Media falsely claim Pelosi and Hoyer called health reform opponents "un-American"

››› ››› TOM ALLISON

On August 10 and 11, numerous media figures, including Lou Dobbs and Glenn Beck, mischaracterized a USA Today op-ed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer to falsely claim they called health reform opponents "un-American." In fact, in their op-ed, Pelosi and Hoyer wrote that "it is now evident that an ugly campaign is underway not merely to misrepresent the health insurance reform legislation, but to disrupt public meetings and prevent members of Congress and constituents from conducting a civil dialogue" and that "[d]rowning out opposing views is simply un-American."

Pelosi, Hoyer wrote: "Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American."

From Pelosi and Hoyer's August 10 USA Today op-ed:

[A]s members of Congress spend time at home during August, they are talking with their constituents about reform. The dialogue between elected representatives and constituents is at the heart of our democracy and plays an integral role in assuring that the legislation we write reflects the genuine needs and concerns of the people we represent.

However, it is now evident that an ugly campaign is underway not merely to misrepresent the health insurance reform legislation, but to disrupt public meetings and prevent members of Congress and constituents from conducting a civil dialogue. These tactics have included hanging in effigy one Democratic member of Congress in Maryland and protesters holding a sign displaying a tombstone with the name of another congressman in Texas, where protesters also shouted "Just say no!" drowning out those who wanted to hold a substantive discussion.

Let the facts be heard

These disruptions are occurring because opponents are afraid not just of differing views -- but of the facts themselves. Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American. Drowning out the facts is how we failed at this task for decades.

Health care is complex. It touches every American life. It drives our economy. People must be allowed to learn the facts. [USA Today, 8/10/09]

Media repeatedly claim Pelosi and Hoyer called opponents "un-American"

Chuck Todd: Pelosi, Hoyer "called some of these protesters un-American and some of these protests un-American."

HAROLD FORD JR. (MSNBC political contributor): Chuck, from the White House's perspective, when you address the tone, do they -- are they not worried they have to be careful not to be attacking those who are raising concerns about the president's plan versus answering those questions? Because it would seem to me that there's more to be gained from answering those concerns then attacking -- then attacking the tone.

TODD: Well, exactly. And I think you'll see a pushback by the president. We've already heard it from spokespeople. You know, yesterday, Speaker Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer had an op-ed in USA Today where they called some of these protesters un-American and some of these protests un-American. Well, notice -- I think you'll hear the exact opposite phrase from the president. [MSNBC's Morning Joe, 8/11/09]

Fox & Friends' Brian Kilmeade: "Nancy Pelosi calling average Americans who show up at town halls 'un-American.' "

KILMEADE: Nancy Pelosi calling average Americans who show up at town halls "un-American," and now the Obama administration adding fuel to the fire, telling senators, quote, if you get hit, we will punch back twice as hard.

DOOCY: Is this proof the administration can't sell the health care bill, or just having a lot of trouble? [Fox News' Fox & Friends, 8/11/09]

Van Susteren: Pelosi and Hoyer say people "un-American for protesting the health care plan." On her Fox News program, Greta Van Susteren commented, "Are these people on your screen un-American for protesting the health care plan? House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer say yes." She later said: "In a USA Today op-ed, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer write, in part, 'It is now evident that an ugly campaign is under way not merely to misrepresent the health insurance reform legislation but to disrupt public meetings and prevent members of Congress and constituents from conducting a civil dialogue. These disruptions are occurring because opponents are afraid not just of differing views but of the facts themselves. Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American.' " Van Susteren added, "So are these people un-American?" [On the Record, 8/10/09]

Dobbs: Pelosi, Hoyer "are accusing those protesters of being, quote, 'un-American.' " On his CNN program, Dobbs claimed: "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer launching a scathing attack against town hall protesters critical of President Obama's health care plans. They are accusing those protesters of being, quote, 'un-American' -- the sort of language we haven't heard from members of Congress in decades." Dobbs later said, "[T]wo top Democrats harshly criticizing Americans who oppose the Democratic Party's health care agenda. Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Hoyer said town hall protesters are, quote, 'un- American." Similarly, on his radio show, Dobbs claimed that Pelosi and Hoyer were "slandering as un-American those American citizens trying to make their voices heard at town hall meetings and constituent meetings all across the country." He continued: "So, here's the deal: As far as the Democratic leadership in Washington, D.C., is concerned, if you speak out and voice your concerns and seek representation on issues of great importance to you and to this nation, you are -- and these are -- this is their expression -- you are un-American." [Lou Dobbs Tonight, 8/10/09; The Lou Dobbs Show, 8/10/09]

Carl Cameron claimed that Pelosi and Hoyer "trashed the patriotism of opponents."

CAMERON: But Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, in a USA Today op-ed this morning, trashed the patriotism of opponents. Quote: "These disruptions are occurring because opponents are afraid not just of differing views -- but of the facts themselves. ... Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American. Drowning out the facts is how we failed at this task for decades." [Fox News' Special Report, 8/10/09]

Beck: Listeners should call White House, ask "[i]f it's un-American to speak out at town halls, like Nancy Pelosi has charged."

BECK: And then, America, when you're done with that phone call, you make another phone call. Put the White House -- there it is -- there is the White House switchboard number for you. You call them up, and in all cases, always -- always be polite. Have respect for the office.

You demand that the president address these questions: If it's un-American to speak out at town halls, like Nancy Pelosi has charged, is it un-American? Should Nancy Pelosi have maybe somebody at the bully pulpit of the White House say, "Excuse me, it's not un-American?" [Fox News' Glenn Beck, 8/10/09]

Fox & Friends' Doocy, Carlson previously advanced falsehood. Discussing the recent health care town hall protests, Gretchen Carlson falsely claimed, "Nancy Pelosi says anyone who speaks out is un-American," and Steve Doocy falsely claimed, "Pelosi [said] that apparently the opposing view to her view is un-American." [Fox & Friends, 8/10/09]

CNN contributor Louis debunks claim

Louis: "[T]he un-American part was, you know, to shout people down. To stop the conversation is un-American." After Dobbs claimed that "we also have now the leadership of the House saying you're un-American to oppose" health care reform, CNN contributor Errol Louis corrected him, stating that "the un-American part was, you know, to shout people down. To stop the conversation is un-American, which I would agree with." Louis continued: "[T]he words in the article were to shut down debate; to use those kind of disruptive tactics to try and stop the debate from going forward is wrong. It is just wrong. You call it un-American; you call it whatever you want. I mean, it needs to be denounced. You can't have people tarred and feathered in effigy outside of their congressional office or hung in effigy outside of their office. That's not the way to conduct this debate." [Lou Dobbs Tonight, 8/10/09]

Transcripts

From the August 10 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight:

DOBBS: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer launching a scathing attack against town hall protesters critical of President Obama's health care plans. They are accusing those protesters of being, quote, "un-American" -- the sort of language we haven't heard from members of Congress in decades.

[...]

DOBBS: But first, two top Democrats harshly criticizing Americans who oppose the Democratic Party's health care agenda. Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Hoyer said town hall protesters are, quote, "un-American." They said those protesters are misrepresenting what Democrats now like to call the health insurance reform legislation.

[...]

DOBBS: There is outrage tonight after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer described town hall protesters as, quote, "un-American."

Many Americans say those protesters are simply exercising their constitutional right to free speech. But in an op-ed in USA Today, Speaker Pelosi and Congressman Hoyer said, quote, "It is now evident that an ugly campaign is underway. Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American."

We'll have much more on those town hall protests and whether they're really un-American, or are they American as it gets?

From the August 10 edition of United Stations Radio Networks' The Lou Dobbs Show:

DOBBS: This is where we are as a nation folks. Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer slandering as un-American those American citizens trying to make their voices heard at town hall meetings and constituent meetings all across the country. You heard me right. They said they were being un-American -- Congressman Hoyer and Congresswoman Pelosi said.

All these citizens are tying to do is make their voices heard, yet these two clowns who are passing for leaders in this Congress were absolutely silent when the White House asked people to come forward and rat out their peers for spreading what the White House considered fishy disinformation about the president's health care plan.

So, here's the deal: As far as the Democratic leadership in Washington, D.C., is concerned, if you speak out and voice your concerns and seek representation on issues of great importance to you and to this nation, you are -- and these are -- this is their expression -- you are un-American.

From the August 10 edition of Fox News' On the Record with Greta Van Susteren:

VAN SUSTEREN: But, anyway, tonight: "Un-American." Does that mean you? Now that phrase has lit the country on fire, and it's splashed across headlines from coast to coast. Are these people on your screen un-American for protesting the health care plan? House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer say yes. And guess what? Rush Limbaugh doesn't like it. You will hear with your own ears what Rush Limbaugh has to say about un-American comments.

[...]

VAN SUSTEREN: But first, the health care war of words just got hotter. First the protesters were called "angry mobs" and now "un-American." In a USA Today op-ed, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer write, in part, "It is now evident that an ugly campaign is under way not merely to misrepresent the health insurance reform legislation but to disrupt public meetings and prevent members of Congress and constituents from conducting a civil dialogue. These disruptions are occurring because opponents are afraid not just of differing views but of the facts themselves. Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American."

So are these people un-American?

From the August 10 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight:

DOBBS: An entirely different take, Errol. This president has had demanded as of last Friday the House and the Senate pass something that is unshaped, unmarked, and unscored, and wanted that to be policy for six of the nation's of the economy, for all of Americans. And against that, we also have now the leadership of the House saying you're un-American to oppose it. I mean, my God, what's going on?

LOUIS: Well, the un-American part was, you know, to shout people down. To stop the conversation is un-American, which I would agree with. I think the president is doing what he --

DOBBS: Un-American?

LOUIS: Absolutely. I mean, to shut down a debate, that's just wrong. It's just wrong. I mean -- but what the president is --

DOBBS: So you agree with what Pelosi and Hoyer said?

LOUIS: The words --

DOBBS: Get in, you know, get in or get all the way.

LOUIS: Look, the words in the article were to shut down debate; to use those kind of disruptive tactics to try and stop the debate from going forward is wrong. It is just wrong. You call it un-American; you call it whatever you want. I mean, it needs to be denounced. You can't have people tarred and feathered in effigy outside of their congressional office or hung in effigy outside of their office. That's not the way to conduct this debate. You can't have union guys beating up somebody in the parking lot at a town hall meeting. That's just -- it's just not going to fly.

DOBBS: Is that un-American?

LOUIS: Yeah. Wrong. Un-American -- absolutely. Unacceptable.

DOBBS: We're going to be back --

LOUIS: Unacceptable.

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