For a day with no public events, Tuesday was a pretty wild day at the White House. Robert Gibbs’ statement Tuesday morning that angry protests against the Obama health care reform plans were “manufactured” (transcript here) set off a charged debate about the authenticity of grassroots opposition.
Gibbs made his “manufactured” comment at an off-camera morning gaggle with reporters in his office. Later in the day, at the on-camera briefing, ABC’s Jake Tapper asked Gibbs if it was “the White House contention that the anger that some members of Congress are experiencing at town hall meetings, especially over health care reform, is manufactured?”
“I think some of it is, yes. In fact, I think you’ve had groups today, Conservatives for Patients’ Rights that have bragged about organizing and manufacturing that anger,” Gibbs said.
“How is their organizing and getting people to come to town hall meetings and express their feelings any different from a liberal group doing the same thing?” Tapper asked Gibbs.
This is something we touch on in our final piece of the day, which you can read here.
Gibbs responded to Tapper: “Well, I think what you’ve seen is they have bragged about manufacturing to some degree that anger. I think you’ve got somebody who’s very involved, a leader of that group that’s very involved in the status quo, a CEO that used to run a health care company that was fined by the federal government $1.7 billion for fraud. I think that’s a lot of what you need to know about the motives of that group.”
When it came to my turn to ask Gibbs a question, I followed up on this. Here’s a transcript:
Q I just wanted to clarify the manufactured outrage issue, because this morning you said it was pretty — just manufactured outrage, full stop. And then when Jake asked you about it, you said that some of it is manufactured. So —
MR. GIBBS: Well, look, I — well, go ahead, ask your question.
Q Well, I mean there’s a difference between — or maybe there’s different levels of orchestration or manufacturing, because if they’re busing people in and planting people at these rallies, that’s one level. And if they’re posting a list on their Web site, a D.C. organization, and people from that area are going to the rally, that’s orchestrated to a degree, but it’s far more authentic in an organic sense. So what do you guys think is happening here?
MR. GIBBS: Look, I don’t doubt that there are people that come to ask their members of Congress honest questions about the direction of the country. I also have no doubt that there are groups that have spread out people across the country to go to these things and to specifically generate videos that can be posted on Internet sites, so that people can watch what’s happening in America.
Q But you’re not calling all of this emotion on the videos that were — you’re not saying that all of it is feigned or —
MR. GIBBS: No, no, no, I’m not calling all of it. I think there is no doubt that there’s some of it. I think some of it is genuine, I think some of it — I think we’ve all seen videos over the past couple of days that leave you somewhat speechless.
Q And are you — what is the White House doing to counter this effort?
MR. GIBBS: Well, look, most of all, I think the President would tell any of his friends or supporters that go to town hall meetings that first and foremost we can disagree — as you heard him say, we can disagree without being disagreeable, and that we can have a debate in this country that affords those that disagree with us the respect that each and every one of them deserve.
Also, the Democratic National Committee put out a statement late in the day that I wanted to post here in its entirety. It is a strikingly strong statement that leaves no room about the “level of orchestration” that they are alleging.
Statement from DNC Communications Director Brad Woodhouse on the Republican Party and Allied Groups’ Mob Rule
The Republicans and their allied groups - desperate after losing two consecutive elections and every major policy fight on Capitol Hill - are inciting angry mobs of a small number of rabid right wing extremists funded by K Street Lobbyists to disrupt thoughtful discussions about the future of health care in America taking place in Congressional Districts across the country.
However, much like we saw at the McCain-Palin rallies last year where crowds were baited with cries of ‘socialist,’ ‘communist,’ and where the birthers movement was born – these mobs of extremists are not interested in having a thoughtful discussion about the issues – but like some Republican leaders have said - they are interested in ‘breaking’ the President and destroying his Presidency.
These mobs are bussed in by well funded, highly organized groups run by Republican operatives and funded by the special interests who are desperately trying to stop the agenda for change the President was elected to bring to Washington. Despite the headline grabbing nature of these angry mobs and their disruptions of events, they are not reflective of where the American people are on the issues – or the hundreds of thousands of thoughtful discussions taking place around kitchen tables, water coolers and in homes.
The right wing extremists’ use of things like devil horns on pictures of our elected officials, hanging members of Congress in effigy, breathlessly questioning the President’s citizenship and the use of Nazi SS symbols and the like just shows how outside of the mainstream the Republican Party and their allies are. This type of anger and discord did not serve Republicans well in 2008 – and it is bound to backfire again.
— Jon Ward, White House reporter, The Washington Times