Echoing Drudge and Heritage, Limbaugh falsely claimed Obama "admits he doesn't know" what's in House health bill

››› ››› MORGAN WEILAND

The Drudge Report, a Heritage Foundation blog, and Rush Limbaugh all falsely claimed that President Obama, in Limbaugh's words, "admit[ted] he doesn't know" what's in the House health care bill. In fact, Obama said he was "not familiar" with opponents' false talking point that the bill will make individual private medical insurance illegal.

On July 21, the Drudge Report, the Heritage Foundation's blog The Foundry, and Rush Limbaugh all falsely claimed that during a July 20 blogger conference call, President Obama, in Limbaugh's words, "admit[ted] he doesn't know" what's in the House health care bill. A blogger asked Obama to comment on a claim made in a July 15 Investor's Business Daily editorial -- which Media Matters for America has noted is false -- that the bill, in the blogger's words, "will make individual private medical insurance illegal." Obama responded, "You know, I have to say that I am not familiar with the provision you're talking about." In fact, as even the Heritage Foundation blog post to which Drudge linked made clear, there is no provision in the bill outlawing private health insurance. Nonetheless, Limbaugh again flogged the July 15 IBD editorial and falsely claimed that the House bill "[w]ill make individual private medical insurance illegal. It will. It will."

In a July 15 editorial, which Limbaugh has previously highlighted, IBD falsely claimed that the House tri-committee health care reform bill includes "a provision making individual private medical insurance illegal." The editorial later stated that the "provision would indeed outlaw individual private coverage." In fact, the provision to which the editorial referred establishes the conditions under which existing private plans would be exempted from the requirement that they participate in the Health Insurance Exchange. Individual health insurance plans that do not meet the "grandfather" conditions would still be available for purchase, but only through the exchange and subject to those regulations.

During his radio show, Limbaugh pointed to Obama's exchange with a blogger as evidence that the president is unaware of the contents of the House health care reform bill. From his show:

LIMBAUGH: Let's now go to the president himself. He was on the -- well, this is where they -- I guess a conference call with left-wing bloggers. Yesterday, in Washington, a blogger from Maine had this exchange with President Obama.

[begin audio clip]

CALLER: Investor's Business Daily, they're saying that H.R. 3200 will make individual private medical insurance illegal. Is this true? Will people be able to keep their insurance, and will insurers be able to write new policies even though H.R. 3200 has passed?

OBAMA: You know, I have to say that I am not familiar with the provision you're talking about.

[end audio clip]

LIMBAUGH: He doesn't know what's in the bill! He admits he doesn't know.

Limbaugh's claim echoed a Drudge headline posted as of 9:21:26 a.m. ET on July 21:

Drudge's headline linked to a July 21 post on The Foundry titled "Morning Bell: Obama Admits He's 'Not Familiar' With House Bill." But as the audio that Limbaugh provided made clear, Obama simply said he was "not familiar" with a specific provision that the blogger asked Obama to comment on. Citing the IBD editorial, the blogger asked whether the bill will "make individual private medical insurance illegal." And as Heritage itself noted, undermining its own headline as well as Drudge and Limbaugh's subsequent claims, the bill does not in fact outlaw private individual health insurance. Heritage stated: "We are familiar with the passage IBD sites, and as we wrote last week, the House bill does not outright outlaw private individual health insurance, but it does effectively regulate it out of existence." Thus, Drudge and Limbaugh have effectively criticized Obama not for expressing a lack of familiarity with a provision actually in the bill, but for expressing a lack of familiarity with a false talking point advanced by the bill's opponents.

Notwithstanding Heritage's assessment of IBD's claims, Limbaugh insisted that the bill "[w]ill make individual private medical insurance illegal. It will. It will." Limbaugh later continued, referring to Obama's July 21 remarks on health reform:

LIMBAUGH: How can he make this speech when he just said he doesn't know what's in the health care bill? He doesn't know what's in it. He hasn't read it. He has denied what the Investor's Business Daily people found and Betsy McCaughey found about losing your health insurance -- that you won't be able to keep the option that you have now. He flat-out says people will not lose their insurance. But he doesn't know this. It's in the bill.

From the July 21 edition of Limbaugh's Premiere Radio Networks show:

LIMBAUGH: Let's now go to the president himself. He was on the -- well, this is where they -- I guess a conference call with left-wing bloggers. Yesterday, in Washington, a blogger from Maine had this exchange with President Obama.

[begin audio clip]

CALLER: Investor's Business Daily, they're saying that H.R. 3200 will make individual private medical insurance illegal. Is this true? Will people be able to keep their insurance, and will insurers be able to write new policies even though H.R. 3200 has passed?

OBAMA: You know, I have to say that I am not familiar with the provision you're talking about.

[end audio clip]

LIMBAUGH: He doesn't know what's in the bill! He admits he doesn't know. We're speeding up Obama, Barney Frank, Pelosi 'cause they're in such a hurry to get this garbage done before we find out what's in it. Of course, it's too late. We know what's in it, so we're speeding them up to illustrate the haste that they are engaged in. Will make individual private medical insurance illegal. It will. It will.

[...]

LIMBAUGH: He didn't say anything new. He just told the same lies. How can he make this speech when he just said he doesn't know what's in the health care bill? He doesn't know what's in it. He hasn't read it. He has denied what the Investor's Business Daily people found and Betsy McCaughey found about losing your health insurance -- that you won't be able to keep the option that you have now. He flat-out says people will not lose their insurance. But he doesn't know this. It's in the bill.

[...]

LIMBAUGH: That is not true! He just admitted to liberal bloggers last night he is not aware of the provision that makes that not possible. He didn't know it was in the bill.

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