Media mischaracterize Pelosi's warning against "anti-government" rhetoric as attack on health care reform opponents

››› ››› JEREMY HOLDEN

Media figures including Candy Crowley, Carl Cameron, Brian Kilmeade, and Gretchen Carlson have mischaracterized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's comments that recent "anti-government rhetoric" reminded her of "the late '70s in San Francisco" when "it created a climate in which violence took place," to claim that she was criticizing opponents of health care reform. In fact, Pelosi was directly responding to a question not about health care reform, but one that explicitly noted "people talking about anti-government rhetoric and so on and the possibility of violence."

Media claim Pelosi compared health care reform opponents to violent protesters

CNN's Crowley: Pelosi "says some of the things she's hearing in the health care debate border on dangerous." During the September 17 edition of Anderson Cooper 360, host Anderson Cooper stated that there was "a new war of words in the health care debate; another firefight that has nothing to do with health care reform itself." He then showed comments from Pelosi's press conference earlier that day in which Pelosi stated, "I have concerns about some of the language that is being used, because I saw -- I saw this myself in the late '70s in San Francisco. This kind of rhetoric was very frightening, and it gave -- it created a climate in which violence took place." During her ensuing report, correspondent Candy Crowley stated, "The speaker of the House says some of the things she's hearing in the health care debate border on dangerous," before again showing Pelosi's comments. [CNN's Anderson Cooper 360, 9/17/09]

Fox News' Cameron: Pelosi "compared health care reform opposition to anti-gay protests and violence that gripped her city." During the September 17 edition of Special Report, Fox News chief political correspondent Carl Cameron stated, "Speaker Nancy Pelosi pronounced the [Sen. Max] Baucus plan and co-ops dead in the House," and that "[w]hen asked about the, quote, violent tone of the national debate, the San Francisco liberal choked up and compared health care reform opposition to anti-gay protests and violence that gripped her city, including the murder of two Democratic politicians 30 years ago." After airing a portion of Pelosi's comments, Cameron stated that "some health care reform opposition comes from the House Democrats' fiscally conservative Blue Dog coalition of about 50 Democrats, who oppose the government-run, so-called public option, along with every Republican in the House and Senate." [Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier, 9/17/09]

Fox News' Gretchen Carlson: Pelosi in "dangerous territory" by "equating what's going on now with health care reform and opposition to it to what happened to" Moscone, Milk. During the September 18 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade stated that "a public figure is very upset about the potential road that this whole health care debate could be going on," and co-host Gretchen Carlson responded, "Yeah, you are talking about the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. She gave her weekly press avail yesterday. But it was -- it made national news, international news, because she got all choked up over something that could be very, very serious. She was harkening back to the '70s, and she was asked about whether or not health care reform and the opposition could bring about violence in this country." After airing a portion of Pelosi's comments, Carlson stated, "To put it into context, she is talking about the assassinations of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and supervisor Harvey Milk. That happened, of course, back in the '70s. This is dangerous territory, to go down this path of equating what's going on now with health care reform and opposition to it to what happened to those two gentlemen in San Francisco politics 30 years ago. To me, strategically or not, to get emotional like that and try and compare the two is very dangerous territory." [Fox News' Fox & Friends, 9/18/09]

Pelosi's comment in direct response to question about "anti-government rhetoric," not health care reform

From Pelosi's September 17 press conference:

QUESTION: Madam Speaker, in terms of the political tone, the tone of the debate, Hoyer said earlier this week he thought it was the most vitriolic since '93-'94. And around that time we also saw acts of domestic violence, domestic terrorism. How concerned are you about the tone of the political debate, in terms of people talking about anti-government rhetoric and so on and the possibility of violence?

PELOSI: Well, I think we all have to take responsibility for our actions and our words. The -- we are a free country, and this balance between freedom and safety is one that we have to carefully balance.

I have concerns about some of the language that is being used, because I saw -- I saw this myself in the late '70s in San Francisco. This kind of rhetoric was very frightening, and it gave -- it created a climate in which violence took place.

And so I wish that we would all, again, curb our enthusiasm in some of the statements that are made, so that understanding that some of the people -- the ears that are -- it is falling on are not as balanced as the person making the statement might assume.

But, again, our country is great because people can say what they think and they believe. But I also think that they have to take responsibility for any incitement that they may cause.

Transcripts

From the September 17 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:

[begin video clip]

CAMERON: Speaker Nancy Pelosi pronounced the Baucus plan and co-ops dead in the House.

PELOSI: I fully support a public option. A public option will be in the bill that passes the House of Representatives.

CAMERON: When asked about the, quote, violent tone of the national debate, the San Francisco liberal choked up and compared health care reform opposition to anti-gay protests and violence that gripped her city, including the murder of two Democratic politicians 30 years ago.

PELOSI: I have concerns about some of the language that is being used, because I saw -- I saw this myself in the late '70s in San Francisco. This kind of rhetoric was very frightening, and it gave -- it created a climate in which violence took place.

CAMERON: But some health care reform opposition comes from the House Democrats' fiscally conservative Blue Dog coalition of about 50 Democrats, who oppose the government-run, so-called public option, along with every Republican in the House and Senate.

[end video clip]

From the September 17 edition of CNN's Anderson Cooper 360:

COOPER: We begin, though, with a new war of words in the health care debate; another firefight that has nothing to do with health care reform itself. It started with a question for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. At her weekly news conference, she was asked whether she was worried about how harsh the political atmosphere had become. Here's what she said.

PELOSI [video clip]: I have concerns about some of the language that is being used, because I saw -- I saw this myself in the late '70s in San Francisco. This kind of rhetoric was very frightening, and it gave -- it created a climate in which violence took place.

COOPER: Speaker Pelosi appearing to tear up, talking, of course, about the murders of Harvey Milk, a gay civil rights activist, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, as well as the city's mayor, George Moscone. Her answer triggered an almost immediate backlash.

Here is House Republican John Boehner.

BOEHNER [video clip]: Now, listen, this whole issue of race people have tried to raise here over the last week or so, and this insinuation that the people who are opposing the president's policies are motivated by race, capped off by former President Carter's remarks over the last couple of days -- let me tell you what. I reject this resoundingly.

COOPER: The rhetoric increasingly heated. Candy Crowley tonight has the "Raw Politics."

[begin video clip]

PELOSI: Good morning.

CROWLEY: The speaker of the House says some of the things she's hearing in the health care debate border on dangerous.

PELOSI: I saw this myself in the late '70s in San Francisco. This kind of rhetoric was very frightening, and it gave -- it created a climate in which violence took place.

CROWLEY: To review, the pro-reform side, including the president, has been called socialist, Marxist, and un-American. Those against the president's plans have been called wing nuts, fringe groups, and racists.

[end video clip]

From the September 18 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:

KILMEADE: Bottom line is, somebody that we know well -- not personally but publicly -- a public figure is very upset about the potential road that this whole health care debate could be going on.

CARLSON: Yeah, you are talking about the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. She gave her weekly press avail yesterday. But it was -- it made national news, international news, because she got all choked up over something that could be very, very serious. She was harkening back to the '70s, and she was asked about whether or not health care reform and the opposition could bring about violence in this country. Watch this.

PELOSI [video clip]: I think we all have to take responsibility for our actions and our words. The -- we are a free country and this balance between freedom and safety is one that we have to carefully balance. I have concerns about some of the language that is being used, because I saw -- I saw this myself in the late '70s in San Francisco. This kind of rhetoric was very frightening. [...] I wish that we would all, again, curb our enthusiasm.

KILMEADE: That's a good show on HBO, Curb Your Enthusiasm, but I think that she has to say, I take responsibility for some of it, too. Remember, the president -- the worst president we ever had. The way she has been polarizing as a speaker -- hardly a uniter. And she was out of -- so out of touch -- this is what drives a lot of people crazy, not for violence, but when you bring up something as controversial and as in the fray as ACORN. And she doesn't even know what they are talking about, yet, she has got so much power. That frustrates people.

CARLSON: To put it into context, she is talking about the assassinations of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and supervisor Harvey Milk. That happened, of course, back in the '70s. This is dangerous territory, to go down this path of equating what's going on now with health care reform and opposition to it to what happened to those two gentlemen in San Francisco politics 30 years ago. To me, strategically or not, to get emotional like that and try and compare the two is very dangerous territory.

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