Fox News reports on town hall protesters being "organized" sandwich Hemmer's and Tantaros' denial of same

››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

During the August 12 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, Bill Hemmer and Andrea Tantaros rebuffed Bob Beckel's claim that the protesters opposed to Democratic health care reform appearing at town hall meetings are "organized." But in reports a half-hour earlier and a half-hour later, Carl Cameron confirmed the organizing strategy, reporting that meetings are being "heavily organized by critics," with tea party organizers, among others, "aggressively organizing to bring big crowds."

10:03 a.m. ET: Cameron says tea party organizers "aggressively organizing to bring big crowds"

Cameron: "[F]olks who held the tea parties back in April are aggressively organizing to bring big crowds." While reporting on two town halls held by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), chief political correspondent Carl Cameron stated: "[T]here are dozens of small organizations across Iowa, across the country, who have been sort of bringing people out. And the folks who held the tea parties back in April are aggressively organizing to bring big crowds to the town hall meeting later this afternoon in Des Moines."

10:36 a.m. ET: Hemmer and Tantaros push back against claim that town meetings are "organized"

Hemmer and Tantaros rebuff Beckel's point that "town meetings" are "organized." Later on the same program, roughly half an hour after Cameron's report, Fox News political analyst Bob Beckel said, "[F]or anybody who believes that these things are not organized, I used to do this for a living. I used to get these town meetings organized with my grassroots company." Co-host Bill Hemmer refuted Beckel by stating: "We bring members of Congress on TV and ... they say they get 20 or 30 people out there. I mean, you are talking a thousand on a hot afternoon in August. These people have to wait in line six hours." FoxNews.com contributor Andrea Tantaros added: "[T]he only thing that is organized are the unions showing up." When Beckel again stated that that the protests are "organized by groups on the other side that are spending their time calling these people," Tantaros replied, "Bob, keep telling yourself that."

From the August 12 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:

BECKEL: You all ought to back off. Did he make progress yesterday? Yes, because he underscored a couple of things. How absolutely ridiculous and fearmongering these arguments are. And secondly, for anybody who believes that these things are not organized, I used to do this for a living. I used to get these town meetings organized with my grassroots company.

HEMMER: But --

BECKEL: That doesn't mean these people don't have a right to be there and make their case.

HEMMER: -- just on that point, Bob. We bring members of Congress on TV and they --

BECKEL: But just for a moment that this is --

HEMMER: I understand. But we bring them on TV; they say they get 20 or 30 people out there. I mean, you are talking a thousand --

TANTAROS: Yeah.

BECKEL: Yeah, and if -- the ones that they ask --

HEMMER: -- on a hot afternoon in August. These people have to wait in line six hours.

TANTAROS: It's mostly seniors, too, Bill. Look at the audience.

BECKEL: The ones they asked in Pennsylvania yesterday, virtually all of them said they had gotten emails from groups that are organized to oppose health care reform.

HEMMER: That's not what they said.

TANTROS: The only thing --

BECKEL: Now what does that tell you?

TANTAROS: Bob, the only thing that is organized are the unions showing up. Those are the most professionally made signs --

BECKEL: Oh, come on.

TANTAROS: No, look at the signs, Bob. They are professionally made. You can't tell me when you have a bill that is baked with every kind of political poison -- I mean, tax increases, half a trillion dollars in tax increases, penalties for businesses, something that's going to increase the national debt, something that's going to cut 500 billion for Medicare, you cannot expect anything but real outrage.

BECKEL: You believe -- you believe -- you really believe that this was a nonorganized, spontaneous outpouring of democracy?

TANTAROS: Oh --

BECKEL: If you believe that, then you believe in the tooth fairy.

TANTAROS: Oh, yeah.

BECKEL: I'm telling you, these people, they don't like this health care reform. I understand that, and they've got a right to be heard. But to suggest that they are not organized by groups on the other side that are spending their time calling these people, getting to these things, and saying, by the way, make sure you write handwritten signs. If you believe that that is spontaneous, then --

TANTAROS: Bob, keep telling yourself that.

BECKEL: -- frankly, you've lost touch with reality.

HEMMER: I'm going to give you the last word, Andrea, then we've got to run, OK?

TANTAROS: Bill, the polls reflect exactly what I'm saying. You cannot fudge the numbers.

11:05 a.m. ET: Cameron again confirms critics' strategy of "organizing" turnout for meetings

Cameron cites Grassley town hall as "one of these town halls that being heavily organized by critics" of health care plan. Following his report on America's Newsroom, Cameron reported on Fox News' Happening Now that an upcoming Grassley town hall is "an example of one of these town halls that's being heavily organized by critics -- folks who ran the big, famous tea parties back in April during tax time across the country protesting the government's taxation of American civilians. All of those folks are being sort of ginned up to turn out tonight." Cameron added: "And they're angry that Grassley is participating in the negotiations with Democrats out of fear that he might give away the store and let what critics say is a liberal big government takeover of health care advance unabated."

Conservatives have strategy to pack town halls

Several conservative groups are engaged in efforts to encourage their members to attend town halls. Conservative organizations opposed to health care reform -- including FreedomWorks, Americans for Prosperity, and Conservatives for Patients' Rights -- are conducting a campaign to turn out their supporters to attend those events. CPR has reportedly "confirmed that it has undertaken a concerted effort to get people out to the town hall meetings to protest reform," while FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity have reportedly "organized" the town hall protesters and are "harnessing social networking Web sites to organize their supporters in much the same way Mr. Obama did during his election campaign." [Greg Sargent, The Plum Line, 8/4/09; The New York Times, 8/3/09]

America's Health Insurance Plans reportedly deploying employees to "track[] where local lawmakers hold town-hall meetings," "rebut" Democrats. On July 30, The Wall Street Journal reported: "[I]nsurers continue to wage an aggressive campaign against Democrats' proposals to create a public health-insurance plan. America's Health Insurance Plans has stationed employees in 30 states who are tracking where local lawmakers hold town-hall meetings." And on August 5, the paper reported: "The health-insurance industry said Tuesday it is launching an effort to send insurance-company employees to public meetings nationwide this month to rebut increasing criticism of the industry from the White House and top Democrats." [The Wall Street Journal; 7/30/09, 8/5/09]

Transcripts

From the August 12 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:

CAMERON: Now, because of Grassley's role as the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, and the only negotiator still from the GOP working with Democrats, there has been something of a grassroots attempt to try to put increased pressure on him, and he can expect some pretty raucous town halls today.

This first one of the day is likely to be pretty quiet. The one later today could have thousands of people. And the stakes were raised dramatically this week when President Obama actually gave Grassley and those two other Republican senators a big shout-out. Listen to this.

OBAMA [video clip]: There are some of my Republican friends on Capitol Hill who are sincerely trying to figure out if they're can find a health care bill that works. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Olympia Snowe from Maine, have been.

CAMERON: As a result of that and the public reporting on their participation with Democrats in trying to craft a deal, there has been a real grassroots organizational effort to put pressure on them. And there are dozens of small organizations across Iowa, across the country, who have been sort of bringing people out.

And the folks who held the tea parties back in April are aggressively organizing to bring big crowds to the town hall meeting later this afternoon in Des Moines. That one is set up for just 500 people. They're saying a couple of thousand, Megyn, so it could be pretty loud.

[...]

BOB BECKEL (Fox News political analyst): You all ought to back off. Did he make progress yesterday? Yes, because he underscored a couple of things. How absolutely ridiculous and fearmongering these arguments are. And secondly, for anybody who believes that these things are not organized, I used to do this for a living. I used to get these town meetings organized with my grassroots company.

HEMMER: But --

BECKEL: That doesn't mean these people don't have a right to be there and make their case.

HEMMER: -- just on that point, Bob. We bring members of Congress on TV and they --

BECKEL: But just for a moment that this is --

HEMMER: I understand. But we bring them on TV; they say they get 20 or 30 people out there. I mean, you are talking a thousand --

TANTAROS: Yeah.

BECKEL: Yeah, and if -- the ones that they ask --

HEMMER: -- on a hot afternoon in August. These people have to wait in line six hours.

TANTAROS: It's mostly seniors, too, Bill. Look at the audience.

BECKEL: The ones they asked in Pennsylvania yesterday, virtually all of them said they had gotten emails from groups that are organized to oppose health care reform.

HEMMER: That's not what they said.

TANTROS: The only thing --

BECKEL: Now what does that tell you?

TANTAROS: Bob, the only thing that is organized are the unions showing up. Those are the most professionally made signs --

BECKEL: Oh, come on.

TANTAROS: No, look at the signs, Bob. They are professionally made. You can't tell me when you have a bill that is baked with every kind of political poison -- I mean, tax increases, half a trillion dollars in tax increases, penalties for businesses, something that's going to increase the national debt, something that's going to cut 500 billion for Medicare, you cannot expect anything but real outrage.

BECKEL: You believe -- you believe -- you really believe that this was a nonorganized, spontaneous outpouring of democracy?

TANTAROS: Oh --

BECKEL: If you believe that, then you believe in the tooth fairy.

TANTAROS: Oh, yeah.

BECKEL: I'm telling you, these people, they don't like this health care reform. I understand that, and they've got a right to be heard. But to suggest that they are not organized by groups on the other side that are spending their time calling these people, getting to these things, and saying, by the way, make sure you write handwritten signs. If you believe that that is spontaneous, then --

TANTAROS: Bob, keep telling yourself that.

BECKEL: -- frankly, you've lost touch with reality.

HEMMER: I'm going to give you the last word, Andrea, then we've got to run, OK?

TANTAROS: Bill, the polls reflect exactly what I'm saying. You cannot fudge the numbers.

From the August 12 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:

RICK FOLBAUM (anchor): But later on today, I understand, Carl, there's going to be another one of these forums hosted by Senator Grassley, and that one could get interesting. Why?

CAMERON: Well, in part, because it's going to be closer to Des Moines, the state's largest city, where more people can come. It's later in the day, so they'll be getting out of work, and because it is one -- an example of one of these town halls that's being heavily organized by critics -- folks who ran the big, famous tea parties back in April during tax time across the country protesting the government's taxation of American civilians. All of those folks are being sort of ginned up to turn out tonight.

And the event, at 5:30 Eastern Time, was expected to have about 500 people. It could have several thousand, according to the organizers, and they're coming loaded for bear. They want to make their voices heard. And they're angry that Grassley is participating in the negotiations with Democrats out of fear that he might give away the store and let what critics say is a liberal big government takeover of health care advance unabated.

Mr. Grassley argues that it's his duty to take part in these hearings, this legislative process, as the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee. And, he says, it gives him an opportunity, potentially, to moderate the more liberal ideas that some of the Democrats are offering, and if for no other reason, at least to know what's going on, Rick, and tell the public about it.

Posted In
Health Care, Health Care Reform
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
Bill Hemmer, Andrea Tantaros
Show/Publication
America's Newsroom, Happening Now
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