Anger Keeps Coming at Latest Town Halls

(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
There were another batch of town hall forums Wednesday, and that meant another batch of protests from people on both sides of health care reform debate. Here's a roundup of what happened:

In Pennsylvania, Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter "was greeted with skepticism and jeers" – though there were no tense confrontations like the ones Specter has faced at other town halls, according to the Philadelphia Enquirer. The Democratic senator, who until recently was a Republican, was occasionally drowned out by protesters at his latest meeting, the newspaper reported. He told the skeptical audience that a public option would not lead to "socialism," despite their concerns, and vowed not to support a final bill that would increase the deficit.

(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Specter stressed Wednesday on CBS News' "The Early Show" and elsewhere that the most vocal town hall critics don't "represent all of America," though he said they deserve to be heard. "I don't criticize anybody who comes to these meetings, even if they give me hell," he said today. A CBS News/New York Times poll taken at the end of last month found that most Americans believe the nation's health care system needs major change support a government-sponsored health care option.

In Maryland, the Hill reports, Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin's "75-minute town hall, held in a conservative stronghold in the state, was peppered with boos, jeers and catcalls, though a minority of attendees who support health reform efforts made it a bit calmer than past events in Laurel and Towson."

"Cardin remained nonplussed throughout the forum, even as constituents sometimes yelled and screamed at him, drowning out his explanations," according to the Hill. Yelled one woman: "This government has lost faith and trust. You all are not getting it." Outside the forum, protesters held signs with slogans like "No Socialized Medicine," while inside Cardin said he was open to torn reform and said he disagreed with the protesters over the responsibility of government when it comes to health care.

In North Dakota, meanwhile, comments at a town hall meeting by Democratic Sen. Byron Dorgan at a town hall "prompted yelling and screaming in the crowd," according to the Grand Forks Herald. A woman who said a health care overhaul was necessary was booed in the packed hall, according to the Associated Press, while some speakers held up copies of the proposal now being considered in the House.

In Texas, Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee angered town hall attendees while speaking on the phone as a cancer survivor asked a question about health care, the Washington Post reports. As Jackson Lee kept the phone to her ear and mouth, one attendee called out, "She's not even listening," while another said, "Seriously? Really, I mean, come on. Dude."

Republicans quickly passed around the video of Jackson Lee staying on the phone during the question. The representative, who answered the woman's question after hanging up, said later that she had been on the phone with the House health care hotline to get answers to constituents' health care related questions.

According to the Houston Chronicle, the "rowdy" meeting included a moment in which someone yelled, "Who is against the public option of socialized medicine?" prompting many in the audience to raise their hands.

In Iowa, Republican Sen. Charles Grassley faced few disruptions at a town hall meeting where he said he opposed health insurance for illegal immigrants, the Associated Press reports. Town hall attendees have expressed concern about such a possibility, though it is not being proposed.

Grassley also said there should not be a government run plan "to decide when to pull the plug on grandma," echoing misrepresentations of an end of life counseling provision being pushed by those who oppose the current health care reform proposals.

In Oregon, KVAL reports, "So many people showed up for a town hall meeting on health care reform here Wednesday morning, Rep. Peter DeFazio took the meeting outside."

Most of the participants were reportedly respectful, with concerns being expressed about the speed with which the legislation was being drafted and what it will mean for government programs like Medicare and Medicaid. DeFazio, a Democrat, refused to take a position on any potential legislation since there was not yet a final version of a bill.

In Washington, meanwhile, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said "there's a tremendous amount of disinformation that's out there" that is prompting some of the town hall anger. He was asked if that "disinformation" imperiled the administration's health care reform efforts.

"Well, look, if the debate is dominated by something that's not true, of course," he said. "I don't think the president believes, though, that when all is said and done, that most people will make their decisions on something that is false and something that's been said is false."

Gibbs also castigated the media for focusing on the more raucous moments at the town hall meetings.

"Do I think some of you were disappointed yesterday that the president didn't get yelled at [at his New Hampshire town hall]? Sure," he said, responding to observations from reporters that many lawmakers have faced a more difficult reception at their town halls than the president did. "I don't think there's any doubt about that."

To read more:
Health Care Battle Pits Fact vs. Fiction

Who's Behind the Angry Town Halls?