On Fox News' Hannity, contributor Tucker Carlson called the idea that “town hall meetings are somehow being infiltrated by industry, opponents to the plan, and their shills, basically, working on behalf of trade groups” a “conspiracy theory” and “absurd,” and agreed with host Sean Hannity that the protests are “organic.” However, both Carlson and Hannity ignored evidence that insurance companies and other conservative groups are sending people to town halls to “rebut” the White House and Democratic leaders.
From the August 14 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
CARLSON: Well, the conspiracy theories that arise are the ones that amuse me most. There are two. One, that this is all -- these town hall meetings are somehow being infiltrated by industry, opponents to the plan, and their shills, basically, working on behalf of trade groups -- most of which actually support the plan or have remained mum on it. So that's absurd.
Or, it's the Republican Party, which all of a sudden has become incredibly organized. A party that couldn't organize my eighth-grader's birthday party all of a sudden is able to, you know, rally these unseen forces to derail the health care plan. I mean, it's absurd. This is a real grassroots movement.
HANNITY: It's organic.
CARLSON: Yes it is.
HANNITY: This is real.
Insurance industry groups are reportedly sending employees to protests
Health industry's main lobby 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. [The health insurance industry lobbying group] 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.”
Conservative organizations -- several of which receive funding from industry groups -- are also organizing protests
Washington Post: Loose network of activists drives reform opposition. On August 16, The Washington Post reported:
The rowdy protests that threaten President Obama's health-care reform efforts have been spurred on by a loose network of activists -- from veteran advocacy groups with millions of dollars in funding to casual alliances of like-minded conservatives unhappy over issues from taxes to deficits to environmental laws.
Several of the biggest efforts are led by established veterans in the conservative movement, whose organizations receive heavy funding from industry groups and sympathetic billionaires. [Washington Post, 8/16/09]
There is an organized effort by conservative groups to pack town halls. As Media Matters for America has noted, conservative organizations opposed to the bill, such as FreedomWorks, Americans for Prosperity, and Conservatives for Patients' Rights (CPR), are conducting a campaign to turn out their supporters to attend those events, with the support of conservative media figures and outlets such as Rush Limbaugh, the Fox Nation, Lou Dobbs, and several Fox News media figures. 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]