Fox News freak-out: Guests make extreme claims and accusations about health care

››› ››› HANNAH DREIER

In recent weeks, Fox News has hosted numerous individuals who advanced extreme, outrageous claims about health care reform at prior congressional town hall meetings, during their interviews, or both. For example, on Fox, one guest claimed that under health reform, he might have to "let" his wife "suffer until she passes on," while another claimed of Democratic leaders, "[Y]our thugs already know where we live. We've had a visit from them in the middle of the night."

Fox has provided individuals with a forum for extreme claims

Fox guest says that under health reform, he might have to "let" his wife "suffer until she passes on." On Fox & Friends, co-host Gretchen Carlson interviewed AARP members Patrick Liste and his wife, Mary Liste. During the interview, Patrick Liste stated that "if this national health care plan goes through," he would "have to give up my wife, because she costs insurance a lot of money." Patrick Liste later added: "[I]f they determine that because she's 70 years old, she no longer is eligible because there's younger people that want to use this money, what am I going to do? I'll just say goodbye. Let her suffer until she passes on." [Fox & Friends, 8/17/09]

Fox guest claims of Dem leadership: "[Y]our thugs already know where we live. We've had a visit from them." On America's Newsroom, anchor Megyn Kelly interviewed Mike Sola, whom police reportedly escorted from a town hall meeting held by Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) following a confrontation with Dingell in which Sola claimed under the bill, his son "would be given no care whatsoever because he is a cerebral palsy handicapped person." On Fox News, Sola claimed that "thugs" had subsequently harassed his family in the middle of the night, saying, "I'd like to address something to Miss [Nancy] Pelosi and Mr. ... [Steny] Hoyer and Mr. [Harry] Reid. If you call my son un-American -- your thugs already know where we live. We've had a visit from them in the middle of the night." Sola later added, "I will use every means available to me, lethal force if necessary, to protect Scott [his son] and my wife."

From the August 10 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:

SOLA: But I'd like to address something to Miss Pelosi and Mr. Stoy -- Mr. -- whatever his name is --

KELLY: Hoyer.

SOLA: -- Hoyer and Mr. Reid. If you call my son un-American -- your thugs already know where we live. We've had a visit from them in the middle of the night. They can't come to us in the middle of the day, but they come to us in the middle of the night. You know where we live. I suggest you take that plane that you have and fly to Milan, Michigan, and say that directly to my son's face, if you've got the guts. This is a free country.

[...]

KELLY: Before we go on, I want to ask you, what do you mean they came to your house in the middle of the night?

SOLA: We -- after the incident was aired on television, we had a visit that night. A message was sent to my family. It has been reported to the Washtenaw County sheriff, and their deputy has reported it to the Michigan State Police.

KELLY: People are harassing you now, Mike?

SOLA: Yes, they are. And all I'm going to say to the person who doesn't have the courage to do it in the daytime, I will use every means available to me, lethal force if necessary, to protect Scott and my wife. Your message has been received. My wife is terrified. We have not told Scott about it. But if you -- I ever catch you on my property, I will take the risk of going to prison. But you will never again threaten my family.

Fox guest: "I don't want my children coming to me and ask me, 'Mom, why didn't you do anything? Why do we have to wait in line for, I don't know, toilet paper or anything?' " Happening Now anchor Jane Skinner interviewed town hall attendee Katy Abram, who during a town hall meeting with Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) stated that health care reform was "about the systematic dismantling of this country," adding, "I don't want this country turning into Russia." On Happening Now, Abram said, "I know that years down the road, I don't want my children coming to me and ask me, "Mom, why didn't you do anything? Why do we have to wait in line for, I don't know, toilet paper or anything?" I don't want to have to tell them I didn't do anything. And I know it's just a normal citizen. The most I feel I could do was come to this town hall meeting." [Happening Now, 8/11/09]

Fox's Carlson offers no criticism of guest's suggestion Pelosi is a Nazi

Fox guest at town hall: "If Nancy Pelosi wants to find a swastika, maybe the first place she should look is the sleeve of her own arm." Fox & Friends hosted David Hedrick, who at a town hall for Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA), stated:

HEDRICK: I also heard you say that you're going to let us keep our health insurance. Well, thank you. It's not your right to decide whether or not I keep my current plan or not. That's my decision. Now, I've heard recently in the media you and some other people on the political stage call us brownshirts because we opposed --

BAIRD: No, I did not. No, I did not. What I said was -- and I've apologized for it, sir.

HEDRICK: OK, well, thanks for apologizing. But let -- I won't speak to you, then. I'll speak to others. But I'll remind you -- a little history lesson. The Nazis did not -- the Nazis were the National Socialist Party. They were leftists. They were -- they took over the finance. They took over the car industry. They took over health care in that country. If Nancy Pelosi wants to find a swastika, maybe the first place she should look is the sleeve of her own arm.

Now, what I want to know is, you've done a lot of things that violate your constitutional oath, as you know. What I want to know is, as a Marine, as a disabled veteran that served this country, I have kept my oath. Do you ever intend to keep yours?

Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson aired a clip of Hedrick comparing Pelosi a Nazi, but did not condemn his remarks or criticize Hedrick for them. Indeed, at no point in the interview did Carlson address Hedrick's comment. Instead, Carlson introduced Hedrick as "the Marine vet who took the congressman to task" and said only that his remarks got "quite the response." [Fox & Friends, 8/24/09]

Fox hosts have promoted disruptions of town hall events

As Media Matters for America has noted, many Fox hosts have praised town hall protests and encouraged viewers to participate in these events. Fox & Friends guest co-host Peter Johnson Jr. said to protesters, "[W]e thank you for representing Americans, and we hope that other Americans get out there" [Fox & Friends, 8/4/09]. Introducing a segment on a Philadelphia town hall, Carlson said, "Are you gonna call" your member of Congress "or are you gonna go to one of these receptions where they're actually there?" During the same segment on the Philadelphia town hall, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy said, "If you want to contact your congress members and sound off, go to FoxNation.com" [Fox & Friends, 8/3/09]. Similarly, after airing clips from the Philadelphia town hall, Fox News host Sean Hannity said, "That's a pretty good way to fight back," and Fox News contributor Dick Morris stated, "We gotta sign that [protester] up" [Hannity, 8/3/09].

Transcripts

From the August 17 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:

CARLSON: Well, that was President Barack Obama at a recent town hall in Grand Junction, Colorado, affirming the AARP support for health care reform. But that's sparking some controversy among the group's members. Joining me right now from Cleveland, Ohio, are two of those members, Patrick and Mary Liste. Good morning to you.

PATRICK LISTE: Good morning, Gretchen.

MARY LISTE: Good morning, Gretchen.

CARLSON: Now, I understand that both of you have decided that you no longer want to be members of the AARP. Why?

PATRICK LISTE: That -- well, the AARP is backing something that is not going to be in the range of our ages. The AARP is backing a national health care plan. To me, if this national health care plan goes through, me and my age of over 70 -- going to be 73, my wife is going to be 70 -- we may be rationed out of the care. And if we are, we're both going to have to give up. I'm going to have to give up my wife, because she costs insurance a lot of money, and it's taking care of the things she's had as far as cancer for 17 years.

CARLSON: You know, I just have to say, Patrick, when you said that my heart sunk. You said you'd have to give up your wife? Mary --

PATRICK LISTE: I'd have to give her up -- yeah, if she couldn't get the medication. They're starting her on a new regimen this coming Wednesday that's going to be more horrific to her body, but it is also going to be more expensive. And if they determine that because she's 70 years old, she no longer is eligible because there's younger people that want to use this money, what am I going to do? I'll just say goodbye. Let her suffer until she passes on.

CARLSON: Oh, my goodness. Well, Mary, I know that you've been battling cancer for some time.

MARY LISTE: Yes.

CARLSON: This will be -- will this be your fourth or fifth regiment of treatment?

MARY LISTE: This is my fourth treatment.

CARLSON: And your fears -- this is a disease that you've been trying to overcome -- your fears with the AARP supporting health care reform are what?

MARY LISTE: Well, like I said and my husband said, I'm very worried that because of my age, and I'd have to go and have more cancer treatments, what will happen to me? I'm very worried about me and the future of my children and children's. I'm very concerned about this, because what will happen to us people that are elderly?

CARLSON: Well, and we all have parents -- at least I do -- in your age bracket as well, so many of us are asking some of the same questions. Patrick and Mary Liste, thank you so much for sharing your story with me today.

From the August 10 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:

KELLY: You know, so, Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House, and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer come out with an editorial today, and they say, in part, quote, "These disruptions are occurring" -- at these town halls -- "because opponents are afraid, not just of differing views, but of the facts themselves. Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American." Is that what you were trying to do, sir?

SOLA: No, sir -- no, ma'am. I was trying to speak as an American in a free country with a right of freedom of speech. But I'd like to address something to Miss Pelosi and Mr. Stoy -- Mr. -- whatever his name is --

KELLY: Hoyer.

SOLA: -- Hoyer and Mr. Reid. If you call my son un-American -- your thugs already know where we live. We've had a visit from them in the middle of the night. They can't come to us in the middle of the day, but they come to us in the middle of the night. You know where we live. I suggest you take that plane that you have and fly to Milan, Michigan, and say that directly to my son's face, if you've got the guts. This is a free country.

I am a parent of a handicapped American citizen. And the reason that I am so concerned is this -- every American should pull this up on his computer. It's the New York Post, July 24 edition, "Dangerous Doctors." Every American needs to read this, and you'll understand why this groundswell of America's people has occurred.

KELLY: It's --

SOLA: The American people --

KELLY: And just to jump in, it's "Deadly Doctors," I think. It's by Betsy McCaughey --

SOLA: "Deadly Doctors." I'm sorry. I'm nervous.

KELLY: -- who is a former lieutenant --

SOLA: I've never done this before.

KELLY: No, no, don't worry. Don't be nervous. Who is a former governor of New York and who has been very outspoken in criticizing this health care plan from the start, and many of her predictions, some believe, have already come true.

In any event, she outlines how Rahm Emanuel's brother Ezekiel Emanuel has got some rather -- some might call them radical proposals for revision to our health care system. So that's the article to which you refer.

Before we go on, I want to ask you, what do you mean they came to your house in the middle of the night?

SOLA: We -- after the incident was aired on television, we had a visit that night. A message was sent to my family. It has been reported to the Washtenaw County sheriff, and their deputy has reported it to the Michigan State Police.

KELLY: People are harassing you now, Mike?

SOLA: Yes, they are. And all I'm going to say to the person who doesn't have the courage to do it in the daytime, I will use every means available to me, lethal force if necessary, to protect Scott and my wife. Your message has been received. My wife is terrified. We have not told Scott about it. But if you -- I ever catch you on my property, I will take the risk of going to prison. But you will never again threaten my family.

From the August 24 edition of Fox & Friends:

CARLSON: Well, that got quite the response. And that was from a scene from a town hall hosted by Congressman Brian Baird last week. And the Marine vet who took the congressman to task is with me now live. David Hedrick joins me now live from Seattle. Good morning to you, David.

HEDRICK: Good morning.

CARLSON: I know you decided to attend this town hall meeting -- 3,000 people there. You never thought you were going to ask a question, right?

HEDRICK: I didn't expect to get called at all. When I saw the number of people there, I was -- I really didn't prepare -- even prepare to be asked a question, but luckily they called number 191, and that was me.

CARLSON: So that was you, and what did you do at that point, then? You had been listening to what had been going on there. You didn't like what you were hearing --

HEDRICK: Right.

CARLSON: -- so you were inspired to ask a question. What did you ask?

HEDRICK: Well, what I asked him is, was he going to -- did he ever intend to honor his sworn oath to uphold the Constitution?

CARLSON: And what did he say?

HEDRICK: He said yes.

CARLSON: And then you said the comment about your children. You said, "Stay away from my kids." What did you mean by that?

HEDRICK: Right. Right. Well, that was actually earlier, when -- I asked the question near the end, but earlier in the evening, Brian Baird had been speaking about something that was in the Pelosi bill, and it specifically refers to our children and how they want to tell parents how to raise their kids. And he specifically even said it includes things such as when to potty-train children --

CARLSON: Uh-huh.

HEDRICK: -- and other aspects, which he considers minor. But is it -- but I have to ask, is it really government's role to tell us how to raise our children? Is that the proper role of government?

CARLSON: And was this your main concern about health care reform as well? Or what was your main problem with how you have seen this whole program playing out in our country right now?

HEDRICK: Well, I mean, we know that this -- health care is a huge part of this, and I think it's kind of the straw that broke the camel's back. And that's why you're seeing so much fury right now and you're seeing so much passion coming out against this. And it's -- we've seen government-run systems. I mean, anyone who's gone to the DMV before knows what it's like to take a ticket and sit there for four hours. Do you really want to do this at your doctor's office?

CARLSON: Well, it's a very good question, and one that the politicians continue to debate at this moment in time.

HEDRICK: Mm-hmm.

CARLSON: David Hedrick, a former Marine corporal, a veteran now. Thanks for your service, number one, and thanks for sharing your time with me this morning.

From the August 11 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:

SKINNER: Are you a part of any organized group? Why did you come today to this meeting?

OFF-CAMERA VOICE: Introduce yourself.

ABRAM: Intro-- yeah, my name is Katy. I live here in Lebanon. I'm about five -- I live about five minutes from where the town hall meeting was held. I am a stay-at-home mom. I have two young children. I've never been politically active. I used to, you know, not really care too much. But over the past couple years, I've opened my eyes a little bit more. I've started to read about the Constitution, about the founders of this country, because I -- like I said to, you know, Arlen Specter, the country is being slowly ripped apart, and it's so obvious to me. And I don't understand -- with some of the people that I talk to, they don't see it. But I do, and it scares the life out of me --

SKINNER: Tell me what --

ABRAM: -- to be honest with you.

SKINNER: You were inside that room, Katy. We got a glimpse from our television cameras, but describe the atmosphere with the senator. What was it like?

OFF-CAMERA VOICE: Describe the atmosphere.

ABRAM: The atmosphere of the town hall meeting -- I think there was a lot of excitement. I know I was extremely nervous. I've been waiting for this ever since I got the invitation in the mail from Arlen Specter's office. There was frustration, obvious frustration. There was thankfulness that he even had the town hall meeting. I appreciate that he had the town hall meeting because our local congressman, Tim Holden, is not holding any town hall meetings. I think there were a lot of different levels of frustration.

SKINNER: You know, the chief of staff of the White House, Rahm Emanuel, said at this point, there's just too much heat out there and not enough light, that things are getting so hot, we're not really achieving anything. Do you feel like anything was achieved?

OFF-CAMERA VOICE: Was anything achieved?

ABRAM: Was anything achieved from the meeting today? I don't know. I hope so. I know that years down the road, I don't want my children coming to me and ask me, "Mom, why didn't you do anything? Why do we have to wait in line for, I don't know, toilet paper or anything?" I don't want to have to tell them I didn't do anything. And I know it's just a normal citizen. The most I feel I could do was come to this town hall meeting. We're -- my husband and I are on vacation, the kids are at the grandparents' house, and we're -- came to a town hall meeting for vacation and our 10th anniversary.

SKINNER: Katy Abram. Quite a way to spend her anniversary. Sorry about the audio problems, Katy. We appreciate your time. Thanks.

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