"The stupidity of the American voter"

In this May 12, 2009, photo Jonathan Gruber, professor of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, participates in a Capitol Hill hearing on the overhaul of the heath care system in Washington.

AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

A new controversy is stirring over the Affordable Care Act, and this time it has nothing to do with the website.

One of the architects of the health care law was caught on camera saying the bill was written specifically so as not to be viewed as a tax. He then goes on to call American voters stupid, reports CBS News correspondent Jan Crawford.

He was one of the most senior advisers helping to create the health care law, and that's why people could not believe he said this:

"Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage, and basically, you know, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical to getting the thing to pass," Jonathan Gruber said at the Annual Health Economics Conference.

Gruber was a key player in developing the law, and those remarks weren't the only time an Obama adviser suggested the administration had pulled a fast one with the law.

"They proposed it and that passed because the American voters are too stupid to understand the difference," he said.

The New York Times, in a glowing 2012 profile, said he not only "...put together the basic principles of the proposal..." but helped Congress, "...draft the specifics off the legislation."

As a consultant, the government paid Gruber -- an MIT economics professor -- nearly $400,000 for that work.

His comments, in lectures more than a year ago, have added to critics' continuing distrust of the law and the administration.

"The architect flat out saying they had to lie -- and he's joking about it with his fellow economics buddies," Rush Limbaugh said on his show.

Gruber is now apologizing and backing off those remarks.

"I was speaking off the cuff and I basically spoke inappropriately and I regret having made those comments," Gruber said on MSNBC.

Put on the defensive once again, the administration and its allies say Gruber's remarks weren't just inappropriate, but wrong.

"Every single time this issue came up it was, 'how do we explain things so that people can better understand them?' Former Obama health care adviser David Cutler said. "Not 'how do we hide them?' Not anything about hoodwinking."

But skeptics say this is a defining moment that confirms their suspicions.

"What you hear Jonathan Gruber saying in that video is exactly that, that 'yeah, we made false promises that we took advantage of the stupidity of the American people in order to get this law passed and we're happy that we did,'" Former Mitt Romney health care adviser Avik Roy said.

Gruber's comments surfaced only when a Philadelphia man, dubious about the law, found the videos online after digging around the internet. The whole controversy took off from there.