is scheduled to go into effect in 2013. Remember, all the taxes will start this coming January, Mr. Speaker. Right away, at the time we can least afford it, the taxes will go into place, but the provisions of this bill actually go into effect in 2013. Not the school-based sex clinics. The sex clinics actually would go into effect next summer so that these clinics would appear in public schools next fall. And it would require that the school-based sex clinic would provide on-site access during the school day when school is in session and have an established network of support and access to services with backup health providers when the school is closed. … But parents are going to excluded from Planned Parenthood as they write these clinics because the bill orders that these clinics protect patient privacy and student records. What does that mean? It means that parents will never know what kind of counsel and treatment that their children are receiving.”
School-Based Abortions? - Bachmann says: “And as a matter of fact, the bill goes on to say what’s going to go on—comprehensive primary health services, physicals, treatment of minor acute medical conditions, referrals to follow-up for specialty care—is that abortion? Does that mean that someone’s 13-year-old daughter could walk into a sex clinic, have a pregnancy test done, be taken away to the local Planned Parenthood abortion clinic, have their abortion, be back, and go home on the school bus that night? Mom and dad are never the wiser.” [Media Matters, 9/30/2009; Salon, 10/1/2009]
Claim Debunked - The claim was pronouced false by the St. Petersburg Times’s PolitiFact investigative team in August, which noted that the claim apparently originated from statements made by conservative blogger Peter Fleckenstein and a later adaptation by the American Family Association and the Liberty Counsel, who in July warned that the bill “will establish school-based ‘health’ clinics. Your children will be indoctrinated and your grandchildren may be aborted!” PolitiFact found that the bill provides for the same kinds of school-based health clinics that have been in place for 30 years or more. None would be authorized to perform abortions or any other intrusive procedures. All versions of the House bills would, PolitiFact wrote: “provide grants so the clinics can continue providing ‘comprehensive health assessments, diagnosis, and treatment of minor, acute, and chronic medical conditions and referrals to, and follow-up for, specialty care.’ The money could also be used to provide ‘mental health assessments, crisis interventions, counseling, treatment, and referral to a continuum of services including emergency psychiatric care, community support programs, inpatient care, and outpatient care.’ The clinics would have the option to provide, ‘oral health, social and age-appropriate health education services including nutritional counseling.’ Clinics getting federal dollars must act in accordance with federal, state, and local law, according to the bills. For example, clinics in Louisiana are not even allowed to counsel students on abortion, according to the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals.” [St. Petersburg Times, 8/7/2009; Politico, 10/1/2009] Politico notes that the claim has been made in right-wing evangelical and social Christian circles for well over a month. [Politico, 10/1/2009]
A poll by the nonpartisan Consumers Union finds that many Americans are having so much difficulty affording their medical care that they routinely put off doctors’ visits, forego medical tests, forego medical procedures, skip filling prescriptions, and take expired medications to save money and limit expenses. According to the poll, 51 percent of Americans have “faced difficult health care choices in the past year,” and 25 percent cannot afford their medical bills or their medications. Another poll, by Ipsos and McClatchy News, finds that 53 percent of Americans favor a public health insurance plan “to make sure all Americans have access to quality health care,” and 42 percent believe that sufficient changes could occur without a public plan. The Consumers Union poll finds that 28 percent of Americans have either endured cutbacks in their medical coverage or lost their coverage entirely in 2008 alone, with the trend widespread among differing income groups. Around 66 percent of respondents who make below $50,000 a year say they have cut back on their health care due to costs. [Consumers Union, 10/5/2009; McClatchy News, 10/7/2009]
Alan Grayson. [Source: Infowars (.com)]Freshman House Democrat Alan Grayson (D-FL) takes to the floor of the House to lambast both Democrats and Republicans for not being active proponents of health care reform. Grayson’s tirade begins by criticizing his fellow Democrats for spending six months trying to persuade a single Republican, Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME), to vote “yes” on the reform legislation in the Senate Finance Committee. “We as a party have spent the last six months, the greatest minds in our party, dwelling on the question, the unbelievably consuming question of how to get Olympia Snowe to vote on health care reform,” Grayson says. “I want to remind us all that Olympia Snowe was not elected president last year. Olympia Snowe has no veto power in the Senate. Olympia Snowe represents a state with one half of one percent of America’s population. What America wants is health care reform. America doesn’t care if it gets 51 votes in the Senate or 60 votes in the Senate or 83 votes in the Senate, in fact America doesn’t even care about that, it doesn’t care about that at all. What America cares about is this; there are over one million Americans who go broke every single year trying to pay their health care bills. America cares a lot about that. America cares about the fact that there are 44,780 Americans who die every single year on account of not having health care, that’s 122 every day. America sure cares a lot about that. America cares about the fact that if you have a pre-existing condition, even if you have health insurance, it’s not covered. America cares about that a lot. America cares about the fact that you can get all the health care you need as long as you don’t need any. America cares about that a lot. But America does not care about procedures, processes, personalities, America doesn’t care about that at all.” Grayson then turns to his “Republican friends” and says: “[L]ast week I held up this report here and I pointed out that in America there are 44,789 Americans that die every year according to this Harvard report… because they have no health insurance (see September 17, 2009). That’s an extra 44,789 Americans who die whose lives could be saved, and their [Republicans’] response was to ask me for an apology. To ask me for an apology? That’s right. To ask me for an apology! Well, I’m telling you this; I will not apologize. I will not apologize. I will not apologize for a simple reason; America doesn’t care about your feelings. I violated no rules by pulling this report to America’s attention, I think a lot of people didn’t know about it beforehand. But America does care about health care in America. And if you’re against it, then get out of the way. Just get out of the way. You can lead, you can follow, or you can get out of the way. And I’m telling you now to get out of the way. America understands that there is one party in this country that is favor of health care reform and one party that is against it, and they know why. They understand that if Barack Obama were somehow able to cure hunger in the world the Republicans would blame him for overpopulation. They understand that if Barack Obama could somehow bring about world peace they would blame him for destroying the defense industry. In fact, they understand that if Barack Obama has a BLT sandwich tomorrow for lunch, they will try to ban bacon. But that’s not what America wants, America wants solutions to it’s problems and that begins with health care, and that’s what I’m speaking for tonight.” [Crooks and Liars, 10/9/2009]
America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the health insurance industry’s largest lobbying organization, releases a study that claims the Democrats’ health care reform initiative would send health insurance costs sharply upward. The study is released the day before the Senate Finance Committee votes on its version of the reform proposal. [The Week, 10/12/2009] AHIP says it intends to circulate the study among lawmakers on Capitol Hill and use it as the basis for new advertisements attacking the health care reform proposals. [Washington Post, 10/12/2009] NBC Washington calls the study “a surgical strike against Democrats’ best hope for passing health reform,” specifically targeting the Finance Committee’s legislative efforts, which it calls the “Baucus bill” for committee chairman Max Baucus (D-MT). Until now, AHIP has operated largely behind the scenes to delay or terminate Congressional efforts to reform US health care; the study marks its most public and overt effort to influence the discussion. According to the study, which was carried out by accounting and services firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) and paid for by AHIP, the average cost increase would be $1,700 per family per year by 2013. “[T]he cumulative increases in the cost of a typical family policy… will be approximately $20,700 more than it would be under the current system,” the report claims. “[T]he cost of coverage for both single and family policies in the individual, small group, large group, and self-funded insurance markets” will rise dramatically. AHIP official Karen Ignagni says private insurers would almost certainly pass cost increases to consumers for a number of reasons, including her claim that too many people with pre-existing conditions would sign up for insurance. “The report makes clear that several major provisions in the current legislative proposal will cause health care costs to increase far faster and higher than they would under the current system,” she writes. Baucus calls the study “seriously flawed.” A spokesman for the Finance Committee, Scott Mulhauser, says: “Now that health care reform grows ever closer, these health insurers are breaking out the same, tired playbook of deception to prevent millions of Americans from getting the affordable, accessible care they need. It’s a health insurance company hatchet job, plain and simple.” [America's Health Insurance Plans, 10/11/2009; NBC Washington, 10/12/2009; Washington Post, 10/12/2009] An analysis of the committee’s proposal by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) shows that while some people’s premiums would go up, the subsidies to be provided by the government would make health insurance considerably less expensive for most consumers. According to the CBO, premiums under the government “exchange” option proposed in the Baucus bill would cost consumers $14,400 per year in 2016, while the average private insurer would charge their customers $21,300 by 2016. [Think Progress, 10/12/2009] Nancy-Anne DeParle, director of the White House Office of Health Reform, says PWC is not the firm to have carried out such a study. “Those guys specialize in tax shelters,” she says. “Clearly this is not their area of expertise.” [Washington Post, 10/12/2009] Almost immediately after the study’s release, critics begin attacking it, calling it deeply flawed and an “industry hit job” (see October 11-12, 2009). And PWC itself will back away from the study’s central claims (see October 12, 2009).
Within minutes of the release of a new study by health insurance lobbying firm America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) that claims health care reform would drastically raise costs to American families (see October 11, 2009), critics from different sides of the political divide dispute the study’s accuracy and question its impartiality.
White House: Study Ignores Key Elements of Reform - White House assistant press secretary Reid Cherlin says the study “conveniently ignores critical policies that will lower costs for those who have insurance, expand coverage, and provide affordable health insurance options to millions of Americans who are priced out of today’s health insurance market or are locked out by unfair insurance company practices.” [MSNBC, 10/12/2009]
'Blowback' from Study Possible - White House and Senate officials say that the insurance industry may suffer “blowback” over the report. Democrats may well close ranks behind either the Senate Finance Committee (SFC) bill or another version of the legislation, and liberal lawmakers may go after the insurance companies, maybe by proposing a cap on premiums or solidifying support for the government insurance plan. “They have opened themselves up,” says a senior Senate Democratic aide. “It is an incredibly stupid strategic blunder. If you are going to fire a shot like this, you fire a good shot.” Former industry executive Wendell Potter, who has become an industry whistleblower (see July 10, 2009), says AHIP is responding to critical analyses from Wall Street that the legislation will hurt private insurers. “Karen [AHIP official Karen Ignagni] had no alternative because the CEOs were so determined to do something to try to sway the committee to back off the reductions,” he says. “She didn’t have an alternative. They are obviously doing this on the eve of the vote in the Senate Finance Committee, hoping enough members of the committee would be concerned, to restore it. I think the strategy will backfire.” [Politico, 10/12/2009]
Economist: Study Fundamentally Flawed - MIT economist Jonathan Gruber analyzes the PWC study and concludes that it is fundamentally flawed. He writes: “The nonpartisan analysis based on information from the CBO [Congressional Budget Office] shows clearly that for those facing purchase in the non-group market, the SFC bill will deliver savings ranging from several hundred dollars for the youngest consumers to over $8,500 for families. This is in addition to all the other benefits that this legislation will deliver to those consumers—in particular the guarantee, unavailable in most states, that prices would not be raised or the policy revoked if they became ill.” On MSNBC, Gruber notes: “If the report had came out and said, ‘look we need stronger penalties, or premiums will go up,’ that’s a very valid point to make. But what the report says is that it went too far. It said with the current structure, premiums will be much higher than they are today. And that’s just wrong. I mean, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has came out and said that for this bill, premiums in the exchange will be lower than they are in the none group market today. So they just drew the wrong comparison.” [Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 10/12/2009; Think Progress, 10/13/2009]
Democrats: Proof that Industry Needs Further Regulation - Representative Anthony Weiner (D-NY) says, “[T]he health insurance lobby today fired the most important salvo in weeks for the public option,” and adds that the study proves the industry needs further regulations imposed on it by Congress: “If you have the health care industry complaining that we’re going to raise costs because of these changes, it is them putting us on notice that we haven’t put enough cost containment in the bill. You know, the health care industry themselves is putting out a whole report saying that. That should be a tell to the [Senate Finance Committee] that you know what, maybe it’s time for them to go back and revisit the public option. In a strange way, and look, obviously they didn’t mean this, the health insurance lobby today fired the most important salvo in weeks for the public option, because they have said, as clear as day, left to their own devices, according to their own number crunchers, they’re going to raise rates 111 percent.” [Think Progress, 10/12/2009] Senator John D. Rockefeller (D-WV) charges the insurance industry with releasing a false study for political purposes. “The misleading and harmful claims made by the profit-driven insurance companies are politicking for corporate gain at its worst,” he says. “Their recent statements only further highlight that our focus here in Congress must be on the inclusion of a public health insurance option in the marketplace to protect families and put more money back in their wallets by creating greater competition and driving down costs.” [Politico, 10/12/2009]
Washington Post: 'Industry Hit Job' - The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein calls the report “deceptive” and “a predictable industry hit job,” and notes that the study was produced by accounting and services firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC), which in the 1990s was commissioned by the tobacco industry to do a study on the economic catastrophe that would result from taxing tobacco products. That study was found to be unreliable, and, perhaps not surprisingly, made all of its errors in favor of the tobacco industry. Klein writes that the same effect can be observed in this report on health care. He concludes: “But if the [study] doesn’t offer much in the way of trustworthy policy analysis, it is an interesting looking at the changing politics of the issue. In short, the insurance industry is getting scared. After many months of quiet constructiveness, they’re launching a broadside on the week of the Senate Finance Committee’s vote. The White House, which had a pleasant meeting with the industry’s leadership last week, was shocked by the report, and so too was the Senate Finance Committee. The era of cooperation seems to be over, and they weren’t given much advance warning. But the report might have another impact, too: The evident anger and fear of the insurance industry might do a bit to reassure liberals that this plan is worth supporting, after all.” [Washington Post, 10/12/2009]
New Republic: 'Questionable Assumptions' - The New Republic’s Jonathan Cohn chastizes PriceWaterhouse for deliberately, and explictly, choosing to believe that all the new factors included in the study will raise costs, when other analyses show that many of those factors will actually drive costs down. Cohn writes that the study is based on a plethora of “strange [and] questionable assumptions.” [New Republic, 10/11/2009]
Progressive Columnist: 'This Is News?' - Progressive columnist Josh Marshall wrote before the study was released: “Let me get this right. The big news tomorrow is that ‘America’s Health Insurance Plans’ (AHIP, aka the health insurance lobby) has commissioned a study by PriceWaterHouseCoopers that comes to the conclusion that the Senate Finance Committee bill is a bad, bad thing and would lead to health care costs going up even faster than they are under the current system. This is news?” [Talking Points Memo, 10/12/2009]
Washington Times: Defending the Study, Attacking the CBO - The conservative Washington Times defends the study as essentially accurate, and instead attacks the Congressional Budget Office, whose own figures differ dramatically from the PWC study. The Times editorial board calls the CBO’s estimates “fanciful” and “grandly overoptimistic,” and accuses the Democrats of adding opportunities for consumers to “game the system”—“It’s a mystery how the CBO can make its evaluation without once mentioning that individuals easily will be able to go without insurance while they are healthy and then buy insurance after they get sick.” The entire proposal allows Democrats to “avoid electoral accountability over the urgent health care needs of the people they say they’re trying to help but won’t.” [Washington Times, 10/12/2009]
AHIP Defends Study - Ignagni defends the study and says the lobbying firm did not release it to undermine the Finance Committee’s attempt to craft an acceptable reform bill. She says the industry’s main concern is getting everyone involved in health care to work together to bring costs down. There is a strong need, she says, to “encourage all the other stakeholders to participate in a broader effort so that they can too lend a hand and get costs under control in a much more effective way than we would.… We don’t see comprehensive cost control in any legislation.” [MSNBC, 10/12/2009]
PWC Backs Off from Study - Late in the evening, PWC issues a statement noting that the study only examined “a small slice” of the health care reform initiative, and saying that if other provisions in the reform package succeed in lowering costs, then the estimates of cost increases claimed in the study would be inaccurate (see October 12, 2009).
Entity Tags: America’s Health Insurance Plans, Anthony D. Weiner, Jonathan Gruber, Congressional Budget Office, Ezra Klein, Jonathan Cohn, Wendell Potter, John D. Rockefeller, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Karen Ignagni, Washington Times, Obama administration, Joshua Micah Marshall, Reid Cherlin, Senate Finance Committee
Timeline Tags: US Health Care
PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC), the services and accounting firm that recently released a controversial study funded by the health care insurance lobbying firm America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP—see October 11, 2009 and October 11-12, 2009), backs away from claims that the report is comprehensive. Politico’s Chris Frates writes that the statement “basically sa[ys], ‘Hey, we weren’t paid to evaluate the effects of the entire bill, but rather a small slice of it.’ The statement only seems to reinforce critics’ view that the report is skewed precisely because it doesn’t take into account the totality of reform.” PWC’s statement concludes, “If other provisions in health care reform are successful in lowering costs over the long term, those improvements would offset some of the impacts we have estimated.” Frates explains, “In other words, PWC is saying if reform’s cost containment measures work, their estimate could be wrong.” [Politico, 10/13/2009]
Victims of Stalin’s gulags. [Source: Answering Christianity (.com)]Representative John Shadegg (R-AZ) tells his House colleagues that health care reform will result in “Soviet-style gulag(s)” for Americans. Shadegg says: “You know, it occurs to me, and I’ll go through these other scandals very quickly, but what we’re really getting here is we’re not just getting single-payer care. We’re getting full on Russian gulag, Soviet-style gulag health care.… It appeared in last Friday’s Wall Street Journal. You can Google it. You can pick up the phone and call Kim Strassel [a Wall Street Journal columnist who wrote about the “hidden costs” of the Senate Finance Committee’s reform legislation on October 9]. You can ask her about Soviet-style gulag health care in America, where powerful politicians protect their constituents.” Progressive news and advocacy Web site Think Progress calls Shadegg’s statement a “new low” in anti-reform rhetoric, and tells its readers: “The Soviet gulags were a network of prisons and forced labor camps that held as many as 20 million people during Stalin’s reign of terror. It is estimated 1.5 million died in the camps.” [Think Progress, 10/14/2009]
Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), one of the key Republicans in the health care debate (see August 12, 2009 and August 19, 2009), now says that any attempt by Congress to incorporate the so-called “individual mandate” might be unconstitutional. An individual mandate provision, under consideration by Grassley’s Finance Committee, would require Americans to purchase some form of health insurance. “[T]his is the first time in the 225-year history of our country that we have forced you as a constituent, any of our constituents, to buy a product,” he says. “You know, you’ve been free to buy or not buy. But now for the first time you’re going to have to buy health insurance. If you don’t buy it, IRS is going to tax a family $1,500.” Asked, “[I]s that constitutional, forcing somebody to buy it and punishing them through the IRS if they don’t?” Grassley replies: “I’m not a lawyer, but let me tell you, I’ve listened to some lawyers speak on this. And you know, it’s a relatively new issue. I don’t think we’ve ever had this issue before of having to buy something. And a lot of constitutional lawyers, saying it is unconstitutional or at least in violation of the 10th Amendment. Now maybe states can do this, but can the federal government? So, I have my doubts.” Progressive news and advocacy Web site Think Progress notes that in June 2009, Grassley said “there isn’t anything wrong with” mandates and that he believed there was “a bipartisan consensus to have individual mandates.” The site also notes that the US Constitution provides for the federal government’s right to enact wide-ranging regulatory programs, a power generally upheld by the Supreme Court. [NewsMax, 10/14/2009; Think Progress, 10/15/2009]
Bill Sammon. [Source: Mediaite (.com)]Bill Sammon, the Washington managing editor for Fox News, sends an internal email instructing his journalists and producers not to use the commonly accepted phrase “public option” to describe a proposed government-run health insurance agency. The so-called “public option” is shorthand for a proposed health insurance plan offered by the federal government primarily for uninsured citizens who have trouble affording private health care coverage. Instead, Sammon requires reporters and news anchors to use terms such as “government option”—terms identified by Republican pollster Frank Luntz as being more negative and more likely to turn viewers away from supporting such an effort. (Ironically, a month ago, Sammon sent an email reminding his staff that Fox News “reports” the news as it happens, and that their function is that of “dispassionate observers”—see September 12, 2009). The liberal news watchdog Web site Media Matters will compile a number of instances from “straight news” broadcasts on Fox News that seem to follow Sammon’s instructions, particularly on the network’s evening flagship news program, Special Report with Bret Baier. Inside sources will tell Media Matters reporter Ben Dimiero that Sammon regularly uses his position as managing editor to “slant” Fox News’s “neutral” news coverage to the right. Dimiero will write, “Sammon’s ‘government option’ email is the clearest evidence yet that Sammon is aggressively pushing Fox’s reporting to the right—in this case by issuing written orders to his staff.” In August 2009, Luntz appeared on Sean Hannity’s Fox News opinion show, and told Hannity to use the term “government option” instead of “public option.” Luntz explained that “if you call it a ‘public option,’ the American people are split,” but “if you call it the ‘government option,’ the public is overwhelmingly against it.” He went on to say that the program would be “sponsored by the government,” and falsely told Hannity that such a program would be “paid for by the government.” Hannity told Luntz that “it’s a great point, and from now on, I’m going to call it the government option.” The night before Sammon’s email, Baier used both “public option” and “government option” in describing a proposed inclusion by Senate Democrats, as did correspondent Shannon Bream. The next morning, Sammon sends his email, which is titled “[F]riendly reminder: let’s not slip back into calling it the ‘public option,’” and reading in part, “Please use the term ‘government-run health insurance’ or, when brevity is a concern, ‘government option,’ whenever possible. When it is necessary to use the term ‘public option’ (which is, after all, firmly ensconced in the nation’s lexicon), use the qualifier ‘so-called,’ as in ‘the so-called public option.’ Here’s another way to phrase it: ‘The public option, which is the government-run plan.’ When newsmakers and sources use the term ‘public option’ in our stories, there’s not a lot we can do about it, since quotes are of course sacrosanct.” Fox News’s senior vice president for news, Michael Clemente, concurs in a follow-up email and tells news staff that he prefers Sammon’s phrasing “[t]he public option, which is the government-run plan.” After Sammon’s and Clemente’s emails, Baier and others will no longer use the phrase “public option” without using Sammon’s qualifiers. Dimiero will write that Sammon’s title wording of a “friendly reminder” indicates that similar instructions had been issued previously. Indeed, during a September 3, 2009 broadcast, Baier repeatedly interrupted his guest, NPR’s Mara Liasson, to “correct” her phrasing of “public option” as the “government-run option of health insurance.” Liasson, along with conservative guests Charles Krauthammer and Steve Hayes, agreed to use Baier’s phrasing. And during Baier’s broadcast, on-screen chyrons described the idea as “Government Option.” Dimiero will write: “Fox executives regularly defend the network by claiming that the right-wing propaganda on Hannity and its other opinion shows is entirely separate from its news programming, which they insist is objective. But Sammon’s email gives credence to allegations that news from Fox’s Washington bureau is being deliberately distorted to benefit conservatives and the Republican Party.” Sammon will tell media reporter Howard Kurtz that he prefers the phrasing “government option” because it is “a more neutral term,” and the phrase “public option” is “vague, bland,” and “undescriptive.” He will deny any knowledge of “what the Republicans were pushing.” [Media Matters, 12/9/2010]
Entity Tags: Fox News, Bill Sammon, Ben Dimiero, Steve Hayes, Charles Krauthammer, Shannon Bream, Michael Clemente, Frank Luntz, Bret Baier, Sean Hannity, Mara Liasson, Media Matters, Howard Kurtz
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
An Oklahoma law requiring that information about abortions be made public goes into effect. The law requires the collection of personal details about the women who have abortions, and mandates that the information be posted on a public Web site. The information includes:
Date of abortion;
County in which abortion performed;
Age of mother;
Marital status of mother (married, divorced, separated, widowed, or never married);
Race of mother;
Years of education of mother (specify highest year completed);
State or foreign country of residence of mother;
Total number of previous pregnancies of the mother, including live births, miscarriages, and induced abortions.
The law does not collect names, addresses, or “any information specifically identifying the patient.” However, pro-choice group Feminists for Choice notes that the information that is collected can easily be used to identify a woman, especially in a smaller community. “They’re really just trying to frighten women out of having abortions,” says Keri Parks of Planned Parenthood. The Center for Reproductive Rights is challenging the law. [Think Progress, 10/8/2009] Salon columnist Lynn Harris writes: “According to proponents of the law, this extensive abortion data—which will include the reason the procedure was sought—will help health officials prevent future abortions. Yeah, I can see that. Because the requirement itself would scare the sh_t out of me.” Harris continues: “It isn’t unique for a state to post health data on its Web site. However, Oklahoma’s requirements are by far the most extensive as such. The law’s supporters claim they want this information to be made public so it can be used for ‘academic research,’ but according to the Center for Reproductive Rights, its collection method makes it useless for that purpose.” [Salon, 10/7/2009]
Banner at the Capitol Hill rally depicting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as an ‘Unamerican McCarthyite.’ [Source: MSNBC]Conservatives gather on Capitol Hill to protest the Obama administration’s push towards health care reform, in a rally featuring guest speaker Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN). [Media Matters, 11/6/2009] Bachmann called the rally the “Super Bowl of Freedom,” and told Fox News viewers that “socialized medicine is the crown jewel of socialism. This [health care reform] will change our country forever.” [TPM LiveWire, 11/3/2009; Mediaite, 11/11/2009] Actor Jon Voight, speaking to the crowd, says of President Obama: “His only success in one year as president is taking America apart piece by piece. Could it be 20 years of ‘subconscious programming’ from Reverend [Jeremiah] Wright [Obama’s former pastor] to damn America?” And House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) tells the crowd, “Pelosi care [referring to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-CA] is the greatest threat to freedom I’ve seen in my 19 years in Washington.”
Signs Use Racial Images; Call Obama Communist, Nazi - Signs visible in the crowd proclaim, among other sentiments:
“Get the Red Out of the White House”;
“Traitor to the US Constitution” (featuring a photo of Obama);
“Ken-Ya Trust Obama?” (referring to theories that Obama is a citizen of Kenya—see January 24, 2007, January 16, 2008, August 1, 2008 and After, October 8-10, 2008, and August 11, 2009—and with autographs from Representatives Steve King, R-IA and Ron Paul, R-TX);
“Un-American McCarthyite” (featuring a photo of Pelosi);
“I’m the King of the World: Remember the Titanic?” (featuring a drawing of Obama as the “Jovial Sambo” character from the Jim Crow era);
“National Socialist Health Care” (featuring a photograph of a pile of corpses from the Holocaust, and claiming that health care reform is the next “holocaust”).
Nine rally participants are arrested for attempting to force their way into the Hart Senate Office Building. Hundreds more attempt to force themselves into nearby government office buildings while chanting, “Kill the bill!” [MSNBC, 11/5/2009]
Sponsored by GOP - MSNBC’s Domenico Montanaro writes: “It is important to know that this rally was set up by the GOP. While other groups certainly got people to show up, the folks who came here ultimately came at the invitation of the Republican Party. The GOP provided the speakers and the music, etc.” [MSNBC, 11/5/2009]
Fox Pundit Inflates Crowd Estimates - While other media sources use local police reports to estimate the crowd at around 4,000, Fox News’s Sean Hannity tells listeners that the crowd is closer to 20,000 in size. Hannity later drastically scales back this claim. Hannity, who along with other Fox News pundits and on-air anchors had heavily promoted the rally for days beforehand, predicted the crowd would be “massive” in the hours before the protest. On his radio show, aired on ABC Radio Network, Hannity tells listeners: “We announced on Hannity Friday night on the Fox News Channel, we had Congresswoman Michele Bachmann on, and she mentioned that there was going to be on Thursday, she was going to put together in less than a week a little town hall on—what do you want to call it—march on our nation’s Capitol. And anyway, 20,000 people showed up today.” Hannity echoes the claim several times on his radio show. However, with no explanation, he concludes his radio broadcast by saying, “I heard there was, like, 5,000 people plus there.” [MSNBC, 11/5/2009; Media Matters, 11/6/2009] On Hannity’s Fox News broadcast later that evening, he returns to his earlier estimates of “20,000” rally participants, and shows viewers old footage from Glenn Beck’s 9/12 rally (see September 12, 2009) to bolster his claim. [Crooks and Liars, 11/11/2009] On November 11, Hannity will admit that he “screwed up” in showing the footage, and claims it was merely “an inadvertent mistake.” [Think Progress, 11/12/2009] Hannity does not address how the mistake came to be made. [New York Times, 11/11/2009] Media critic Rachel Sklar will write, “It’s really blatant and remarkable… this sort of misrepresentation is simply not an accident.” [Mediaite, 11/11/2009] A week later, Fox News anchor Gregg Jarrett will make a similar mistake (see November 18-19, 2009).
Entity Tags: Barack Obama, Jeremiah A. Wright Jr, John Boehner, Fox News, Gregg Jarrett, Glenn Beck, Steve King, Domenico Montanaro, Ron Paul, Sean Hannity, Michele Bachmann, Nancy Pelosi, Jon Voight, Rachel Sklar, Republican Party, Obama administration
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
Nevada District Court Judge James Russell throws out a proposed “personhood” state ballot measure that attempted to extend constitutional rights of citizenship—“personhood”—to fertilized eggs. The measure would effectively ban all abortions in Nevada. Russell rules that the language of the proposed statute is “too general in nature,” and is far too sweeping in its implications for reproductive health care and rights. The proposal reads in full, “In the great state of Nevada, the term ‘person’ applies to every human being.” Critics have charged that the proposal’s broad language is intended to ban abortion, contraception, in-vitro fertilization, and embryonic stem cell research. Michael Brooks, an attorney for Personhood Nevada, counters that the language and intent is perfectly clear, and says: “This is far beyond the isolated issue of abortion. Just because it’s broad doesn’t mean it’s vague. We’re not trying to hide the ball.” The intent, Brooks says, is to protect the “dignity” of human life from techniques such as those practiced on concentration camp prisoners by the Nazis, and that any rulings as to how the amendment effected other areas of law would be up to future courts to decide. The proposal was challenged by the Nevada branch of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Nevada Advocates of Planned Parenthood Affiliates. Similar proposals have been thwarted in Montana and Colorado. [RH Reality Check, 1/11/2010]
The pro-choice organization Physicians for Reproductive Choice releases two video clips featuring Dr. George Tiller, the abortion provider murdered by an anti-abortion activist (see May 31, 2009). The clips show Tiller explaining why he chose to provide abortions as part of his work. In the clips, Tiller, who called himself a “woman-educated physician,” harked back to his father, a doctor who during his practice offered then-illegal abortions. Tiller said: “The women in my father’s practice for whom he did abortions educated me and taught me that abortion is not about babies, it’s not about families. Abortion is about women’s hopes, dreams, potential, the rest of their lives. Abortion is a matter of survival for women.” By looking through his father’s medical records, Tiller learned that his father denied an abortion to one patient in the 1940s; the woman, a mother of two, told his father, “I can’t take it, can you help me?” Tiller’s father refused. The woman then sought out an unsafe “back-alley” abortion and died in the process. “There are all sorts of dangers [for] postal workers, firemen, police officers,” Tiller said; “everything has a risk to it. I would prefer, personally, to have a challenging, stimulating, and emotionally and spiritually rewarding career that is short, rather than having a long one that is filled with ho-hum, mundane mediocrity—feeling as if you don’t make any difference to people.” [Salon, 1/20/2010; Alex DiBranco, 1/21/2010]
A photo of one of the billboards erected by two Georgia anti-abortion organizations. [Source: Opposing Views (.com)]Anti-abortion organizations are putting billboards up throughout Atlanta claiming, “Black children are an endangered species.” The organizations Georgia Right to Life and Radiance Foundation have placed 65 billboards throughout the Atlanta area, and are planning to erect more throughout Georgia. The groups’ Web site, “toomanyaborted.com,” says legalized abortion is a crisis in the African-American community because, they claim, 40 percent of pregancies among African-Americans end in abortion. Abortion is an evil analogous to Jim Crow segregation and eugenics, the site writes, with abortion clinics placed in “urban areas where blacks reside.” They claim that Planned Parenthood’s founder wanted to reduce the black population. And, the site suggests, the legalization of abortion has led to the deterioration of black families, sexual promiscuity, child abuse, and urban decay. The site provides statistics from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that show a disproportionate number of abortions in Georgia were performed on black women, and Georgia is second only to New York and Texas in the number of black women who have abortions. However, as a report from The Grio’s David Love notes, “the CDC data provides no evidence that black children are an endangered species because of abortion.” Instead, many critics of the billboard campaign say the billboards characterize black women as criminals who kill their own children. The organizations take umbrage at this characterization, stating: “Contrary to the statements being made, the Endangered Species Campaign is not designed to target black women, but is designed to educate. The toomanyaborted.com website has documented information to support our contention that the number of black babies aborted in the US and in Georgia are at holocaustic levels. Since 1973 more than 18,000,000 black babies have been aborted. Georgia, in 2008, set a record in the numbers of abortions performed on black women, almost 21,000. We are not targeting black women, but are fighting for black babies.” Love writes that while it may be reasonable to view the number of black abortions with alarm, and that it is even arguable that African-Americans have been “an endangered species” for 400 years, the reasons cited by the anti-abortion groups are completely wrong. “[B]lack children today are in a crisis because of poverty, hunger, and a lack of opportunity,” Love notes. “At some point in their childhood, 90 percent will require food stamps. An increasing number of black children, 3.7 million, do not know when or where they will find their next meal, according to a USDA report. They are subjected to an inferior education in crumbling schools. Although they are 15 percent of American children, they are 32 percent of the 510,000 children in foster care, and are less likely to be adopted than white children. In many depressed urban communities, they face a cradle-to-prison pipeline. And poor children of color are more likely to face health challenges.” Groups such as Georgia Right to Life and Radiance “are never around to speak up on behalf” of black children who are battling poverty and neglect, Love writes, “so forgive me if I think these eleventh-hour cries of black genocide ring hollow. In fact, the Christian Right never stood up for African-American children, and always supported the gutting of social safety net programs that would help them. Focused singularly on fetuses, abortion opponents give the impression they care little about the well-being of children who were already born, and who struggle to survive in the midst of deprivation, hopelessness, and unresponsive public policy.” [The Grio, 2/9/2010]
Legatus logo. [Source: ProLife Dallas (.org)]Former President George W. Bush is honored by Legatus, a Florida-based Catholic group for business and civic leaders, for his opposition to reproductive rights during his presidency. Bush receives the “Cardinal John J. O’Connor Pro-Life Award,” named for the famously anti-abortion Catholic leader. The organization notes Bush’s opposition to stem-cell research, his executive order banning the use of federal funds for abortions (see November 5, 2003), his appointment of anti-abortion advocates to the Supreme Court (see October 31, 2005 - February 1, 2006 and September 29, 2005), and his designation of January 18, 2009 as “National Sanctity of Human Life Day.” The award is given at a private meeting in Dana Point, California. The event is only open to members of Legatus and their guests, and the registration fee is $1,475 per person. A Legatus official tells a reporter: “His appearance is going to be a private appearance on behalf of our organization. He will be delivering remarks for us and all of that will be a private presentation.” Event chairperson Kathleen Eaton says: “I’ve been speaking to a number of Legatus chapters about the summit, and people are really excited. It’s been a rough year on a number of fronts and they really need this shot in the arm. They want to come together to pray and learn more about what the church is saying on different issues.” Local pro-choice and peace groups mount a protest; one organizer, Sharon Tipton, tells a reporter: “Over one million Iraqi people have been killed, mostly women and children. Bush is responsible for over 5 million new orphans, and we just found out that Bush is receiving a pro-life award? This is outrageous!” [Catholic News Agency, 1/8/2010; Orange County Weekly, 2/3/2010]
Florida State Representative Charles Van Sant (R-FL) submits what he calls the “Florida for Life Act,” which will make all abortions illegal in Florida. The law directly challenges the Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling that abortions are legal in the US (see January 22, 1973), and makes no exceptions for incest or rape (abortions would be legal only if the life of the mother were at risk). If passed, the act would punish abortion providers, not the expectant mothers, with a first-degree felony and a penalty of up to life in prison. [House of Representatives, 2/17/2010; Women's Choice, 2/23/2010] The bill states that “The Legislature of the people of the State of Florida finds that all life comes from the Creator and begins at conception.” According to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, the bill “openly challenges the legitimacy of the US Supreme Court” by saying: “The Legislature finds that the justices of the United States Supreme Court are not qualified to determine, establish, or define the moral values of the people of the United States and specifically for the people of Florida. The Supreme Court’s removal of moral and political questions from the political power of the people to determine, under color of constitutional adjudication, is a violation of the peoples’ right to self-government guaranteed under the Constitution of the United States.” [Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 10/15/2010; Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 2/7/2011] In February 2011, a Sarasota Herald-Tribune editorial will call the bill “extreme to the extreme” and not “worth the time lawmakers may waste on it,” claiming that if passed, the law “would flout US law and thwart the state constitution’s privacy clause.” [Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 2/7/2011] Some Florida Republicans will refuse to publicly endorse the bill, saying it goes too far. As of March 2011, the bill is not predicted to gain passage. [Florida Independent, 12/2/2010; St. Petersburg Times, 3/22/2011]
Bob Marshall. [Source: Chicago Now (.com)]Virginia State Delegate Bob Marshall, a Republican, says that disabled children are God’s way of punishing women who have had abortions. Marshall makes his statement at a press conference outlining his opposition to Virginia funding for Planned Parenthood. “The number of children who are born subsequent to a first abortion with handicaps has increased dramatically,” he says. “Why? Because when you abort the first born of any, nature takes its vengeance on the subsequent children.… In the Old Testament, the first born of every being, animal and man, was dedicated to the Lord. There’s a special punishment Christians would suggest.” Dean Nelson, head of the Network of Politically Active Christians, says at the same press conference that Planned Parenthood is an “unethical, immoral, and racist” organization because it includes abortions in its comprehensive care for women, and says it should change its name to “Klan Parenthood” because its founder, Margaret Sanger, made statements some considered racist in the 1930s. At the same conference, the Reverend Joe Ellison says he is “declaring war against Planned Parenthood.… We’re asking pastors to shut them down in the community. We’re asking pastors to pray them out. And we’re asking Planned Parenthood to leave our children alone.” Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell (R-VA) opposes continued funding for Planned Parenthood. A spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood says the only Virginia funding it receives is from Medicaid reimbursements; in 2009, the organization received $35,000 in state funds. Marshall later denies any intention of insulting disabled children, and implies that his words were misquoted or misconstrued. In a post on his Web site, he writes: “No one who knows me or my record would imagine that I believe or intended to communicate such an offensive notion. I have devoted a generation of work to defending disabled and unwanted children, and have always maintained that they are special blessings to their parents. Nevertheless, I regret any misimpression my poorly chosen words may have created as to my deep commitment to fighting for these vulnerable children and their families.” [Gainesville Times, 2/22/2010; CBS News, 2/22/2010] Video of Marshall’s statement proves that his words were reported accurately. [Right Wing Watch, 2/23/2010] A day after the news breaks in the press, Jean Winegardner, a writer and the mother of an autistic child, lambasts Marshall’s statements in a post on the Washington Times Web site. She writes in part: “Mr. Marshall, I don’t much care that you have reinterpreted your statements after they came under fire. What I do care about is that you told my disabled child—and every other disabled child—that he is a punishment, that he is less than, that he is wrong. You have also told him that his mother is wrong. You have created a situation where someone has to be to blamed for disability. You say that you have ‘devoted a generation of work to defending disabled and unwanted children.’ I don’t know your record because I haven’t followed your career, but working to defend children starts by accepting them as valued and right. You can’t say in one breath that these children are fundamentally flawed by their mother’s ‘sin’ and then turn around and claim to defend them. If you really do support people with disabilities… treat them with respect. Show us with your actions that you really do value this segment of society. Prove us doubters wrong by standing up tall for individuals with disabilities. And always remember that words hurt—just as your words hurt me and my family. My disabled child has never and will never be a punishment. I value him, love him, and am grateful for his perfect autistic existence every day of his and my life. His being is a gift, and could never be described as ‘nature’s vengeance.’” [Washington Times, 2/23/2010]
Democratic lawmaker Emanuel Cleaver, walking through the crowd of tea party protesters around the same time he is spat upon. [Source: EurWeb (.com)]Tea party and other anti-health care protesters in Washington denigrate African-American lawmakers with racial slurs, one African-American congressman is spat upon, and a gay congressman is called an anti-gay slur by another protester.
'Kill the Bill, N_gger!' - John Lewis (D-GA) and Andre Carson (D-IN), both members of the Congressional Black Caucus, after leaving a Democratic caucus meeting with President Obama, encounter a large and angry crowd of tea party and other protesters. According to Carson and a number of staffers accompanying the lawmakers, protesters first scream and chant, “Kill the bill!” referring to the pending health care legislation, then alter the chant to say, “Kill the bill, n_gger!” When Lewis confirms that he supports the bill, protesters shout, “Baby killer!” Police quickly escort Lewis, Carson, and their staffers into the Capitol building. Carson later tells a reporter that he heard the first slur from a single individual: “You see one or two tea party people kind of look at him, and then you hear it again as we’re walking. Then we walk across [Independence Avenue], and that’s when it starts getting deeper.… You heard it in spurts, in the midst of ‘Kill the bill. Kill the bill.’ One guy, I remember he just rattled it off several times. Then John looks at me and says, ‘You know, this reminds me of a different time.’” Lewis confirms Carson’s account of the racial slurs, and adds, “People have been just downright mean.” Heath Shuler (D-NC), a white congressman, also confirms that he heard the racial slurs.
Lawmaker Spat Upon - Another African-American congressman, Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), is spat upon by an unidentified protester; police arrest the man, but Cleaver declines to press charges and the man is later released.
Lawmaker Called 'F_ggot' - Protesters in the same rally accost Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA), who is openly gay, inside the Longworth House office building; one, an elderly white man, shouts, “Barney, you f_ggot!” causing many in the group to laugh and a woman to shout, “We don’t need that.” CNN reporter Dana Bash later says that her producer personally witnessed the homophobic slur towards Frank. When Capitol police threaten to expel the protesters from the Longworth building, according to one reporter, the police are “outnumbered and quickly overwhelmed.” After tea party protesters equipped with high-end video cameras arrive to film the encounter, the police relent and allow them to continue protesting inside the building.
Rhetoric Similar to '60s Civil Rights Protests - Frank later says of the protesters: “I’m disappointed at a unwillingness to be just civil. [T]he objection to the health care bill has become a proxy for other sentiments.… Obviously there are perfectly reasonable people that are against this, but the people out there today on the whole—many of them were hateful and abusive.” Frank puts some of the blame for the incident on tea party organization leaders and Republicans who align themselves with the organizations, and notes that today’s incidents are not the first of their kind (see June 30, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28-29, 2009, August 4, 2009, and August 11, 2009). “I do think the leaders of the movement, and this was true of some of the Republicans last year, that they think they are benefiting from this rancor,” he says. “I mean there are a couple who—you know, Michele Bachmann’s rhetoric is inflamatory as well as wholly baseless. And I think there are people there, a few that encourage it.… If this was my cause, and I saw this angry group yelling and shouting and being so abusive to people, I would ask them to please stop it. I think they do more harm than good.” Frank tells another reporter: “The Republican leadership is making a mistake not doing more to disassociate from this.… It’s a mob mentality that doesn’t work politically.” House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC), an African-American, says: “It was absolutely shocking to me, last Monday, I stayed home to meet on the campus Pomford University where 50 years ago, as of last Monday, March 15th, I led the first demonstrations in South Carolina, the sit-ins… quite frankly I heard some things today that I haven’t heard since that day. I heard people saying things today I’ve not heard since March 15th, 1960, when I was marching to try and get off the back of the bus. This is incredible, shocking to me.” [TPM Muckraker, 3/20/2010; MSNBC, 3/20/2010; Mediaite, 3/20/2010; ABC News, 4/13/2010] Anne Caprara, the chief of staff for Betsy Markey (D-CO), says of the protesters: “I’ve been in politics for 10 years and it was like nothing I’d ever seen. To be amongst that crowd outside and to see some of the people who walked into our office, these people were very unhinged.” [KDVR-TV, 3/25/2010] The New York Times later publishes a correction to a follow-up article that notes it is impossible to prove that actual tea party members were the ones hurling the racial and homophobic epithets, nor is it clear that it was a tea party member who spat upon Cleaver. [New York Times, 7/17/2010]
Tea Party Supporters Claim False Accusations - Conservative bloggers quickly accuse Lewis, Carson, Cleaver, and the “liberal media” of lying about the incidents [Media Research Center, 3/20/2010; John Hinderaker, 7/25/2010] , and are joined by Bachmann (R-MN), who will falsely inform an audience, “No witness saw it, it’s not on camera, it’s not on audio.” [ABC News, 4/13/2010]
Videos Surface - A blogger at the liberal Daily Kos posts a video of the protests. [Daily Kos, 3/20/2010] Conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart later posts a video claiming that it proves no such incidents took place; further examination proves that the video was shot over an hour past the time of the incidents. Breitbart will offer a $100,000 contribution to the United Negro College Fund if anyone can prove to his satisfaction that the incidents occurred. After stating flatly that his video proves the incidents “didn’t happen,” Breitbart later partially retracts his denial, saying, “I’m not saying the video was conclusive proof.” Other conservatives will accuse Lewis, Carson, and Cleaver of deliberately walking through the crowd of protesters in order to provoke a reaction. [ABC News, 4/13/2010] Days later, another video surfaces, showing Cleaver walking through a crowd of angry, shouting protesters, then suddenly jerking his head back and wiping his face. [EurWeb, 3/29/2010]
Entity Tags: James Clyburn, Betsy Markey, Congressional Black Caucus, Dana Bash, Barack Obama, Barney Frank, Andrew Breitbart, Anne Caprara, Michele Bachmann, John Lewis, Emanuel Cleaver, Andre Carson
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
President Obama signs an executive order affirming the “Hyde Amendment,” which bars federal funding for most abortions (see September 30, 1976). The White House does not hold a press conference to highlight the signing of the order, and administration officials have acknowledged that Obama agreed to sign it to keep the support of conservative Democrats in Congress for the health care reform package. William Galston of the Brookings Institution says of the order: “The executive order found a sweet spot, which I’m surprised existed. Something that didn’t send the base of the party into a tizzy but seems to have satisfied a very important minority within the party. It was the model of win-win pragmatism.” Pro-choice activists condemn the decision to sign the order, and anti-abortion organizations insist the order does little to advance the cause of making access to abortions all but impossible. The National Organization for Women (NOW) says that Obama’s commitment to abortion rights is “shaky at best,” and adds that his willingness to sign the order demonstrates that “it is acceptable to negotiate health care on the backs of women.” NOW president Terry O’Neill says: “What we need to hear our leaders say is that the Hyde Amendment is bad law. It needs to ultimately be repealed. It hurts women.” Cardinal Francis George, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, says the order does not go far enough: “We do not understand how an executive order, no matter how well intentioned, can substitute for statutory provisions.” Bart Stupak (D-MI) says that the order “protects the sanctity of life.” [Washington Post, 3/24/2010; US Catholic, 3/25/2010; Los Angeles Times, 3/25/2010]
Erlyndon Lo, as shown on a Dallas TV news broadcast. [Source: Above the Law (.com)]Erlyndon Joseph Lo, a law school graduate living in Plano, Texas, is arrested and charged with threatening to use deadly force against a Dallas women’s clinic. He faces up to six years in prison if convicted. The day before, Lo went to the Plano federal courthouse and filed a document affirming that at noon that day he planned to go to the Southwestern Women’s Surgery Center in Dallas and “use deadly force to defend the innocent life of another human being.” His filing reads in part (all emphases in the original): “My life is at stake. I could be MURDERED AND KILLED as early as Friday, April 2, 2010 at 12:00 p.m. NOON in Dallas, Texas (‘TX’) if you do not IMMEDIATELY GRANT MY REQUEST for in the very least a TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER!!! I plan on saving at least one human life in Dallas, Texas at 12:00 p.m. at the Southwestern late-term abortion facility, 8616 Greenville Ave. at Royal Ln. (NE corner), Dallas 75243. My religious beliefs include the beliefs that an individual is alive at the moment of conception, abortion is murder and is the worst murder of all murders possible because these babies are completely defenseless, and I am entitled under my religious beliefs to use deadly force if necessary to save the innocent life of another.… I will try to stop an abortion using oral words, and if words are not enough. I will use physical force if necessary, and if anyone tries to physically stop me, I will overcome that force, and if I must use deadly force to defend the innocent life of another human being, I will.” In essence, Lo attempted to secure a restraining order to prevent law enforcement officers from interfering with his use of violence against clinic workers. Instead of issuing the order, court officials informed the FBI and Lo is quickly arrested. Dallas FBI spokesman Mark White says: “We won’t tolerate threats to clinics. We acted swiftly to ensure that no one was injured and that no act of violence actually did take place.” FBI agents say that, sometime in mid-March, a man matching Lo’s description went to the same clinic demanding to know if his wife had had an abortion there; clinic officials refused to divulge any such information. On March 18, Lo sued Chief Justice John Roberts, in a filing written in his own handwriting and naming himself as his own lawyer, demanding that Roberts order the Supreme Court to immediately stop all abortions throughout the nation. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 4/5/2010; Dallas Morning News, 4/6/2010] (Lo also asks for ”$999 trillion in damages” and $1,000 an hour for his attorney’s fees.) [Kashmir Hill, 4/6/2010] The FBI notes that during his visits to the clerk of court’s office, “Lo exhibited erratic behavior, including raising his voice at members of the clerk’s office, obsessively washing his hands in the public restroom, and sitting in a court witness room in the dark without authorization to enter the room.” On his Web site, Lo is harshly critical of abortion, predicting he will win his lawsuit against the Supreme Court, and notes that he “challenged President Barack Obama to a public debate on abortion, which he lost by not responding.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 4/5/2010; Dallas Morning News, 4/6/2010] Author and filmmaker Roxann MtJoy, writing for the progressive Women’s Rights blog, observes: “Anti-choicers, in general, do not scare me. While I may passionately disagree with their ideology and often their tactics, they are more irritating than anything else. Lo, however, scares me. He scares me because he believes, much like Scott Roeder (see May 31, 2009), that his opinion justifies violence. He believes he has the moral authority to kill those who stand in opposition to him.” [Women's Rights, 4/13/2010]
The non-partisan FactCheck.org, an organization sponsored by the Annenberg Public Policy Center, examines a claim being promulgated in a recent series of chain emails. The emails claim that President Obama has the ability, under the newly passed health care reform legislation, to create his own “private army” of 6,000 soldiers. The email states in part: “Obama Just Got His Private Army. Were you aware of the fact that the health care bill created a civilian army? A Ready Reserve Corps for service in time of national emergency. All commissioned officers shall be citizens of the United States and shall be appointed without regard to the civil-service laws (which means they will not be sworn to uphold the Constitution) and compensated without regard to the Classification Act 2 of 1923, as amended. Remember when Obama said he wanted a ‘national security force’? Not the national guard, but a civilian one that has not sworn to uphold the Constitution?” The email references then-presidential candidate Obama’s July 2008 speech, where he advocated the creation of “a civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded” as the US military. Obama was talking about strengthening organizations such as the Peace Corps, Americorps, the USA Freedom Corps, and the State Department’s foreign service arm. (Republican lawmakers such as Michele Bachmann have accused Obama of wanting to turn Americorps into “re-education camps” designed to brainwash American children—see March 31, 2009). Since then, some have insisted that Obama wants to create a privately operated “national security force” answerable only to himself. They believe that Section 5210 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the health care overhaul recently signed into law, gives Obama just such power. The US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps now has the power to create and eventually deploy a “Ready Reserve Corps,” under the control of the surgeon general and designed specifically to help the Public Health Service (PHS) respond quickly and effectively to emergencies such as natural disasters. The Commissioned Corps has integrated the former, quite small reserve corps into itself, expanding its numbers to some 6,600 personnel—mostly doctors, nurses, scientists, and medical professionals. The new Ready Reserve is intended to augment the Commissioned Corp when the government sends response teams to offer assistance in areas that are stricken by natural disasters such as floods or hurricanes, or in the case of sudden pandemic outbreaks of dangerous diseases such as H1N1. The Reserve Corps is still being formulated, but PHS officials anticipate the number of Reserve Corps members as being in the neighborhood of several thousand. Most will be public health professionals. Jerry Farrell, executive director of the Commissioned Officers Association, says that the Ready Reserve can help the PHS avoid situations such as what happened after 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, when so many members of the regular and reserve corps were dispatched to New Orleans and other areas hit by the hurricane that “the corps discovered, for instance, that they had deployed a whole surgical clinic of the Indian Health Service.” FactCheck concludes “there is absolutely no support for this chain email’s speculation that uniformed members of the Public Health Service would be ordered to give ‘lethal injections’ (a.k.a. vaccinations) to ‘unworthy people.’” [FactCheck (.org), 4/7/2010]
US Senate candidate Rand Paul (R-KY), a favorite of the tea party movement, speaks out against the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA—see July 26, 1990) during an interview. [Think Progress, 5/17/2010] The ADA was sponsored by Congressional Democrats and signed into law by then-President George H. W. Bush. The ADA “prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, transportation, public accommodation, communications, and governmental activities.” Recently, it has been attacked by conservative pundits and candidates, largely because businesses have to spend money to comply with its mandates. [Media Matters, 9/7/2010; US Department of Labor, 2011] Paul says that he favors local governments being able to decide whether disabled people have the rights under the legislation; requiring businesses to provide access to disabled people, Paul argues, isn’t “fair to the business owner.” Paul says: “You know a lot of things on employment ought to be done locally. You know, people finding out right or wrong locally. You know, some of the things, for example we can come up with common sense solutions—like for example if you have a three-story building and you have someone apply for a job, you get them a job on the first floor if they’re in a wheelchair as supposed to making the person who owns the business put an elevator in, you know what I mean? So things like that aren’t fair to the business owner.” [Think Progress, 5/17/2010]
Fox News host Glenn Beck attacks the 17th Amendment to the US Constitution. The 17th Amendment provides for the direct election of US senators, rather than their selection by state legislators, in part to eliminate cronyism and corruption in their ascension to the US Capitol. It was signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson in 1913. Recently, far-right Republicans and tea party activists have begun calling for its repeal, joined by some members of Congress. [Media Matters, 9/7/2010; Legal Information Institute, 2011] On his Fox News show, Glenn Beck derides the 17th Amendment, saying: “Like all bad things it started in 1913, Woodrow Wilson yet again. He supported this. Immediately now, when I see Woodrow Wilson, I immediately know—bad thing! You can be quite certain that something is not going to have a good outcome if Woodrow Wilson was involved.” Beck says that “Thomas Jefferson warned about” direct representation, and adds that without the 17th Amendment, “[President] Obama’s health care bill would have never seen the light of day. A lot of things that they do in Washington would never have seen the light of day. Why? Because it wouldn’t in the interest of your state.… [I]t’s taken them over 200 years to remove all those roadblocks, but they’re almost done. Maybe it’s time to put a few of them back.” [Media Matters, 9/7/2010] In 2009, former Republican Governor Mike Huckabee called the 17th Amendment “one of the dumbest things we ever did in this country” (see October 16, 2009). And in April, Beck’s Fox News colleague Andrew Napolitano called for the amendment’s repeal (see April 8, 2010).
Ross Douthat. [Source: New York Times]Conservative columnist Ross Douthat, writing for the New York Times, attacks the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA—see July 26, 1990), calling it a “feel-good” bill that has not actually done anything to increase employment of the disabled. Its “benefits are obvious,” he writes, but its “drawbacks tend to be more hidden,” including “costs the [ADA] seems to have imposed on the disabled as well as the non-disabled.” [New York Times, 7/29/2010] The ADA was sponsored by Congressional Democrats and signed into law by then-President George H. W. Bush. The ADA “prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, transportation, public accommodation, communications, and governmental activities.” Recently, it has been attacked by conservative pundits and candidates, largely because businesses have to spend money to comply with its mandates. [Media Matters, 9/7/2010; US Department of Labor, 2011] Republican candidate Rand Paul has made similar claims (see May 17, 2010).
An unknown assailant firebombs a Planned Parenthood women’s clinic in Madera, California. The assailant throws a Molotov cocktail, essentially a homemade gasoline bomb, through a clinic window. The FBI believes the bombing may be related to a recent attack on a local mosque, the Madera Islamic Center. Planned Parenthood director Patsy Montgomery says she believes the bombing is the work of “extremists who are, want to make a statement.” The Council on Islamic-American Relations (CAIR)‘s Basim Elkarra says of the two attacks, “[T]his is a message to those bigots, that anytime you attack a community we all come together united as one.” Shortly after the clinic bombing, a group calling itself the American Nationalist Brotherhood takes responsibility for both the clinic and the mosque attacks. The clinic, which offers abortions as one of its services, will remain closed for approximately a week. Madera County Sheriff John Anderson will ask the Brotherhood to contact his office. While the group has a constitutional right to express an opinion, he will say, “when it turns to crimes of arson or vandalism, it concerns us.… The fact that there have been numerous messages directed at several organizations makes it difficult to interpret ANB’s true message. I would like for ANB or a representative to contact me directly by whatever means is most comfortable.… I promise to listen to ANB’s message. This is the groundwork needed for us to have dialogue.” [KSFN-TV, 9/2/2010; Fresno Bee, 9/11/2010; Women's Rights, 9/17/2010]
Justin Carl Moose. [Source: Christian Nightmares (.com)]The FBI arrests anti-abortion activist Justin Carl Moose and charges him with describing how to make explosives in an attempt to bomb an abortion clinic. Moose, an unemployed father of three, lives in Concord, North Carolina, just outside Charlotte; he posted the information on his Facebook page. Moose calls himself an “extremist,” a “radical,” and the “Christian counterpart of Osama bin Laden,” according to FBI agents, and labels himself a member of the violent anti-abortion group Army of God (AOG—see 1982). The FBI became aware of Moose after being alerted to his Facebook postings by pro-choice organization Planned Parenthood, which told the agency it worried that Moose was advocating extreme violence against abortion providers. The FBI began monitoring the page, and last week read of Moose’s collaboration with an FBI informant to bomb a clinic in North Carolina. Moose faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted on federal charges of distribution of information relating to explosives. Moose’s Facebook page also rails against abortion doctors, President Obama’s health care reform plan, and reports of a mosque to be built near the site of the World Trade Center. Moose also wrote several posts in support of those who have killed abortion providers in the past. “Whatever you may think about me, you’re probably right,” he wrote. “Extremist, Radical, Fundamentalist…? Yep! Terrorist…? Well, I prefer the term ‘freedom Fighter.’”
Facebook Postings since March 2010 - In March 2010, after Congress voted to pass health care legislation, Moose wrote: “The Death Care Bill passed last night. Keep your phone and rifle close and wait.” In May 2010, he wrote, “There are few problems in life that can’t be solved with the proper application of high explosives :)” In July 2010, he wrote: “If a mosque is built on ground zero, it will be removed. Oklahoma City style. Tim’s not the only man out there that knows how to do it.” Moose was referring to Timothy McVeigh, the person responsible for destroying a federal building in Oklahoma City (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). Other posts included the phrases, “Save a life, shoot an abortionist”; “Make a bomb and light the fuse, another Hero in the news. The monster dead, with hole in head. His end was made and babies were saved”; and: “Calling all Tim McVeighs and Eric Rudolphs (see January 29, 1998)! We must take the war to the enemies of freedom and retaliate with all due force.” In August 2010, Moose posted detailed instructions for making TATP, an acronym for an explosive, such as that used by terrorists in the July 2005 London bombings (see July 7, 2005). After the FBI read those instructions, it obtained legal permission to read Moose’s private messages; one Moose posted to a fellow anti-abortion activist read: “I have learned a lot from the Muslim terrorists and I have no problems using their tactics. People say sarcastically ‘what’s the difference between a Christian terrorist and an Islamic terrorist?’ I tell them simply that I’m right and I serve a living God! THAT’S the difference.” On September 3, a confidential FBI informant told Moose in a recorded phone call that his best friend’s wife was about to have an abortion. Moose quickly responded: “Say no more. I understand and I can help.” The two men met the next day at a local restaurant, where Moose described several bombs that the confidential informant could make to destroy the abortion clinic his friend’s wife was planning to use. Moose also described what he called “surveillance tactics” to be employed against the clinic, including his recommendation to drink some beer and stagger around the clinic pretending to be drunk. On September 5, the informant told Moose he had obtained the materials to make TATP; Moose told him the process for making the explosive. The FBI arrests Moose two days later. [Charlotte Observer, 9/9/2010; US Department of Justice, 9/9/2010 ; Women's Rights, 9/19/2010]
Media Fails to Report Moose's Actions, Plans as Terrorism - The Women’s Rights blog will note “that not one major news outlet referred to this as terrorism, despite the fact that systematically using violence and harassment to prevent citizens from providing or obtaining constitutionally-protected health care literally defines the term (which even the government reluctantly recognizes).… In the news covering this particular incident, the only reference to terrorism in any mainstream story came from Moose’s direct quotes… talking about himself. Look guys, if the dude in question essentially calls himself a terrorist and you can’t bring yourselves to follow suit, you’re either the world’s crappiest journalists or way too afraid of offending people who, quite frankly, deserve to be offended.… The unwillingness to admit that terrorism knows no racial or religious bounds is not a minor, meaningless discrepancy. Words matter, and our refusal to decry violent Christian and/or anti choice terrorism with the same fury we typically reserve only for Islamic fundamentalists both exemplifies and contributes to a culture where racism, religious discrimination, and violence against women and women’s rights is tolerated. It’s completely and totally unacceptable.” [Women's Rights, 9/19/2010]
Rusty Lee Thomas. [Source: The Gathering (.com)]The anti-abortion organization Operation Save America, formerly known as Operation Rescue (OR—see 1986), holds a press conference near the site of the 9/11 attacks to claim that terrorism directed against the US will continue, with the blessing of God, until abortion is made illegal. The organization also calls the Obama administration a “tyrannical government.” According to a pre-conference statement released by OSA assistant director Rusty Lee Thomas: “We are going to New York City at this hallowed time not to politicize September 11th, but to present a prophetic message, that if heeded, may prevent future attacks and restore God’s hand of blessing upon our beleaguered nation. Our sins of child-killing (abortion) and homosexuality have reached heaven. They are the roots of America’s troubles; a tyrannical government and the threat of Islam are the horrific fruits that are being produced under our watch. There is a direct connection between our spiritual and moral state and the litany of woe afflicting our nation. If America desires to secure a future and a hope for our children and grandchildren, we must end the American holocaust; quit parading our sin like Sodom, and return to the God of the Bible and His principles that served our nation so well in times past.… Since 1973 America has murdered FIFTY MILLION precious little children by abortion. The Bible warns that bloodshed follows bloodshed. We have sown domestic terrorism in the womb and we are reaping Islamic terrorism without. America is being turned over to her enemies. Our only hope is to REPENT of murdering our children and return to God through the merits of Jesus Christ the Savior of the world. If we repent and end abortion, God will deliver us from the evil of Islamic terrorism. But if we refuse, our enemies will continue to afflict our nation. We will continue to reap what we have sown.” [Right Wing Watch, 9/9/2010; Women's Rights, 9/10/2010]
A tea party member masquerading as President Obama pretends to whip a ‘future taxpayer’ during a parade in Washington State. [Source: KXLY-TV]During the annual Sportsman’s Day parade in Naches, Washington State, a tea party group called “Remember Us We The People” displays a float that many area residents find “offensive and in bad taste.” The group, an affiliate of the national Tea Party Patriots, displays a float that looks like a Radio Flyer wagon, pulled behind a truck. People inside the truck display signs that say, among other slogans, “ObamaCare,” “Healthcare Takeover,” and “Wasted Tax Money.” On the float itself is a man in a shirt, tie, and a President Obama mask. In one hand he carries a sign reading: “Hey Kids! Thanks for paying ou[r] debt!” In the other hand he cracks a whip over a teenager who is pretending to pull the wagon; the teen wears a shirt reading, “Future Tax Payer.” Event organizers later say they receive numerous complaints, some of which point out that the depiction evoked racial stereotypes from the slavery era. One local resident says of the float: “It certainly came across as very racist to me, and really bad manners, bottom line, lack of manners.… A lack of respect for our presidency and our government, just everything down the line, it was really quite disturbing.” The president of the tea party organization, Kirk Groenig, says the float “maybe” went “a little too far,” and claims that his group is being victimized by groundless accusations of racism, saying, “When they don’t like your message, they try to deem you as racist, that’s really unfortunate.” Local Lions Club president John Miles disagrees, saying, “There’s respect for the position [of the presidency] and I think [Groenig] exceeded any good taste in his group’s presentation.” Another resident says that the tea party group may have lost its message due to its extreme presentation: “If you have people… thinking it was racist and not liking the message as it was promoted, then I would say you’re not too effective.” James Parks, the head of the Yakima County NAACP chapter, says the float is “sad” but not necessarily racist: “A lot of people will see it in different ways. I don’t see it as being racist. It’s more… about the economy. If the economy was better, I don’t think we would have all these things happening. I think there are better ways for people to protest what’s going on in the government.” Groenig’s group intends to display the float in an upcoming parade. The application to display it during the Sportsman’s Day parade claimed that the float was an attempt to “attract, educate, organize, and mobilize our fellow citizens to secure public policy consistent with core values of America, fiscal responsibility, limited government, and free market enterprise.” [KXLY-TV, 9/13/2010; Yakima Herald-Republic, 9/13/2010; Think Progress, 9/14/2010]
An anti-health care reform sign at the 9/12 rally depicting President Obama as a witch doctor, and combining the Obama 2008 campaign logo with the Soviet hammer and sickle. [Source: CNN]A large number of “tea party” activists and followers gather at the Washington Monument for a march and a rally. The protest rally, organized by the lobbying organization FreedomWorks and a number of national and local tea party organizations, is designed to show the size and efficacy of the “tea party” movement as the November midterm elections approach. Real estate broker Catherine Childers of Florida tells a reporter: “The average American has been asleep at the wheel. We think it’s time the silent majority starts speaking up.” “Today we are gathering to remind Congress and the president that we are fed up with their big-government policies,” says Brendan Steinhauser, a FreedomWorks spokesman. “They have ignored independent voters and have continued to spend our tax dollars in a wasteful and inefficient way. Because the bailouts and the growth of the federal government have continued, we are now more determined then ever to replace those in power with leaders that will put an end to the failed economic policies of the current Congress.” The featured speakers include FreedomWorks head Dick Armey, the former Republican House majority leader; Representative Mike Pence (R-IN); and conservative bloggers Andrew Breitbart and Erick Erickson. The rally is associated with the “9/12 Movement” promoted by Fox News host Glenn Beck, but Beck is not at this rally; he held a rally of his own two weeks ago. Whereas Beck’s rally deliberately toned down political rhetoric, this rally is determinedly political. Initial estimates show that the number of protesters is far smaller than the number who attended a similar rally a year ago (see September 12, 2009). Reporter Evan McMorris-Santoro, writing for the progressive news blog Talking Points Memo, writes that he sees “[a]bout five” minority members on stage and none in the crowd. [Washington Post, 9/12/2010; TPMDC, 9/12/2010; TPMDC, 9/12/2010] Some of the signs carried by rally participants include comparisons between “Obamacare” and “slavery”; threats to “burn your Koran” and the launch of “Quiet Jihad” against Muslims; references to “Imam Obama”; claims that Obama and Congressional Democrats are “traitors” who should be executed; claims that Obama is a Communist; and one poster that depicts Obama as a number of African-American personages, including rappers, Jesus Christ, and TV’s “Steve Urkel.” [Tea Party Tracker, 9/12/2010]
ALL’s ‘Deadly Dozen’ poster. [Source: Pro Ecclesia (.com)]The anti-abortion advocacy organization American Life League (ALL) releases another in a series of “Deadly Dozen” ad campaigns. The first, in 1995, targeted a dozen abortion and health care providers, and was subsequently blamed for a spate of deadly violence against those named in the ads (see 1995 and After). In 2003, ALL launched a second “Deadly Dozen” campaign, this time targeting US senators (see January - April 2003). The current round of ads features a poster listing a dozen Catholic lawmakers, including members of Congress and of the Obama administration. The list includes Vice President Joseph Biden (D-DE); Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis; Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius; Interior Secretary Ken Salazar; Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD); and Representatives Ginny Brown-Waite (R-FL), Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Rosa DeLaurio (D-CT), and Mike Castle (R-DE). As with ALL’s 2003 campaign, the current campaign calls on the named lawmakers’ community bishops to deny them communion. The ad concludes with the slogan, “You can’t be Catholic and pro-abortion!” A blogger in Delaware reports seeing the poster in the vestibule of his church. [Jay Anderson, 9/13/2010]
Entity Tags: Mike Castle, Hilda Solis, Ginny Brown-Waite, Barbara Mikulski, American Life League, John Kerry, Mary L. Landrieu, Joseph Biden, Rosa DeLaurio, Nancy Pelosi, Ken Salazar, Obama administration, Susan Collins, Kathleen Sebelius
Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda, US Domestic Terrorism
Florida Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott promises that if elected, he will revive the “Florida for Life Act,” which the bill’s original sponsor now terms the “Florida Right to Life Act” (see February 17, 2010). The proposed legislation would ban almost all abortions in Florida, in defiance of the 1973 Supreme Court ruling making abortions legal throughout the US (see January 22, 1973). The announcement comes in an email from State Representative Charles Van Zant (R-FL), who tells his own supporters, “Scott pledged that he would assist in advancing the Florida for Life Act through both Florida’s House and Senate.” Van Zant tells voters to cast their votes for Scott in light of the candidate’s active support for anti-abortion legislation. Scott’s campaign does not directly confirm the email’s accuracy, but says Scott’s anti-abortion, “pro-life” position is clear. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink says she is staunchly pro-choice, and would not support such a bill. Attorney John Stemberger, president of the Florida Family Policy Council, says he likes the bill, but believes the Florida Supreme Court would strike it down if it became law. [Orlando Sun-Sentinel, 10/15/2010; Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 10/15/2010] In November 2010, Scott will win the governor’s seat. [CBS News, 11/3/2010]
A portion of the ‘Wanted’ poster featuring the names, photos, and addresses of two Charlotte-area abortion doctors, distributed by Operation Save America. [Source: Think Progress (.org)]The Reverend Phillip “Flip” Benham is convicted of stalking abortion doctors in his home state of North Carolina. Benham receives two years’ probation. Benham is the leader of Operation Save America, once known as Operation Rescue ((see 1986, July 1988, August 1988, July-August 1991, January 7, 1998, April 20, 1998, October 23, 1998, and January 13, 2003). He distributed numerous Old West-style “Wanted” posters that included the names, addresses, and photographs of four Charlotte-area doctors who provide abortions. The court rules that Benham violated a North Carolina law designed to protect citizens from being targeted by “a lone-wolf assailant.” Benham and his colleagues put up posters near the doctors’ offices and in their neighborhoods, placed them on cars, and tacked them to doors. According to Detective Milton Harris of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department, “By them handing out the flyers with doctors’ photos on it, it was an indication to us that they were actually singling those doctors out within that residential neighborhood to protest.” Harris adds, “The purpose of the law is to protect that person’s identity against basically a lone-wolf assailant coming in there and possibly doing harm to that individual or that family.” One doctor who spoke during the trial said the posters were “a call for my murder” (see May 31, 2009), said they made him “fear… for his life,” and said he now “gets down on his hands and knees to make certain there are no bombs under his car.” Prosecutors said that the posters were the equivalent of “placing targets” on the doctors. Benham insists that the posters are no threat, and says his only intent was to “inform the community” that the doctor “kills babies… for a living” and has “no respect for life of children in the safety and neighborhoods of their mothers’ wombs” (see 1995 and After, January - April 2003, and September 13, 2010). But Cindy Thompson of the local National Organization for Women (NOW) chapter says that Benham “needs to leave women alone and let us make up our own minds” about whether to have abortions. “This is not free speech,” says Kathy Spillar of the Feminist Majority Foundation, a group that tracks violence against abortion providers. “This is the equivalent of yelling fire in a crowded theater. These wanted posters are communicating a threat to these abortion providers, and essentially they become targets of anti-abortion extremists willing to kill.” [National Public Radio, 11/8/2010; Think Progress, 11/9/2010; United Press International, 11/9/2010]
Katha Pollitt. [Source: Katha Pollitt]Columnist Katha Pollitt, writing for the liberal magazine The Nation, believes that the newly elected Republican majority in the US House of Representatives will do its best to restrict abortions. Pollitt notes that when the newly elected Congress members take their seats in January 2011, there will be 53 additional anti-abortion voices in the House and five in the Senate. Some, like Senator-elect Rand Paul (R-KY) and Representatives-elect Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Tim Walberg (R-MI) oppose most methods of birth control, in vitro fertilization, and stem cell research, and join Senators-elect Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) in opposing abortions even in the cases of rape or incest. Toomey supports incarcerating doctors who perform abortions. Pollit writes, “Supporters of reproductive rights are looking at the most hostile Congress since abortion was legalized in 1973” (see January 22, 1973). Pollitt writes that in 2011, Republicans in Congress will try to:
Reinstate the global gag rule, lifted by President Obama on his first day in office, which bars recipients of US foreign aid from so much as mentioning abortion in their work, and make it permanent.
Pass the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, which will make the Hyde Amendment (see September 30, 1976) permanent and reinterpret it to forbid any government agency from funding any program which has anything to do with abortion. Pollitt writes: “For example, if your insurance plan covered abortion, you could not get an income tax deduction for your premiums or co-pays—nor could your employer take deductions for an employer-based plan that included abortion care. (This would mean that employers would choose plans without abortion coverage, in order to get the tax advantage.) The bill would also make permanent current bans like the one on abortion coverage in insurance for federal workers.”
Pass the Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act, which would ban federal funds for any organization that performs abortions or funds organizations that do so. Pollitt says the aim of this legislation “is to defund Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest network of clinics for family planning and women’s health, and in many regions the only provider within reach.”
Beef up so-called conscience protections for health care personnel and hospitals.
Ban Washington, DC, from using its own money to pay for abortions for poor women.
Revisit health care reform to tighten provisions barring coverage for abortion care.
Preserve the ban on abortions in military hospitals.
Pollitt says that the idea behind all of these legislative initiatives is not the banning of abortion, but the disallowing of taxpayer dollars to fund it. Planned Parenthood head Cecile Richards says: “This election was not about choice. The bottom line was jobs and the economy. But if you look at close races where the prochoice candidate won, and where women knew the difference between the candidates on reproductive rights, they voted prochoice and arguably made the difference.” Richards says that if Democrats want to successfully oppose Republicans on these and other legislative initiatives, they will need the active support of pro-choice women. [Nation, 11/10/2010]
Entity Tags: Katha Pollitt, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Mike Fitzpatrick, Cecile Richards, Barack Obama, Pat Toomey, Tim Walberg, Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act, US House of Representatives, Planned Parenthood, No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act
Timeline Tags: US Health Care
Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK), a Fox News contributor and possible 2012 presidential candidate, castigates President Obama for being what she calls the “most pro-abortion president to occupy the White House,” and warns that health care reform will lead to more abortions in America. At an event in Dallas, Palin tells her audience: “It is even worse than what we had thought. The ramifications of this legislation are horrendous.” Palin calls on the newly elected Republican majority in the US House of Representatives to repeal the health care reform legislation passed in 2010. “The biggest advance of the abortion industry in America has been the passage of Obamacare,” she says. Although Obama signed an executive order prohibiting the use of federal funds for abortions, Palin calls the order “nonbinding” and irrelevant. She also says that the Obama administration has allowed federal funding for some “high risk” insurance pools in states that allow elective abortions. [ABC News, 11/11/2010] Liberal blogger Heather Parton, writing for her blog Hullabaloo, says Palin is “lying through her teeth. In fact, the opposite is true because the administration tightened the rules for the sickest women.… [Palin and her supporters] actually want women who are battling terrible diseases to go through impossible hoops rather than have their sacred tax dollars touch dollars that paid for a necessary abortion.” [Heather Parton, 7/17/2010; Heather Parton, 11/13/2010]
State Representative Paul Hackbarth (R-MN) is filmed outside a women’s health clinic carrying a pistol. [Source: WCCO-TV]Minnesota Republican State Representative Tom Hackbarth is handcuffed and detained by police after coming to a Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Paul with a revolver on his hip. Hackbarth is not arrested, but police temporarily confiscate his gun. Hackbarth is caught on video surveillance cameras parking his pickup truck in the clinic parking lot, exiting the vehicle with a loaded .38 Smith and Wesson in a holster, and walking down a dark alley behind the clinic. A clinic security guard spots Hackbarth “loitering” behind the clinic, and calls the police; they detain Hackbarth shortly after he drives away from the clinic. A search of the vehicle turns up a map of the area and a clip for another weapon, a .357 pistol. Hackbarth, the new chairman of the House Environment and Natural Resources Committee, is stripped of his leadership position after the incident. He says he had no intention of inciting any violence at the clinic, and denies even being aware that he had driven to a women’s health clinic. Instead, he says he was attempting to meet a woman whom he met via an online dating service, and admits that he and his wife are separated. “She gave me some line of baloney, and I thought, ‘well, she’s fibbing to me,’” Hackbarth explains. “You could tell, and I thought, ‘well, I’m going to check it out,’ and I went there to see if she was around and her vehicle was not there. And I was just checking on her.… Sure enough, she lied to me and I’m done with it.” The police report says Hackbarth may have been jealous over another man, an explanation he denies, though he tells police he is “jealous” about his “girlfriend.” The police report also says Hackbarth exhibited the behavior of a stalker: angry, looking for a woman, carrying a loaded weapon, and the police cite him for “stalking-like behavior” and borderline “harassment or terroristic threats.” Hackbarth says: “I have a permit to carry legally. I carry my gun all the time. I have never had an incident and everything is perfectly legal and above board.… What did I do that was so bad? According to me, all I did was go to an empty parking lot and parked my truck… walked around the block, and picked up the car and left.” He calls the police allegations “insane.” Neither the police nor the local press can confirm the identity of the woman Hackbarth says he went to meet; Hackbarth claims he has no contact information on her, cannot remember the Web site on which he says he met her, and only identifies her as “Linda.” He claims they have dated “one or two times.” Police state they consider the case closed. [WCCO-TV, 11/24/2010; Raw Story, 11/24/2010; St. Paul Pioneer-Press, 11/24/2010; KARE-11, 11/24/2010]
Randall Terry meets with John Boehner’s chief of staff Mick Krieger and other Boehner aides. [Source: Randall Terry]Randall Terry, the anti-abortion activist who formerly headed Operation Rescue (OR—see 1986 and 1996) and currently heads several smaller anti-abortion organizations, sends out an email alert touting his recent meeting with Mick Krieger, the chief of staff for Representative John Boehner (R-OH). Boehner is presumed to become speaker of the House when the Republicans formally assume control of the House in January 2011. In his email, Terry writes that he intends to pressure Boehner to repeal abortion entirely throughout the US, stating: “We must demand that Republicans who won the House of Representatives hasten the end of legalized child killing in America. Their victory could be a strong step forward for the babies, but it also might be yet another set back after 50,000,000 dead babies.… When the Republicans are in power, pro-life groups and leaders become way too ‘polite.’ We lose our edge; we don’t hold them accountable; we settle for trite phrases and broken promises as long as they will meet with us for 10 minutes, and we can take our picture with them, or they come to one of our meetings and receive some useless award.… Unless the Republicans do something concrete to save babies from murder, then they are collaborators with child killers, and we must treat them as such. We have Pro-Life DEMANDS for Mr. Boehner & House GOP[.] We Must Play Hard Ball: They Must Fear Pro-Lifers!” [Contacting the Congress, 2010; Randall Terry, 11/27/2010; Right Wing Watch, 11/29/2010] Writing for the progressive news Web site Think Progress, Tanya Somanader notes that Terry’s “incendiary antics don’t seem to phase many conservatives.” Obviously, she observes, Boehner feels “comfortable bringing such a radical extremist into the establishment fold.” [Think Progress, 11/29/2010]
A portion of the White House vegetable garden. [Source: Susty (.com)]Michael Reagan, a right-wing author and talk-show host, writes a column for the conservative news Web site NewsMax advising women to rebel against the agenda of “radical feminism” and get back to the traditional roles he believes they should adopt, beginning with a return to the kitchen. Reagan says that the US is “a nation whose distaff leadership is allowing radical feminists to redefine the role of motherhood,” and blames “a raging cadre of radical feminists” who “ostracize” mothers “should they dare to consider cooking for their families to be a major part of their traditional role as wives and mothers.” These “radical feminists” want women working at fast-food restaurants, Reagan claims, and not cooking for their families. Reagan then attacks First Lady Michelle Obama, who has become known for turning part of the White House lawn into a vegetable garden, as the Obama administration’s “food czar who instructs us on what chow is good for us and our children, who should cook it, and what foods should be kept off the national menu.” Reagan then writes, “Mothers are looked at with withering stares should they teach their daughters how to cook, and fathers get the same treatment if they concern themselves with their daughters’ future role as wives and mothers.” Reagan advises mothers to begin teaching their daughters to be the “family chef,” and fathers to “honor… and cherish” the family’s women “for making the kitchen one of their principal domains.” If this would happen, Reagan observes, “we’d be a lot better off.” However, something else is happening, with Michelle Obama “instruct[ing] us on what victuals we should eat,… warn[ing] us that the menu at the local fast-food emporium is the diet from hell,” and “dig[ging] up patches of the White House lawn [to plant] the seeds of what she tells us are the staples of a healthy diet—a diet regimen in the White House kitchens one doubts includes whatever puny edibles grown on the lawn of the Executive Mansion.” Reagan writes, “If she and her fellow radical feminists would devote more time to praising and defending the produce that farmers and retailers bring us, and less time playing the role as diet dictators, meals would be family celebrations instead of burdensome chores for the moms who cook them.” After lauding “tasty” fast-food meals as a “gift” a family can occasionally bequeath on a mother who spends most of her time cooking for her family, Reagan concludes: “A happy home is one in which moms teach their daughters how to cook tasty meals for their future families and dads teach their sons that one of their roles in family life is drying the dishes and otherwise doing chores around the house to lighten mom’s burdens. [W]omen should understand and act on the time-honored truth that the fastest route to a man’s heart is through his stomach, and not always through the drive-in window at the nearest fast-food restaurant. That’s one way we can begin to put the family—and America—back together.” [NewsMax, 12/17/2010] As of October 2010, the “puny” White House garden has produced, according to an analysis by The Week, “thousands of pounds of produce that has gone to feed the Obama family, White House guests, and the needy at a local food shelter. The first lady has also used the project [to] educate children about the benefits of fresh food.” The garden is 1,500 square feet in size, grows 55 different kinds of vegetables and other foodstuffs, uses no synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, produced over 1,000 pounds of food in 2009 and over 1,600 pounds of food in 2010, and was inspired by former President Thomas Jefferson’s garden at Monticello, Virginia. The White House garden also contains a beehive, which as of October 2010 had produced some 134 pounds of honey. [The Week, 10/22/2010]
St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center logo. [Source: PR Newswire]The Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix strips a Catholic hospital, St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, of its affiliation with the church because hospital doctors ended a woman’s pregnancy to save her life. Bishop Thomas Olmsted calls the procedure, performed by hospital surgeons in 2009, an abortion, and says the procedure violated ethical and religious directives of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. “In the decision to abort, the equal dignity of mother and her baby were not both upheld,” Olmsted explains. “The mother had a disease that needed to be treated. But instead of treating the disease, St. Joseph’s medical staff and ethics committee decided that the healthy, 11-week-old baby should be directly killed.” The hospital does not receive funding directly from the church, but it can no longer celebrate Mass and must remove the Blessed Sacrament from its chapel. St. Joseph’s president Linda Hunt defends the hospital’s actions, saying: “If we are presented with a situation in which a pregnancy threatens a woman’s life, our first priority is to save both patients. If that is not possible, we will always save the life we can save, and that is what we did in this case. Morally, ethically, and legally, we simply cannot stand by and let someone die whose life we might be able to save.” The hospital says the woman in question, who remains anonymous, has a history of high blood pressure. When she was admitted to the hospital, doctors determined that she was on the brink of death. The hospital’s ethics team concluded the pregnancy could be ended under the church’s ethical directives because “the goal was not to end the pregnancy but save the mother’s life,” the hospital says. Doctors say they consulted with a nun before performing the procedure. Hunt says, “St. Joseph’s will continue through our words and deeds to carry out the healing ministry of Jesus.” The announcement comes after months of talks between the diocese, the hospital, and the hospital’s parent company, Catholic Healthcare West. Olmsted says: “Unfortunately, subsequent communications with leadership at St. Joseph’s and [Catholic Healthcare West] have only eroded my confidence about their commitment to the church’s ethical and religious directives for healthcare. They have not addressed in an adequate manner the scandal caused by the abortion.” Olmsted says he has learned that Catholic Healthcare West also offers contraceptive counseling, voluntary sterilization, and other practices he says violate the ethical and religious directives. [Associated Press, 12/21/2010; KSAZ-TV, 12/21/2010]
Rick Santorum (R-PA), currently a longshot candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, says that President Obama should oppose abortion because he is black. Santorum, who opposes abortion rights, says: “Barack Obama says no, well if that human life is not a person then.… I find it almost remarkable for a black man to say ‘now we are going to decide who are people and who are not people.’” Buzzfeed’s Andrew Kaczynski later writes of Santorum: “He’s expressing a relatively common view in anti-abortion circles: That the higher rate of abortions among African-Americans means that black Americans should be particularly hostile to the practice. It’s not an argument that’s had much traction, however, with black voters, and Santorum may not be the ideal messenger for it.” [Buzzfeed, 1/1/2012; Huffington Post, 1/1/2012] NewsOne later comments: “What Santorum implies, as have anti-abortion billboards posted in inner cities (see February 2010), is that African-Americans such as Obama should oppose abortion because they were once considered three-fifths of a person by law and not completely human. And in saying this, Santorum succeeds in belittling women’s reproductive rights and the civil rights movement.” [NewsOne, 1/2/2012]
Louisiana State Representative John LaBruzzo (R-Metarie) files legislation that would ban all abortions in Louisiana and subject doctors who perform them to charges of feticide. LaBruzzo’s House Bill 587 is specifically designed to be challenged in court, and to end up challenging the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision (see January 22, 1973). The bill would also charge women who have abortions with feticide, but LaBruzzo says that language was “inadvertently” placed in the bill and will be removed before it is heard: “That will be amended out before it is heard in committee. That is a mis-draft; that is not acceptable to me. That would make it too difficult to pass, otherwise.” The bill will be considered in the House Committee on Health and Welfare. LaBruzzo says he filed the legislation after being approached by a conservative religious group that he refuses to name. According to the bill, “The unborn child is a human being from the time of that human being’s beginning… to natural death.” The bill classifies any unborn child as a “legal person” entitled to the “right to life.” LaBruzzo says the bill “would be in direct conflict” with federal court rulings “and [would] immediately go to court. That is the goal of the individuals who asked me to put this bill in.” LaBruzzo says the individual states, not the federal government, should decide how they regulate or prohibit abortions. Louisiana currently sets out penalties ranging from up to five years to up to 15 years for feticide, depending on the intention of the person committing the crime. Planned Parenthood spokesperson Julie Mickelberry says: “This bill is purely political. It will have no impact on the abortion rate. Abortion bans don’t work. It is time for elected officials to stop playing politics; we don’t need laws that threaten women’s health.” If state officials want to lower abortion rates, she says, public officials such as LaBruzzo can work to finance birth control and educational programs on pregnancy prevention. [New Orleans Times-Picayune, 4/20/2011; RH Reality Check, 4/20/2011; RH Reality Check, 4/21/2011] In 2008, LaBruzzo publicly considered a bill that would offer $1,000 to poor women if they had themselves sterilized (see September 23, 2008). In 2009, he attempted to introduce legislation that would mandate drug testing for all welfare applicants (see March 30, 2009).
The Reverend Phillip “Flip” Benham, director of Operation Save America, once known as Operation Rescue (see 1986, July 1988, August 1988, July-August 1991, January 7, 1998, April 20, 1998, October 23, 1998, and January 13, 2003), is convicted of stalking a Charlotte, North Carolina, doctor. A jury takes a little over 90 minutes to convict Benham. One juror tells a reporter that it was obvious after looking at the stalking statute that Benham “violated every part of it.… He went to the doctor’s house. He went into the doctor’s office and took pictures. He spoke to neighbors and called him a murderer. That is harassing. That causes fear.” Mecklenburg County prosecutors say Benham sought to scare the doctor from practicing in Charlotte. Benham, whose group operates out of nearby Concord, North Carolina, was convicted of the same charges almost a year earlier (see November 8, 2010), but exercised his right to a jury trial. He is convicted of misdeameanor stalking because he distributed posters with a doctor’s name and photo on “Wanted” posters. The posters read, “Wanted… By Christ, to Stop Killing Babies.” The doctor in question provides abortions. Benham also illegally entered the doctor’s home and his clinic to take photographs, and he and his supporters posted hundreds of the “Wanted” flyers around the doctor’s neighborhood. Benham is sentenced to 18 months’ probation and ordered to stop his behaviors. The “abortion industry” and the city of Charlotte have succeeded in “removing our voice from the street,” Benham says. “I can’t speak. I can’t get within 500 feet. They’ve stolen from innocent babies a voice that has spoken for them.” Several other abortion providers have been murdered after similar flyers were distributed in other cities, including Dr. David Gunn (see March 10, 1993), Dr. George Patterson (see August 21, 1993 and After), Dr. John Britton (see July 29, 1994), and Dr. George Tiller (see May 31, 2009). DuVergne Gaines, the legal coordinator for the Feminist Majority Foundation, which provides legal and security assistance to Charlotte-area women’s health clinics, says, “For too long, Benham and his organization have been able to stalk and terrorize abortion providers and their families with impunity.” Benham’s lawyer says he will file an appeal, and says Benham’s actions have nothing to do with the murders of the previous doctors. Benham says he will continue to protest at other abortion clinics; as for the doctor he was convicted of stalking, he says, “There will be other people who will come and stand up for what’s right.” [Charlotte Observer, 7/2/2011]
Presidential candidate Rick Santorum (R-PA) gives an interview to the owner of the evangelical blog Caffeinated Thoughts. The video of the interview is placed on YouTube, where it goes largely unnoticed until mid-February 2012. In the interview, Santorum says that he does not believe in contraception and, if elected president, he would confront the “dangers of contraception” and challenge religious groups who accept its use. “One of the things I will talk about that no president has talked about before is I think the dangers of contraception in this country, the whole sexual libertine idea,” he says. “Many in the Christian faith have said: ‘Well, that’s okay. Contraception’s okay.’ It’s not okay because it’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be. They’re supposed to be within marriage, they are supposed to be for purposes that are, yes, conjugal, but also… procreative. That’s the perfect way that a sexual union should happen. We take any part of that out, we diminish the act. And if you can take one part out that’s not for purposes of procreation, that’s not one of the reasons, then you diminish this very special bond between men and women, so why can’t you take other parts of that out? And all of a sudden, it becomes deconstructed to the point where it’s simply pleasure. And that’s certainly a part of it—and it’s an important part of it, don’t get me wrong—but there’s a lot of things we do for pleasure, and this is special, and it needs to be seen as special. Again, I know most presidents don’t talk about those things, and maybe people don’t want us to talk about those things, but I think it’s important that you are who you are. I’m not running for preacher. I’m not running for pastor, but these are important public policy issues. These how profound impact on the health of our society.” Time magazine’s Michael Scherer notes poll data that show some 99 percent of American women having used a form of contraception. “In politics, it is generally not a good thing to characterize something nearly every adult in the country has happily used as ‘a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be,’” Scherer writes. [Time, 2/14/2012; Newser, 2/15/2012] The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf writes: “What separates issues that are in the proper purview of politics from matters best left to individuals? I’d hate to draw that line for everyone, but watching Rick Santorum… I’m confident in declaring that he’s put himself on the wrong side of it.” Friedersdorf writes that Santorum obviously believes it is in the president’s purview “to opine on and shape public policy according to his notion of what is ‘special.’ As he surely knows, what is ‘special,’ what ought to be kept ‘special,’ and what is required to keep sex ‘special’ are all deeply contested matters. They inevitably turn on judgments shaped by faith, moral reasoning, and intuition. The American people, having wrestled with these questions, have concluded in overwhelming numbers either that contraception doesn’t make sex less special—or that if it does make sex less special, the tradeoff (less special sex in return for fewer unwanted pregnancies or abortions or STDs or more pleasure or human connection) is worthwhile.” Friedersdorf goes on to note that Santorum cannot credibly claim to be a supporter of smaller, limited government if he believes the president should have a say in whether contraception is available to American citizens or not. [The Atlantic, 2/15/2012] Matt K. Lewis of the conservative news blog The Daily Caller writes that Santorum’s position is likely to hurt his chances of winning the presidency, and continues: “When it comes to discussing such issues, Santorum should have practiced abstinence. He did not.” [Daily Caller, 2/15/2012] Nick Gillespie of the libertarian news publication Reason agrees with Friedersdorf about Santorum’s questionable allegiance to the concept of limited government: “Calling all conservatives: Is this the sort of anti-Obama limited-government candidate you really want to get behind? And indeed, Santorum is out of touch in at least two distinct ways: First, the president shouldn’t be concerning herself with rubbers, IUDs, and birth control pills (whether she’s a Republican or a Democrat). Second, all the social indicators he seems to be worried about—including sexual activity among teens and teen pregnancy rates—have been declining.” [Reason, 2/15/2012]
Presidential candidate Rick Santorum (R-PA) reiterates his long-held belief that individual states should have the right to outlaw the use and availability of contraception if they so choose. “The state has a right to do that, I have never questioned that the state has a right to do that,” he tells an ABC News reporter. “It is not a constitutional right, the state has the right to pass whatever statues they have.” Think Progress’s Igor Volsky notes that Santorum has long stated his opposition to the 1965 Supreme Court ruling that invalidated a Connecticut law banning contraception, and has promised that he would entirely take away federal funding for contraception if elected president. Volsky cites data noting that 99 percent of American women between the ages of 15 and 44 have used contraception, and contraceptive devices are mainstays in the effort to prevent unwanted pregnancies and reduce the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. According to the Guttmacher Institute, without federal funding through Medicaid and Title X, “abortions occurring in the United States would be nearly two-thirds higher among women overall and among teens; the number of unintended pregnancies among poor women would nearly double.” [ABC News, 1/2/2012; Think Progress, 1/3/2012]
Republican presidential contender Ron Paul (R-TX) tells CNN talk show host Piers Morgan about his position on rape. If the woman in question is reporting what Paul calls “an honest rape,” he says that she “should go immediately to the emergency room,” where he would recommend they receive “a shot of estrogen.” Paul is a retired OB/GYN. Paul, a libertarian who opposes abortion, says that while the government should ban most abortions, he is less sure about the situation facing a woman who has been impregnated due to a rape. “A person immediately after rape?” he says to a question on the subject. “Yes, it’s a tough one. And I won’t satisfy everybody there.” He refuses to clarify what he considers to be “an honest rape,” or in exactly what situation a raped woman should be allowed to have an abortion, though he does say that “an hour after intercourse, or a day afterwards, there is no legal or medical, uh, problem.” He describes his position on the question as “in limbo.” In a column on Paul’s interview, Jessica Pieklo of the activist organization Care2 asks what Paul would consider to be “an honest rape.” “What kind of evidence would we need to show a lack of consent?” she asks. “Does a woman need to have signs she resisted? How much resistance counts before a rape goes from being ‘fraudulent’ to being ‘honest’? Can spousal rape ever be ‘honest’? What about other forms of familial rape? What exactly is the bright line here?” She also asks if Paul believes his recommended “shot of estrogen” would actually do anything at all for the rape victim: “About that shot of estrogen. What exactly is this shot of estrogen supposed to do? Paul is purportedly an ob/gyn, so he must know a shot of estrogen won’t do a thing to prevent fertilization and implantation. So what’s that shot for?” Pieklo concludes, “I’m not sure what is the most dangerous aspect to come from Paul’s statements here: that his platform is built on a criminal disdain of women or as a doctor he doesn’t know his ear from his elbow.” [CNN, 2/3/2012; Raw Story, 2/4/2012; Care2, 2/4/2012] AlterNet’s Lauren Kelley notes that Paul attempts to paint the situation as highly unlikely, and focuses his comments on late-term abortions, such as a woman who decides “one minute before” she gives birth to terminate her pregnancy. Kelley notes: “Women do get raped by their husbands and partners. That’s not some out-there hypothetical. Intimate partner rape is a major problem—and yes, it happens to well-to-do women like Ron Paul’s daughters too.” Secondly: “Although Paul keeps going back to women seeking abortions late in their pregnancies, the reality is that 90 percent of abortions occur in the first trimester. So his focus on late-term abortions is disproportionate to the number of women actually seeking late-term abortions.” [AlterNet (.org), 2/4/2012]
Foster Friess. [Source: New York Magazine]Foster Friess, a multi-millionaire who is the chief supporter of a “super PAC” supporting the presidential candidacy of Rick Santorum (R-PA), weighs in on the controversy surrounding new federal mandates for providing birth control in employers’ health care coverage. Friess dismisses the controversy by suggesting that if women just kept their legs closed, they would not need contraception. In an interview with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell, Friess is asked if Santorum’s rigid views on sex and social issues (see April 7, 2003, April 23, 2003 and After, January 2011, January 7, 2011,
October 18, 2011 and After, June 2011, September 22, 2011, January 1-3, 2012,
January 2, 2012 and January 4, 2012) would hurt his chances in the general election. Friess responds by saying: “I get such a chuckle when these things come out. Here we have millions of our fellow Americans unemployed; we have jihadist camps being set up in Latin America, which Rick has been warning about; and people seem to be so preoccupied with sex. I think it says something about our culture. We maybe need a massive therapy session so we can concentrate on what the real issues are. And this contraceptive thing, my gosh, it’s [so] inexpensive. Back in my day, they used Bayer aspirin for contraceptives. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly.” Mitchell says, “Excuse me, I’m just trying to catch my breath from that, Mr. Friess, frankly.” Think Progress’s Alex Seitz-Wald writes: “Given that [a]spirin is not a contraceptive, Friess seems to be suggesting that women keep the pill between their knees in order to ensure the[ir] legs stay closed to prevent having sex. Conspicuously, Friess doesn’t put the same burden on men.” [Think Progress, 2/16/2012; National Public Radio, 2/16/2012] Friess’s comment draws quick reaction from a number of sources, with many women’s groups expressing their outrage. Santorum quickly distances himself from the comment, calling it a “bad joke” and implying that the media is trying to smear him with it: “When you quote a supporter of mine who tells a bad off-color joke and somehow I am responsible for that, that is ‘gotcha,’” he tells a CBS News reporter. [Washington Post, 2/17/2012] Fox News’s late-night political humor show, Red Eye, features guest host Andy Levy sarcastically speculating that Friess’s joke is part of a “guerrilla marketing” scheme by the Bayer Corporation, which manufactures Bayer aspirin. Guest Anthony Cumia dismisses Friess’s comment by saying that Friess is “an old guy, he’s got old jokes.” [Mediaite, 2/17/2012] The next day, Friess issues an apology on his blog that reads: “To all those who took my joke as modern day approach I deeply apologize and seek your forgiveness. My wife constantly tells me I need new material—she understood the joke but didn’t like it anyway—so I will keep that old one in the past where it belongs.” New York Magazine’s Dan Amira writes, perhaps sarcastically, that he does not understand why either Santorum or Friess apologized, as he believes Friess stated Santorum’s position on sex and birth control rather clearly. “‘Hold an aspirin between your knees’ is just a more colorful way of saying, ‘just keep your legs closed,’ which is tantamount to ‘just don’t have sex,’” Amira writes. “It’s abstinence, pure and simple. Which is exactly what Santorum advocates. He’s said that unless you’re trying to procreate, you shouldn’t be having sex, and therefore, contraception is ‘not okay.’ He has promised to make this argument to the American people as president. As far we can tell, the only difference between Friess’s bad contraception joke and Santorum’s actual contraception beliefs is an aspirin.” [New York Magazine, 2/17/2012; Foster Friess, 2/17/2012] Friess is often described in the press as a “billionaire,” but both Friess and Forbes magazine say that appellation is inaccurate. [Forbes, 2/8/2012]
Presidential candidate Rick Santorum (R-PA) attempts to clarify his stance on contraception, after recent media reports of an October 2011 interview he gave focus on his personal opposition to contraception and his stated belief that he would take action against its use if elected president (see October 18, 2011 and After). Santorum now says that while he personally opposes contraception, he thinks it should be available. In a Columbus, Ohio, campaign event, he says: “Birth control can and should be available if people want to use it. They have a right to use it.… I believe the better alternative is abstinence education.… My personal position is well known.… I do my best to be a faithful Catholic. My wife and I don’t practice birth control as an article of faith in our church.” [Wall Street Journal, 2/17/2012] Santorum has repeatedly stated that he believes state governments should be free to outlaw the availability and use of birth control if they so choose (see January 2, 2012).
Sandra Fluke. [Source: Alex Wong / Getty Images / New York Times]Conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh insults Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown University law student who testified in favor of federal law mandating that health care providers pay for contraception (see March 1, 2012), as a “slut” and a “prostitute” who wants the government to pay her for having sex. On his radio show, Limbaugh, who wrongly identifies her as “Susan” Fluke, says: “What does it say about the college coed Susan Fluke, who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex? What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex. What does that make us? We’re the pimps. The johns, that’s right. We would be the johns—no! We’re not the johns. Well—yeah, that’s right. Pimp’s not the right word. Okay, so, she’s not a slut. She’s round-heeled. I take it back.” Think Progress reporter Alex Seitz-Wald comments on Limbaugh’s characterization, “While it’s probably not even worth engaging with Limbaugh on the facts, Fluke’s testimony was about a friend who is a lesbian and needed birth control for non-sexual medical reasons, so he’s only wrong about three times over, and offensive many more times over than that.” Seitz-Wald notes that Fluke never discussed her own use, or non-use, of contraception, nor did she allude to her sexual activities at all. [Media Matters, 2/29/2012; Think Progress, 2/29/2012; Think Progress, 3/1/2012]
Misrepresentation - Seitz-Wald will note that Limbaugh is deliberately misrepresenting Fluke’s position and the position of Congressional Democrats. “Fluke’s testimony, and the entire contraception debate, is about insurance companies paying for contraception as part of their health coverage, the… way they pay for any other medication, such as Viagra. Morevoer, Fluke’s testimony was not about herself, but about a friend who need contraception to fight cancer and other fellow law students. This conservative narrative, which is pure fantasy, seems to be based on a single bogus article from Cybercast News Service (CNS), which Limbaugh repeatedly cites, with the ludicrous headline, ‘Sex-Crazed Co-Eds Going Broke Buying Birth Control, Student Tells Pelosi Hearing Touting Freebie Mandate.’” [CNS News, 2/29/2012; Think Progress, 3/2/2012]
Other News Outlets Join Limbaugh - Other conservative news outlets join Limbaugh in attacking Fluke and other women who use contraception. In the article cited by Limbaugh, CNS’s Craig Bannister says that “sex-crazed co-eds” like Fluke should cut back on the amount of sex they’re having to pay for other needs such as books and food. Fox News’s Trace Gallagher mocks Fluke, saying: “And see, I was gonna go to law school, but I thought all you did was study in law school, right? So, I guess I was wrong on that.” Fox News correspondent Monica Crowley says the government should not pay Fluke and others to have “recreational sex.” CNN commentator Dana Loesch calls Fluke and other women “nymphos” for wanting access to contraceptives, and says Fluke and feminists “support… female genocide.” [Media Matters, 2/29/2012; CNS News, 2/29/2012]
Fox Business Commentator: Fluke's Testimony Part of a Pro-Abortion Scheme by House Minority Leader - On Fox Business Channel’s Lou Dobbs Tonight, regular guest Bill Donohue calls Fluke a “little brat.” Dobbs asks Donohue to comment on what he calls Fluke’s demand that she be given free contraception, a mischaracterization of Fluke’s testimony (and one contradicted by the clip of her testimony Dobbs plays before Donohue’s comments). Donohue begins by lambasting Georgetown for having a group called “Hoyas for Choice,” which he calls “Hoyas for Abortion,” but not groups like “Hoyas for Racism” or “Hoyas for Anti-Semitism.” Donohue suggests that the university and Hoyas for Choice raise “the nine dollars a month” Fluke needs for her personal contraception needs, and Dobbs notes that Georgetown is “one of the most expensive universities in the country.” Donohue attacks Fluke for “obviously dressing well” but then asking taxpayers to pay for her contraception and, without basis in fact, for her university education to boot. Why aren’t taxpayers funding his anti-gout medication? he asks. “This is what we’ve come down to in this country,” he concludes. “You have these little brats who come on TV and they testify and they say, ‘I want, I want, I want,’ and somehow I have a moral responsibility? They have a lien on me to pay this? It’s all about getting the Catholic Church, obviously, to pay for their abortion-inducing drugs, which is why we’re having this debate.” Donohue says that Fluke’s testimony is part of a scheme by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), “who actually brought her on there to speak,” to force the Catholic Church to amend its position on abortion. [Media Matters, 2/29/2012]
'Shockingly Ugly Hatred' - Conservative blogger Charles Johnson, who in recent years has become highly critical of the race- and gender-based rhetoric from the right, writes that the right’s reaction to Fluke constitutes “shockingly ugly hatred,” and says Limbaugh’s attack is “another step into the gutter.” [Charles Johnson, 2/29/2012] Atlantic columnist Ta-Nehisi Coates agrees with Johnson, noting that Limbaugh is not just an “entertainer,” but a powerful opinion leader of the Republican Party, and says that Limbaugh’s comments are part of what Coates calls “the normalization of cruelty” and “evidence of the lowest aspects of humanity.” [Atlantic, 3/1/2012] Eric Boehlert, a senior writer at the liberal media watchdog Web site Media Matters, calls Limbaugh’s “radio outburst” an example of his “rancid misogyny,” and writes: “[I]t was perhaps the talk show host’s incessant need to bully powerless people from the safety of his studio that was so striking. That, and the glee Limbaugh seemed to take in not only maligning the young woman, but her parents as well. It’s jaw-dropping.” Boehlert goes on to remind readers that Limbaugh is not just a voice on the radio or an entertainer, but “the voice of America’s conservative movement, as well as the Republican Party.” [Media Matters, 3/1/2012]
House Democrats Call for Condemnation - House Democrats, including Pelosi, call for Republican Congressional leaders to condemn Limbaugh’s remarks (see February 29, 2012).
Statement from Law Student - Fluke will issue a statement repudiating Limbaugh’s rhetoric (see March 1, 2012).
Continued Attacks - Limbaugh will continue his attacks on Fluke the next day (see March 1, 2012).
Entity Tags: Eric Boehlert, Alex Seitz-Wald, Trace Gallagher, Bill Donohue, Dana Loesch, Craig Bannister, Charles Johnson, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Cybercast News Service, Rush Limbaugh, Georgetown University, Sandra Fluke, Fox Business Channel, Lou Dobbs, Fox News, Nancy Pelosi, Monica Crowley, Republican Party
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
Over 75 Congressional Democrats issue a letter calling on House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to condemn radio host Rush Limbaugh for his vilification of Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke, who testified in opposition to a House amendment that would have allowed health care providers to deny contraceptive coverage and other health care necessities if they had religious or moral objections (see March 1, 2012). For two days, Limbaugh has blasted Fluke, calling her a “slut” and a “prostitute” (see February 29, 2012 and March 1, 2012). In the letter, written by Representative Louise Slaughter (D-NY), the Democrats call Limbaugh’s language “sexually charged, patently offensive, and obscene,” and continue: “Mr. Limbaugh is as free as any American to speak his mind about the political and social issues of our time. But using his radio show as a means for blatantly insulting a hard-working American with obscene and indecent language because he disagrees with her personal choices is an abuse of the public airwaves.” [Politico, 3/1/2012]
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