Responding to President Obama's September 9 speech to Congress on health care reform, in which Obama denounced “bogus claims spread by those whose only agenda is to kill reform,” Sean Hannity, Karl Rove, and Fox News legal analyst Peter Johnson Jr. asserted that the speech was, in Hannity's words, “full of partisan hackery.” But Hannity, Rove, and Johnson have each repeatedly fearmongered or advanced false attacks while discussing health care reform, including the charges that reform would deny care for the elderly or that the administration is encouraging military veterans to end their lives.
Hannity: Obama's “attack speech” was “full of partisan hackery”
From the September 9 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
HANNITY: Now, tonight, the president did his best to sell Americans on the idea that the government should control their health care. And while trying to position himself as a neutral and fair arbiter of Capitol Hill's petty partisan disputes, he delivered an attack speech that could have been written by James Carville.
HANNITY: All right, but this president would never do that, right? Now, President Obama both lectures Americans and hypocritically attacks those who disagree with him. Hope and change gave way to cynicism and intimidation tonight, for this president lives in a world where only he tells the truth and everyone disagrees with him -- well, is either a liar or a thug.
OBAMA [video clip]: Some of people's concerns have grown out of bogus claims spread by those whose only agenda is to kill reform at any cost. The best example is the claim, made not just by radio and cable talk show hosts but by prominent politicians, that we plan to set up panels of bureaucrats with the power to kill off senior citizens. Now, such a charge would be laughable if it weren't so cynical and irresponsible. It is a lie, plain and simple.
HANNITY: Oh, it's a lie? So when was the last time that a president of United States called a joint session of Congress to speak in prime time and deliver what amounts to be a campaign speech full of partisan hackery.
But Hannity himself has repeatedly advanced false attacks on health care reform
Hannity falsely claimed health bill doesn't have “any restrictions” on undocumented immigrants. Purporting to quote from a Congressional Research Service (CRS) report, Hannity falsely claimed that the health care reform bill “does not contain any restrictions on non-citizens whether legally or illegally present” and that there is “proof that illegal immigrants could very well be covered by the Democrats' health care plan.” In fact, the bills under consideration do prohibit undocumented immigrants from receiving subsidies to purchase health insurance. [Hannity, 8/26/09]
Hannity falsely claimed Obama accused “ObamaCare” opponents of “bearing false witness.” Hannity misrepresented a statement that Obama made during a conference call with religious leaders, claiming that Obama “talked about those of us that oppose ObamaCare as, quote, 'bearing false witness.' ” In fact, Obama was not calling out opponents of health insurance reform, but rather those who have misinformed about it, stating: “I know there's been a lot of misinformation in this debate, and there are some folks out there who are, frankly, bearing false witness, but I want everyone to know what health insurance reform is all about.” [Hannity, 8/20/09]
Hannity asked: Is VA document “equivalent of a death panel?” Hannity said during an interview with Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele: "[A]pparently, they've got this document that they show veterans at all our VA hospitals, and they asked -- there's a section in which it says, have you ever heard anyone say, I'm a vegetable, pull the plug; I'm a severe burden financially on my family; I'm causing severe emotional damage to my family?" Hannity asked Steele if the manual is “the equivalent of a death panel,” and Steele replied that “in my view, it very well could be.” [Hannity, 8/20/09]
Hannity falsely claimed businesses would be “punished” if they “don't go for the public option.” Hannity falsely claimed that if small businesses “don't go for the public option” under a House health care reform bill, “they're going to be punished.” In fact, the penalty on small business would apply to businesses that don't provide health care, not specifically on those that “don't go for the public option.” [Hannity, 8/18/09]
Hannity falsely claimed bill establishes a “bureaucrat” to offer “end-of-life advice.” Hannity claimed that end-of-life provisions in the bill would establish “a bureaucrat that is designated to save money talking to an elderly person and offering them end-of-life advice.” In fact, the end-of-life provisions would reimburse physicians -- not “a bureaucrat” -- for voluntary counseling sessions. [Hannity, 8/18/09]
Rove: Obama advanced “a series of very glaring misstatements or distortions” during “gratuitously and bitterly partisan” speech
From the September 9 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
ROVE: This was not an exceptionally good speech. It was gratuitously and bitterly partisan. But I think the biggest problem was the section in which he talked about the so-called lies and misstatements about his proposal. He dealt with five of them, and in each one of them he made a series of very glaring misstatements or distortions.
Rove has previously advanced false attacks on health care reform
Contradicting CBO, Rove suggested “most companies” will “dump the coverage” under House bill. Rove stated that the House health care reform bill “says if you're a business you can either continue to provide health care to your employees or you can pay a fine equal to 8 percent of your payroll costs. Well, for most companies, what they're now paying for health insurance is in excess of 8 percent of their payroll costs.” But according to the Congressional Budget Office, net employer coverage will increase under the House bill and only “about 3 million people” who would otherwise be covered under employer plans “would not have an offer of coverage under” HR 3200. [The O'Reilly Factor, 9/9/09]
Rove falsely claimed Obama administration is pushing veterans toward “assisted suicide.” Rove claimed that the Veterans Health Administration is directing veterans to an end-of-life educational booklet, “Your Life, Your Choices,” that includes contact information for “a group that believes in assisted suicide,” and thus “the kind of guidance we're giving returning veterans” is “you ought to go to an assisted suicide group.” In fact, that group is not referenced in the current version of the document, a fact that Jim Towey -- who originated the smear of the booklet as a “death book” -- acknowledged in an interview on Fox News Sunday. [Hannity, 8/24/09]
Rove distorted Obama statement to suggest he is considering a “health care system like the European countries.” Rove wrote that, in 2008, the Obama campaign “ran ads attacking 'government-run health care' as 'extreme.' Now Mr. Obama is asking, as he did at a townhall meeting last month, 'Why not do a universal health care system like the European countries?' Maybe because he was elected by intimating that would be 'extreme'?” In fact, in the town hall remarks Rove quoted, Obama was paraphrasing the question he had just been asked -- “Why can we not have a universal health care system, like many European countries, where people are treated based on needs rather than financial resources?” -- before explaining why he opposed such a system. [Wall Street Journal, 4/30/09]
Peter Johnson Jr.: Speech was “partisan spectacle” with “scary” level of “anger and bitterness and outrage”
From the September 9 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
HANNITY: First of all, I want to say from the outset, the president sounds like he's talking out of both sides of his mouth. He gives a very partisan speech in Cincinnati, very partisan speech tonight.
You know, and by the way, they're going after you if you don't agree, you know, if you don't have the facts as he sees them. He rejects every reform the Republicans offer, and, you know, attacks Bush, attacks talk radio, attacks cable.
JOHNSON: Well, you know, he promised in the speech to replace acrimony with civility. And I was waiting for four words: “I hear you, America. I hear the town halls.” I didn't hear those words, “I hear you America.”
JOHNSON: So I was expecting a speech in which there was moral suasion. Instead there was a level of anger and bitterness and outrage --
HANNITY: I thought so, too.
JOHNSON: -- that was in some sense scary.
Johnson has previously fearmongered about health care reform
Johnson claimed health care reform is “the government deciding who will live, who will die.” Responding to a video in which Obama discussed reducing costs by providing information to doctors and patients about which treatments aren't “necessarily going to improve care,” Johnson stated: “President as social engineer. President as bioethicist. The government deciding who will live, who will die. You're too old. You're too young. ... Is that what this plan is about? To save money by killing old people? That's frightening. It's absolutely frightening.” [Fox & Friends, 6/25/09]
Johnson compared end-of-life counseling to "Brave New World, Solent Green, 1984." Johnson stated that “advance care planning consultation is kind of our 2009 Brave New World, Soylent Green, 1984, Aldous Huxley kind of world.” [Fox & Friends, 7/28/09]