Andrea Mitchell Hypes: Removal of Disabled Protesters a ‘Brutal Image for Republicans’

Throughout her 12 p.m. ET hour show on Thursday, MSNBC anchor Andrea Mitchell hyped an orchestrated left-wing protest outside Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office on Capitol Hill as spelling certain doom for any Republican attempt to repeal and replace ObamaCare.

Sensationalizing the “breaking news” at the top of the program, Mitchell breathlessly told viewers: “And on Capitol Hill, police are currently removing protesters in wheelchairs....pretty extraordinary, these pictures. We’ve had people being carried out by Capitol Police....It’s not their fault, but this is what they are being told by House leadership and Senate leadership to do.” She then proclaimed: “A brutal image for Republicans and supporters of this bill, frankly.”

The host only briefly noted that “The protesters are from a nonprofit group called ADAPT.” In reality, ADAPT is a left-wing activist group that routinely encourages its members to carry out acts of civil disobedience with the goal of being arrested and making headlines.

Moments later, while talking to Ted Kennedy Jr., a Connecticut state senator and son of the late-Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy, Mitchell saw an historical parallel:

I recall very early in my career, in 1989, when I was up there on the Hill, they passed catastrophic health insurance and then we had the extraordinary images of the head – the most powerful man on the Hill, arguably, Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski, getting hit with protesters banging on his – the roof of his car in Illinois, in Chicago, with canes back in 1989. And they ended up repealing a bill that had been passed. It had taken two years to pass it. They repealed that bill. The power of these kinds of images is not to be discounted in this kind of debate.

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Updating the story several minutes later, Mitchell fretted: “...more on the breaking news from Capitol Hill and that striking scene, at least 15 people with disability, advocates for the disabled, arrested outside Senate Majority Leader McConnell’s office. Taken out, carried out as part of their protest against the new health care bill, many of those protesters in wheelchairs.”

In yet another segment later in show, she warned: “And we’ve seen the way the President responds when he, you know, reacts to things that are personal....And this is going to get very personal. Let’s take a look at – we’ve seen some of the pictures from that protest of people in wheelchairs arrested.”

Turning to The Washington Post’s Robert Costa, Mitchell observed: “That’s the kind of image that, in my experience in the past, has led to Congress backing down from things.... when people, when activists get out there on the streets and show real pain.” Costa agreed: “The political imagery is going to have a place to play in this debate.”

Mitchell’s hour of bias was brought to viewers by GEICO, E-Trade, and Capital One.

Here are excerpts of the June 22 show:

12:06 PM ET

ANDREA MITCHELL: And on Capitol Hill, police are currently removing protesters in wheelchairs outside of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office. The protesters are from a nonprofit group called ADAPT. And it’s pretty extraordinary, these pictures. We’ve had people being carried out by Capitol Police, clearly they are under orders to clear the hallways. It’s not their fault, but this is what they are being told by House leadership and Senate leadership to do. And this is clearly outside of Senator Mitch McConnell’s offices. A brutal image for Republicans and supporters of this bill, frankly.

Joining me now is Connecticut State Senator Ted Kennedy Jr., who is the newly elected chairman of the board of the American Association of People With Disabilities. I know you’ve been active in it a long time.

TED KENNEDY JR.: I certainly have.

MITCHELL: Ted Kennedy, it’s good to see you.

KENNEDY: Thank you, Andrea. Well, thank you for having me on your show. And obviously what you’ve seen here on Capitol Hill is the reaction to people with disabilities. Millions of people with disabilities are very alarmed and upset about the current health care reform proposals now being forwarded by the Republicans because they eliminate a lot of the protections for people with disabilities and they cut Medicaid in a dramatic way that people with disabilities need to live their everyday lives.

(...)

12:09 AM ET

MITCHELL: Let me just say, having covered the House and the Senate, I recall very early in my career, in 1989, when I was up there on the Hill, they passed catastrophic health insurance and then we had the extraordinary images of the head – the most powerful man on the Hill, arguably, Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski, getting hit with protesters banging on his – the roof of his car in Illinois, in Chicago, with canes back in 1989. And they ended up repealing a bill that had been passed. It had taken two years to pass it. They repealed that bill. The power of these kinds of images is not to be discounted in this kind of debate.

KENNEDY: Well, I think that my friends and colleagues from ADAPT, which are clearly the organization that has sponsored these – this kind of resistance to these changes, we’re just going to see more and more of that as people realize that this isn’t just an issue that affects people with disabilities and their friends and their families, it affects every single American.

(...)

12:22 PM ET

MITCHELL: What is the impact of seeing people in wheelchairs being carried out of a Senate hallway by police on orders of Mitch McConnell?

ANDREW CARD: Those are terrible images. We don’t like any of them. We want something that’ll work. But the truth is, the Affordable Care Act is not working right now. So something has to happen to fix that and something has to be done to address the real needs that are across America.

(...)

12:36 PM ET

MITCHELL: And coming up, more on the breaking news from Capitol Hill and that striking scene, at least 15 people with disability, advocates for the disabled, arrested outside Senate Majority Leader McConnell’s office. Taken out, carried out as part of their protest against the new health care bill, many of those protesters in wheelchairs. They were told they were being taken under arrest by Capitol Police. That of course under orders from the senators. More reaction next coming up.

(...)

12:44 PM ET

MITCHELL: And we’ve seen the way the President responds when he, you know, reacts to things that are personal, where he sees people’s reactions. We saw that certainly with the way he reacted to the chemical weapons, which led to that attack. What he has been reportedly saying about Otto Warmbier, affecting North Korea policy. And this is going to get very personal. Let’s take a look at – we’ve seen some of the pictures from that protest of people in wheelchairs arrested. Now we have, I believe, some of them talking after they were taken out.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: The Senate and the House are trying to put us, the people with disabilities, into a situation where we will end up in nursing homes where we will die.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN B: No cuts to Medicaid. But we better win this.

MITCHELL: That’s the kind of image that, in my experience in the past, has led to Congress backing down from things, including catastrophic health care and other legislation that had already passed, was repealed, when people, when activists get out there on the streets and show real pain.

ROBERT COSTA: The political imagery is going to have a place to play in this debate. What frustrates many Republican senators who support this legislation is they believe the GOP has not made an articulate argument about what they’re actually trying to do in phasing out the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. It’s being framed in the public debate – they're frustrated, they tell me – because it’s framed as sweeping Medicaid cuts. And they believe that if that’s going to be how this bill is tagged in the public’s imagination, then they’re going to lose political points and it may not even pass the Senate.

(...)

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