NPR Touts Protest of 200 ObamaCare Supporters in Deep-Red Texas

On Monday, NPR promoted a demonstration of 200 ObamaCare supporters, who gathered in a county in Texas where President Donald Trump almost got 80 percent of the popular vote. Despite this statistic, the public radio outlet couldn't find any conservatives for their report on All Things Considered. All but one of the sound bites during the segment came from ObamaCare backers. The remaing clip came from a libertarian, who watched the demonstration from his workplace.

Host Robert Siegel led into Texas Public Radio correspondent Wendy Rigby's report by noting that "politicians in Texas have been opposed to the Affordable Care Act since the beginning....But a University of Texas and Texas Tribune poll this month shows that while ObamaCare is unpopular, so is GOP legislation to replace it. And this weekend, some took to the streets to voice their opposition to GOP plans."

Rigby first underlined that "this is one of the least-likely places you'd expect to see a political rally — Fredericksburg, Texas — an upscale, touristy retirement town of 10,000 people in the Texas Hill Country. It's rural, beautiful — a haven for fishing and camping — well known for its fresh peaches."

The NPR journalist featured two snippets from a musical group that called itself "The Impeaches" — hinting at the deeply anti-Trump nature of the rally. She followed with two clips from senior citizens who participated in the protest, and spotlighted how many "waved handmade signs with provocative messages. One senior's note read, 'Now you've pissed off grandma.'"

After playing a clip from a demonstrator in her twenties, Rigby included her sole sound bite from an ObamaCare opponent, "self-described libertarian Dean Osteen [who] says he doesn't qualify for a subsidy and can't afford Obamacare; so he just pays the tax penalty. He's in favor of repealing and replacing the law to get coverage he can afford."

Later in her report, the correspondent turned to two more talking heads. The first was a member of the "local Democratic club" who bemoaned how "the Senate committee who came up with this latest [health care] plan behind closed doors was composed of only men." The other labeled the Republican proposal "an abomination."

The full transcript of Wendy Rigby's report from NPR's All Things Considered, which aired on June 26, 2017:

ROBERT SIEGEL: Politicians in Texas have been opposed to the Affordable Care Act since the beginning. Repealing and replacing the law has been a rallying cry for them for years. But a University of Texas and Texas Tribune poll this month shows that while ObamaCare is unpopular, so is GOP legislation to replace it. And this weekend, some took to the streets to voice their opposition to GOP plans.

Wendy Rigby from Texas Public Radio reports. (clip of protesters chanting, "The people united will never be divided!")

WENDY RIGBY: This is one of the least-likely places you'd expect to see a political rally — Fredericksburg, Texas — an upscale, touristy retirement town of 10,000 people in the Texas Hill Country. It's rural, beautiful — a haven for fishing and camping — well known for its fresh peaches.

"THE IMPEACHES" (singing): Donald Trump dump. Donald Trump—

RIGBY: This weekend, a choir called The Impeaches took center stage at the main square.

"THE IMPEACHES" (singing): You've got to know how to listen to a lady.

RIGBY: The vocal crowd of about 200 was a mix of men and women, old and young — all gathered against the Republican plan to change the ACA — one of them: 73-year-old Jane Crone.

JANE CRONE: We just have to make our voices heard, and get the message out that what's going on with our legislation right now is not to the best interest of the majority of the Americans.

RIGBY: They waved handmade signs with provocative messages. One senior's note read, 'Now you've pissed off grandma.' The bill's cuts to Medicaid threaten the 65 percent of people in nursing homes who are supported by Medicaid. (clip of protesters chanting 'TrumpCare, don't care; TrumpCare, don't care.')

J.B. Chimene, a senior from Johnson City near Austin, says the proposed bill puts American health care in rewind.

J B CHIMENE: Cuts to Medicaid; the cuts to kids; the cuts to seniors — we really need to put more people under health care, not fewer.

RIGBY: Lily Beaumont was one of the youngest participants. She's in her 20s. She is one of the 1.2 million Texans who get insurance through the exchange.

LILY BEAUMONT: I get my insurance through the free market. I'm a freelance writer, so I'm very concerned about losing it.

RIGBY: At a Western wear store just across the street from the rally, an employee muses about the gathering. Self-described libertarian Dean Osteen says he doesn't qualify for a subsidy and can't afford Obamacare; so he just pays the tax penalty. He's in favor of repealing and replacing the law to get coverage he can afford.

DEAN OSTEEN: I'm not that familiar with the Republican plan, but I am in favor of some sort of change. I would like to have health care at some point again.

RIGBY: Texas has the highest uninsured rate in the country. The state didn't expand Medicaid, and the rate of people who get coverage from their employer is lower than the national average. But a June poll showed both ObamaCare and the House version of the health care bill were unpopular.

SUSAN CURTIS: There's a lot more of us than you think.

RIGBY: That's Susan Curtis from the local Democratic club, who says she was disappointed the Senate committee who came up with this latest plan behind closed doors was composed of only men.

CURTIS: I would have liked to have seen some of the women in the Senate included in this.

RIGBY: Marching with Curtis was Joyce Humble, who was opposed to the deep reductions for federal funding for Medicaid. Texas's senator, [Ted] Cruz, says he's against the bill as of now; while Texas Senator [John] Cornyn supports it.

What would you say to Senators Cruz and Cornyn?

JOYCE HUMBLE: I would say that this bill is an abomination. It is going to impact all of us out here in the Hill Country. For the people in nursing homes, disabled children, disabled adults — I mean, what's going to happen to those people?

RIGBY: The Senate is scheduled to vote later this week. For NPR News, I'm Wendy Rigby in Fredericksburg, Texas.

SIEGEL: And that story is part of a reporting partnership of NPR, Texas Public Radio, and Kaiser Health News.


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