During a segment on Tuesday’s Newsroom program, CNN anchor Rick Sanchez and correspondent Ali Velshi bizarrely agreed that the issues of illegal immigration and abortion, as well as the constitutionality of the ObamaCare proposal, had little to do the health care debate, after citizens raised those issues at a health care town hall with Senator Arlen Specter.
Sanchez led the 3 pm Eastern hour of the CNN program with his questioning of the relevance of the abortion and Constitution issues to the health care debate, interspersed with clips from the Specter town hall: “A town hall meeting to discuss health care reform. But instead....children....the Constitution....the Gettysburg Address?...Overwhelmingly Republican and overwhelmingly anti-Obama....Which party is being helped or hurt by this?” The first sound bite was of an unidentified participant who brought up the illegal immigrant issue, and stated “the illegals- they shouldn’t even be here.” The second clip was from another participant who brought up the abortion issue: “While that baby is in the mother, we don’t count that as a person.” The last clip came from someone who quoted from Lincoln’s most famous speech.
The CNN anchor then began the first segment by playing more complete sound bites from the Specter town hall. As he introduced the clips, Sanchez hinted that the only reason why the illegal immigrant and abortion issues were raised at the Specter town hall was because they were “wedge issues.” Out of the five clips, only one came from a participant who brought up an issue that was completely unrelated to the ObamaCare proposal- the planned closure of Guantanamo Bay.
SANCHEZ: ...What I want to do is- is give you a sense of what’s transpired in these health care debates today. Now, I want to tell you about the two town hall meetings that have taken place- stay with me here- one with President Obama, the other held by Senator Arlen Specter. One is civil; one is raucous. Now, as you prepare to watch this, consider this. If you want to rile up a certain crowd and get them to be against something- no matter what it is, anything, just get them to be against something- just tell them it’s pro-same-sex marriage, or pro-illegal immigrant or pro-terrorists. Even if none of that is true, that’s why they’re called wedge issues. Now, listen to this town hall meeting with Senator Arlen Specter and ask yourself what much of this has to do about health care?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE 3: I do not want to pay on a health care plan that includes the right for a woman to kill her unborn baby. (audience applause) Is it true that this plan is in the health care bill?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE 1: I believe the polls show that most people are happy with their health care. There’s a few problems- the illegals. They shouldn’t even be here, let alone (unintelligible, as audience cheers and applauds). I would ask Congress to do something to send them home, so we don’t have to deal with that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE 5: You know what the bill does say? And I can cite the page and the number- there will be no health care until you are born. While that baby is in the mother, we don’t count that as a person.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE 6: What about this Guantanamo closure? I don’t want these criminals to come over into- here into our area and escape and find- we find that a bunch of innocent people have been murdered. And that’s what’s going to happen. Did you ever read the Koran, senator?
SENATOR ARLEN SPECTER: The Koran?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE 6: The Koran.
SPECTER: Now, wait a minute. Now, wait a minute. Now, wait a minute. Now, wait a minute. Wait- wait a minute, wait a minute.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE 4: (unintelligible) I have every right to leave.
SPECTER: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Wait a minute. He has a right to leave. He’s right. He has- wait a minute. Wait a minute. Wait a minute! Wait a minute. You want to leave? Leave.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE 4: I am going to speak my mind before I leave, because your people told me I could. I called your office and I was told I could have the mike to speak. And then, I was lied to because I came prepared to speak, and instead, you wouldn’t let anybody speak. You handed us what- 30 cards? Well, I got news for you- that you and your cronies in the government do this kind of stuff all the time. Well, I don’t care. (audience applause) I don’t care how damned crooked you are. I’m not a lobbyist with all kind of money to stuff in your pocket so that you can cheat the- the citizens of this country, so I’ll leave and you can do whatever the hell you please to do. One day, God’s going to stand before you and he is going to judge you and the rest of your damn cronies up on the Hill. (audience cheers and applause) And then, you will get your just desserts.
Sanchez then turned to Velshi, who was on assignment in Kentucky, and asked, “How much- were you as puzzled by- [as] I was listening to these town hall forums today and noticing that so much of the debate was not about health care?” Velsi made it clear by his answer (before he was cut short by technical difficulties) that he agreed with Sanchez.
VELSHI: Listen, I’m troubled by this because- yeah, this is just such an important debate. It’s such an important thing for Americans to talk about, whether or not you are in favor of health care reform. What troubles me is that I listened to that entire press conference- the entire town hall, and then the one with the president. Certainly, that one with Arlen Specter was 70 percent or 80 percent about things that had nothing to do with health care, and the anger and the vitriol. I’m doing something very different here. We’ve been driving from Atlanta. We’re on our way to Iowa. We’re in Kentucky right now. We are having some very interesting discussions with people, and we’re finding the same things. There are real concerns about the cost, about the quality of health care, whether people’s choices are being taken away-
Near the end of the hour, during an interview of former ABC correspondent and current Obama administration communications director Linda Douglass, Sanchez claimed that “there’s no evidence, as we’ve found out, that there’s any plans to make the government or make all Americans pay for abortions in the plan,” and asked her what was the administration’s “strategy for dealing with those falsities?”
That’s patently false, Mr. Sanchez. The Associated Press, which is no right-wing press outlet, reported on August 5 that “health care legislation before Congress would allow a new government-sponsored insurance plan to cover abortions, a decision that would affect millions of women and recast federal policy on the divisive issue.” That detail is the main reason why the abortion issue has been thrust into the health care debate.
The illegal immigrant issue is equally relevant, as hospitals are bearing the burden of having to treat them in their emergency rooms, something the New York Times reported on as far back as 2002. But don’t let those details get in the way of either Sanchez or Velshi.