Chelsea Schilling is a commentary editor and staff writer for WND and a proud U.S. Army veteran. She has also worked as a news producer at USA Radio Network and as a news reporter for the Sacramento Union.More ↓Less ↑
In town hall meetings billed as opportunities for Americans to ask health care questions of an “open” and “transparent” administration, the White House may be selecting President Obama’s own supporters to ask non-compromising questions.
The White House insists that attendees are selected at random, but a closer look reveals many questioners range from Obama campaign donors and Organizing for America volunteers to single-payer health care lobbyists and Service Employees International Union members.
Medicare backer and a 6th grader
Julia Hall reads question to President Obama question from small paper
The blogosphere is still on fire with stories about possible “plants” at an Aug. 11 Portsmouth, N.H., health care town hall.
An adoring audience member shouted, “We love you!”
“I love you back!” Obama declared.
After the president’s speech, members of the audience chanted, “Yes we can! Yes we can! Yes we can!”
Just before taking questions from the attendees, Obama said, “If you have a question just raise your hand. There are people with microphones in the audience. I am going to try to go girl-boy-girl-boy, to make sure it’s fair.”
The first audience member to ask a question was Peter Schmidt, a state representative from Dover who championed his “wonderful government-run health care plan called Medicare.”
“I like it. It’s affordable, it’s reasonable, nobody tells me what I need to do,” he said. “I just go to my doctor at the hospital, I get care.”
Schmidt later told New Hampshire’s WMUR 9 that a friend applied for and won tickets to the event from a White House website. He said his friend couldn’t go to the town hall and gave Schmidt the seat.
According to the report, the state Democratic Party said approximately 1,500 people received tickets. The White House claims attendees are randomly chosen by a computer. Nearly 300 other people received invitations.
Next, an 11-year-old girl named Julia Hall took the microphone and read her question to Obama from a small piece of paper.
The young Malden, Mass., resident said, “As I was walking in, I saw a lot of signs outside saying mean things about reforming health care. How do kids know what is true, and why do people want a new system that can – that help more of us?”
Obama took the opportunity to address what he referred to as an “underlying fear that people somehow won’t get the care they need.”
Kathleen Manning Hall with Obama in Facebook photo
Kathleen Manning Hall, Julia’s mother, was seated next to her daughter during the exchange. She, too, won tickets from the White House, according to WMUR.
Kathleen was an early Obama supporter and donor in Massachusetts during the presidential election, the Boston Globe reported. She had previously met Michelle Obama, the Obama daughters and Vice President Joe Biden.
Kathleen Hall’s Facebook page includes high profile friends such as: Democrat Martha Coakley, Massachusetts attorney general; Adam Parkhomenko, former aide to Hillary Clinton; Addisu Demissie, national political director of Organizing for America and former Ohio Get out The Vote director of Obama for America; Adrienne Elrod, chief of staff to Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif.; Huffington Post blogger Alan Rosenblatt, associate director for online advocacy at the Center for American Progress; and Alayna Van Tassel, budget and policy director for Massachusetts Sen. Pat Jehlen.
Julia’s mother claimed she was surprised when her daughter said she wanted to ask a question. They wrote it down beforehand, and Obama later called on her.
Organizing for America volunteer
At a July 1 Annandale, Va., town hall, a woman who claimed to have kidney cancer fought back tears as she explained her trouble obtaining insurance and keeping a job.
He referred to her as “exhibit A” in a weak health care system that is too costly and complex for Americans.
“We are going to try to find ways to help you immediately,” Obama told Smith
However, Smith never mentioned that she is a volunteer for Organizing for America, Obama’s political operation within the Democratic National Committee. USA Today revealed that she received her ticket to the event from the White House.
“The questions posed from social media networks were selected by White House staffers, and the three people he called on from the audience all were affiliated with advocacy groups that support Obama,” the newspaper reported. “Smith said the White House invited her to attend after she had spoken at events for Organizing for America, an Obama grass-roots operation at the Democratic National Committee. Another questioner said he worked for Health Care for America Now, and the third identified herself as a member of the Service Employees International Union.”
Lobbyist for single-payer health care
After one breast cancer survivor complained that her family is drowning in medical bills, Obama took questions from the audience at a June 11 health care town hall in Green Bay, Wis. For what appeared to be an unprompted question, one woman in the audience, Paulette Garin, took the microphone. CNN identified the woman simply as a town hall attendee and misspelled her last name as “Guerin.”
The following is a CNN report on the event:
However, Newsbusters revealed the unassuming middle-aged woman wearing a flowery knit sweater and glasses was no ordinary concerned citizen.
Paulette Garin poses question to Obama about health care
Garin was a recent Democrat candidate for Wisconsin’s 1st congressional district. She is also a district coordinator for the Leadership Conference for Guaranteed Health Care, a national lobbyist organization for single payer health care, and Wisconsin state coordinator for the Progressive Democrats of America.
Just five days earlier, Garin was also a featured speaker at an Organizing for America event in Elkhorn, Wis., where she promoted government health care. In the following video, Garin can be seen making her presentation:
He said he was invited by the White House to attend the event.
“I got a call from this woman who has been working with me for the pledge drive,” he told the Post referring to the Organizing for America drive to lobby for Obama’s budget proposal. “You know, we’re trying to get support out for the president’s agenda.”
2. “Sir, I’m Tom Sawner,” the next town hall attendee said. “I’m a service-disabled veteran, small-business owner in Arlington, Va. My company, Educational Options, works with public schools.”
FEC records reveal that Sawner donated $250 to the Obama campaign on Oct. 27,2008 and an additional $2,750 to Virginia Democrats. According to the Post, he also served as an adviser on Obama’s educational platform committee.
Carlos Del Toro
3. Another town hall attendee identified himself: “My name is Carlos Del Toro. I served in the Navy for 26 years, retired four years ago, and started a small business.”
4. Next, a woman introduced herself: “My name is Linda Bock and I’m a registered nurse just in Prince George’s County, Md. – been there 34 years at a free senior health center. And I’m here with my fellow nurses from SEIU.”
Bock’s chapter of the Service Employees International Union endorsed Obama, and she helped campaign and canvass for him.
She told the Post she was invited to the event through the Nurse Alliance Leadership Council.
5. A woman named Bonnee Breese stood and said, “Hi, Mr. President. Thank you so very much for having me, a public school teacher from Philadelphia, Pa., here to be with you.”
Breese was a member of Facebook’s Pennsylvania for Obama page. Asked by the Post if she is an Obama supporter, she replied, “Of course!”
Known for being “politically engaged,” Breese accepted her invitation to the town hall from the American Federation of Teachers union. She sits on the executive board of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, Local 3.
That’s ‘Doctor’ to you
Obama’s town halls aren’t the only places alleged “plants” may be appearing.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, hosted a Houston town hall forum on Aug. 11. A supporter of federal health “reform,” Roxana Mayer, identified herself as a “general practitioner” who has been practicing for four years.
Jackson Lee encouraged applause for Mayer and hugged her.
“I don’t know what there is in the bill that creates such a panic,” Mayer later told the Houston Chronicle.
But a blog called Patterico’s Pontifications revealed that Mayer had lied about her occupation. Her name was not listed in the AMA Doctor Finder or with the Texas Medical Association. Instead, the blogger discovered that a Roxana Mayer is listed as a graduate student at the University of Houston. A woman by the same name is pursuing a master’s degree in social work.
Mayer later confirmed to the Houston Chronicle that she is not a doctor.
“I’ve been advised to refrain from making any further statements,” she said.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs insisted that audience members had been selected randomly for town halls at a July 1 daily press briefing. Reporters grilled him on “prepackaged” town hall meetings where the White House allegedly screened and choreographed which questions would be asked. CBS’ Helen Thomas accused the White House of “controlling the press” and not “having any answers.” The following is a video of the exchange:
Gibbs addressed the subject again on Aug. 12, applauding the polite nature of the recent town hall.
“People want to take the opportunity to find out from the president – to have him answer their questions about why he’s doing what he’s doing and the concerns they may have on the legislation,” Gibbs said at the daily briefing. “I think most people took that opportunity as something that was positive.
“I think some of you were disappointed yesterday that the president didn’t get yelled at,” Gibbs told reporters.
“The president wanted to have – what I think what happened – which was a rational discussion about health care reform legislation. I think that’s what ensued. Did everybody agree? I think the answer to that is obviously no.”
In a Fox News interview, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele addressed Gibbs’ statements.
“You’ve got the president, who has a town hall meeting, and we applaud him for that,” Steele said. “Then Gibbs comes out and talks about how peaceful and respectful it was. Yeah, it’s great when you stack the room.”
Recruiting and busing Obamacare activists
According to New Hampshire’s DMUR 9 News, Obama health care supporters are being driven to town hall meetings by the busload:
As WND reported, amid accusations of insurance companies and the Republican Party deploying “Astroturf mobs” of health reform opponents, help wanted ads are appearing on Craigslist that offer to pay citizens between $9 and $16 an hour to lobby for the passage of Obama’s health care. One Sacramento Craig’s List ad declares, “Help pass Obama’s health care reform! Earn $325-$550 per week!”
Another Craigslist ad in San Francisco invited prospective applicants to “join motivated staff around the country working to make change happen.”
The same ad ran in the Craigslist Washington, D.C., section. Similar ads were posted in Minneapolis, Minn., and Columbus, Ohio, sections.
Organizing for America is also calling on Obama supporters to show up at local representatives’ offices to show support for health reform.
“As you’ve probably seen in the news, special interest attack groups are stirring up partisan mobs with lies about health reform, and it’s getting ugly,” a letter from Organizing for America states. “Across the country, members of Congress who support reform are being shouted down, physically assaulted, hung in effigy, and receiving death threats. We can’t let extremists hijack this debate, or confuse Congress about where the people stand.”
The group even offers to provide “information to drop off about how the health care crisis affects your state (with the option of adding your personal story)” and “a step-by-step guide” for pushing health “reform” at district offices.
Lawmakers face angry voters
Sen. Specter warns angry citizen he will be forced to leave while attendee tries to physically direct him out the door
As WND reported, legislators coming to their home districts in attempt to sell the health care plan to constituents are being met with fierce opposition and huge crowds.
Now, some lawmakers are taking extra precautions or refusing to host in-person town halls. Rep. Gene Green, D-Texas, is now requiring photo identification to ensure only his own constituents may attend his town hall meetings. He told The Hill he’s requiring photo IDs to prevent a “coordinated effort to disrupt our town hall meetings.”
Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Tex, is refusing to host a town hall meeting.
Instead, he took health care calls during an appearance on a local
radio show. He told the El Paso Times, “I’m not going to give people a
stage to perform.”
Likewise, Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., told the Peninsula Daily News he will not host traditional town hall forums. Instead, he has opted to attend an RSVP-only health care event organized by the local Democratic Party.
The following list contains several recent examples of citizens voicing their concerns about federal health “reform” to lawmakers:
In Mehlville, Mo., protesters lined up around the block of the Bernard Middle School gym where Rep. Russ Carnahan, D-Mo., had planned a public forum. When hundreds were left standing on the street, they remained outside into the evening. Eventually, a union representative reportedly assaulted one of the protesters, Kenneth Gladney, which lead to six arrests, including a St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter. Gladney later appeared in an interview on the Fox News Channel explaining the attack, which drew national attention.
A video posted on YouTube, one of many from around the country, reportedly shows several hundreds standing outside in a stunningly long line, waiting to get into a packed town hall meeting on health care with Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga. At least 500 citizens showed up in an auditorium while between 1,000
and 1,500 watched the discussion on closed circuit television screens
in the gymnasium.
At a health care town hall event in Syracuse, N.Y., in July, police were called in to restore order, and at least one heckler was taken away by local police.
Close to 100 sign-carrying protesters greeted Rep. Allen Boyd, D-Fla., at a late June community college small-business development forum in Panama City, Fla.
Danville, Va., anti-tax tea party activists claimed they were “refused an opportunity” to ask Rep. Thomas Perriello, D-Va., a question at a town hall event and instructed by a plainclothes police officer to leave the property after they attempted to hold up protest signs.
The constituents of Rep. John Tanner, D-Tenn., unable to access their representative through a town hall meeting, created a video charging that Tanner has met with Michael Moore and Fidel Castro, “But he won’t meet his constituents in the 8th District to talk about health care.”
Rep. Kathy Castor’s Aug. 6 town hall meeting in Tampa, Fla., ended
abruptly after 1,500 citizens attempted to enter an event intended to
hold approximately 250 people. Castor left 15 minutes into the meeting. Just outside the meeting room,
constituents chanted, “You work for us,” “Tyranny, tyranny” and “Read
the bill.” Castor now says she will hold teleconferences with constituents rather than public meetings.
In Maryland, Sen. Ben Cardin faced booing and jeering constituents at
his Aug. 10 forum as he attempted to defend the health care
legislation. When one person asked Cardin for a single example of a government-run
program that provided services to citizens at a lower cost, Cardin
cited national parks system and Medicare. The crowd booed and jeered in disapproval.
More than 200 citizens shared their thoughts on government-run health
care with Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa. On several occasions, he was
challenged by the crowd after he declared the current health care
During an Aug 8 event, one man yelled: “This is not health reform, this is control, control over our lives!”