Fox News figures have distorted comments Al Sharpton made during an appearance on the network to claim he was acknowledging that health care reform is part of, as Sarah Palin put it, "the socializing of America that Obama had promised." Sharpton's comments actually came in direct response to Geraldo Rivera's characterization of health care reform as what "some people" have called "socialism," and in no way endorsed Rivera's characterization.
During a March 21 appearance to discuss passage of the health care reform bill, Sharpton stated, "I think that this began the transforming of the country the way the president had promised. This is what he ran on." After Rivera interjected, "Some would argue to socialism," Sharpton responded:
SHARPTON: Well, first of all, then we'd have to say that the American public overwhelmingly voted for socialism when they elected President Obama. Let's not act as though the president didn't tell the American people -- the president promised the American people health reform when he ran. He was overwhelmingly elected running on that, and he has delivered what he promised. I don't understand Republicans saying this is against the will of the American people. They voted for President Obama, who said this was going to be one of the first things he would do, and he's done the first hurdle of that tonight. So I think the American people was heard loud and clear. This was not some concept the president introduced after he won. He ran on this, and the American people won tonight. Because they got finally something from a president they voted for who said he was going to do exactly this.
Sharpton's point, quite clearly, was that Obama campaigned to enact comprehensive health care reform, was elected by a majority of the American people, and enacted comprehensive health care reform. And that if Geraldo Rivera, or "some people" wanted to call that socialism, they would need to account for the fact that a majority of the American people voted to support that plan all the same.
Over at Fox News, what Sharpton said was interpreted as an admission that Obama has begun the process of turning America socialist.
Glenn Beck kicked off his show by showing the portion of Sharpton's comments where he responded to Rivera by stating, "Well, first of all, then we'd have to say that the American public overwhelmingly voted for socialism when they elected President Obama." Beck claimed that this proved that "the mask is coming off."
Palin claimed, "Al Sharpton nailed it. He's the one who said today or yesterday is it -- he said, you know, this is socialis -- this is part of the socializing of America that Obama had promised. He hit the nail on the head."
Sean Hannity claimed that Sharpton was "setting the record straight." Hannity went on to say, "I don't think socialism is what most Americans were expecting when they elected President Obama, but from the looks of things, that's exactly what we are getting."