The woman who caused the White House to start asking people to report information on the Web about “health insurance reform that seems fishy” doesn’t think she has done anything wrong.
Linda Douglass, communications director for the White House Office of Health Reform, issued a rare video response to a popular Internet video of then-presidential candidate Barack Obama discussing how a public health care option could lead to the elimination of private insurers at health care forum sponsored by the Service Employees International Union in 2007.
The Internet video contrasted those remarks with current promises from Mr. Obama that his favored health care reforms, including the public option, would not eliminate private insurers, an obvious contradiction.
The White House said the video amounted to “disinformation” and posted a solicitation on its official blog asking for people to “report” those spreading the objectionable content to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pam Key, a children’s book illustrator who created the video, said the offensive attack from the White House was “frightening.”
She originally founded Naked Emperor News, a site where she posts her videos, as a riff on the old children’s tale about the emperor with no clothes. She told The Washington Times that it became a place to archive videos after she read Mr. Obama’s first book, “Dreams From My Father,” and found all the “completely and totally radical stuff in there.”
She made waves during the presidential campaign by digging up a 2001 audio of Mr. Obama talking about the redistribution of wealth with a Chicago radio station and posting it to YouTube. The book illustrator’s online video archive of “Greatest Hits” includes audio of Mr. Obama discussing his opposition to the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, legislation to protect babies who survived abortion.
“I’m not a blogger and I’m not an opinionater,” Ms. Key told The Times. “I only do video. All I’m doing is putting out there things that already exist and those who are essentially attacking it are attacking evidence by making it personal. I’m surprised the White House would even bother.”
When asked whether she was intimidated by the pushback, she laughed. “I just put it in God’s hands. For some reason, I find this stuff and other people can’t. I’m not seeking any publicity; I’m just doing what I think is important and I’m not going to be scared of anything.”
Breaking the law?
The White House doesn’t want anyone thinking it’s keeping track of people who spread “disinformation” about health insurance reform on the Internet, an act one prominent conservative blogger says would be illegal.
“There is a lot of misinformation about health insurance reform circulating on the Internet and elsewhere. Some of it is intentionally misleading,” said White House spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki. “We want to be sure people have the facts. … We are not compiling lists or sources of information. We may post fact checks from time to time to be sure Americans know the truth about health insurance reform.
However, RedState founder Erick Erickson said that “given the near certainty that no one will be stripping from e-mails the names of the people forwarding on the information, the White House is most likely engaged in illegal activity.”
He points to a section of the U.S. Code titled “Records maintained on individuals” that says government agencies, including the executive branch, may “maintain no record describing how any individual exercises rights guaranteed by the First Amendment unless expressly authorized by statute or by the individual about whom the record is maintained unless pertinent to and within the scope of authorized law enforcement activity.”
Mr. Erickson went on to caution that “the White House may take the position that certain of its offices arent subject to the Privacy Act (that is a longstanding Office of Legal Counsel position …) but most presidents instruct their staffs to comply. This will be the first significant time the White House has ignored the Privacy Act and may open President Obama up to litigation.”
Too well dressed
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs isn’t the only one suspicious of the fancy clothes those who oppose President Obama’s health care reform plan wear. In an off-camera session with reporters Tuesday, he said they were the same members of the “Brooks Brothers brigade” who worked the ground in Florida for the Republican Party during the 2000 presidential recount.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat, said the angry constituents she’s seen fighting the plan looked too nice to be real.
“I saw some of the clips of people storming these town hall meetings,” she told MSNBC on Tuesday morning. “The last time I saw well-dressed people doing this was when Al Gore asked me to go down to Florida when they were recounting the ballots and I was confronted with the same type of people.”
• Amanda Carpenter can be reached at acarpenter @washingtontimes.com.