Saturday, August 15, 2009
Penn. town hall participants Tom Lieb and Justin Staron.
This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," August 14, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
SHANNON BREAM, FOX NEWS GUEST HOST: Critics of the town hall protests say conservatives are stoking the fire, organizing opposition to the Democrats' health care plan. But are liberal groups doing the exact same thing on the other side of the debate, organizing people to show up in favor of the plan and stacking the questions at town halls?
Four citizens went to a town hall event by Senator Arlen Specter and went "On the Record" with Greta. One of them was an Iraq war veteran, who is not at all satisfied with his government-run health care plan. He wanted to ask Senator Specter why he supports giving the government even more control over health care, but the veteran ran into a problem at the event
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Did you get your question asked of Senator Specter? And did you get an answer that you were satisfied with?
TOM LIEB, PENN. TOWN HALL PARTICIPANT: No, ma'am, I sure didn't. Actually, what was funny was I got here about 12:15, and I sat in line. And we were sitting there, and what they were doing was -- and we saw people with ACORN shirts on and SEIU and -- they were all sitting there and getting (ph) all these people. And I saw this woman in front of me. And she -- I mean, she looked like a hippie! She just did. And I just -- me and hippies don't get along. But so she was sitting there, and she calls on her phone. She's, like, Hey, where are you guys at? You need to get up here. You need to get up here. And then she's, like, All right, I'll see you in a little bit. And then two buses, two school buses of people came in, coming off the bus shouting, "What do we want? Health care. When do we want it? Now." And they just kept going and going and going...
VAN SUSTEREN: When you talk about bussed people, was -- did it seem like there was -- there were organized groups that were there or did it seem like it was constituents that just had sort of almost car pooled to go to this town hall meeting?
JUSTIN STARON, PENN. TOWN HALL PARTICIPANT: They were actually two school buses and one van that was also, like, a school bus, but van. And they were full of people -- what we were hearing was from Pittsburgh, and they all had red shirts on and were affiliated with the SEIU or ACORN. And they were heckling us and they were way far away than where we came from around here.
They had real professional signs. And I talked to a couple of them on the bush that were younger, and they said they did not pay for the buses. They said they just came down with all of them.
So I don't know who was paying to bring them in. But it's kind of disgusting when they say that our side is "Astroturfing" when it was clearly the other side was doing something that resembled it very well.
VAN SUSTEREN: Why did you should video of it?
SUSAN RIGGSBY, PENN. TOWN HALL PARTICIPANT: I shot video of it because I thought it was awfully ironic that the media was accusing us, regular citizens, of organizing and busing ourselves in to the town halls in order to protest and voice our opinions.
And when I saw the yellow school buses coming, I knew that this was probably going to be important. So I started filming and sure enough -- I suspected ACORN and union representatives were being brought in, and that's exactly what happened.
VAN SUSTEREN: Craig, how do you know that these were ACORN members and union representatives?
CRAIG RIGGSBY, PENN. TOWN HALL PARTICIPANT: They were wearing their ACORN buttons for number one, and just openly carrying signs and basically stating we're ACORN.
SUSAN RIGGSBY: They had on SEIU shirts as well.
BREAM: Griff Jenkins was at the Specter town hall meeting. He join us now live to talk about it.
Griff, what we're talking about is if ACORN did have people out there, there is nothing illegal about that. The only problem is it might be hypocrisy if it is what they are accusing the other side of doing.
GRIFF JENKINS, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Let's point out first of all, ACORN, the national office, did confirm to FOX News that they bussed people in today. There's nothing illegal about that. It is a free country.
But here's what happened here, Shannon. The couple you say there, she's a 20 veteran. She's never been politically active one way or the other her whole life.
She wants Washington to hear her voice. She is upset about the direction things are going in the country. She feel that the deficit is spinning out of control and she wanted to be heard.
What happened in the case of this town hall that we saw there, only 200 people were let in and over 1,000 showed up. So 80 percent did not get in.
And they saw these ACORN buses show up and the people get off. And they displaced. They feel that they didn't get their opportunity to tell Senior Specter, we're upset about this, and we want to take this message back to Washington.
Interestingly enough, when the White House is saying that there is manufactured anger, you lose the real important parts. I went to two of the four town halls that Senator Specter did last week, and there was a young man that stood up, he was probably 22, he was in medical school, and he said, "Senator, I am halfway through. I have to $250,000 in debt. What is my incentive? I'm scared of this bill."
And that's lost, that's not manufactured. That's not organized. And that message is being lost.
But the folks and the four that we showed just there, they're upset that ACORN would come into the community and take over.
BREAM: And was there something about pamphlets or questions that ACORN was distributing, or telling people what, people on their side should be asking, what questions to ask and how to do it?
JENKINS: I did not see the question, but there were pamphlets being given out by ACORN folks to some of their attendees to ask certain questions.
There was organized chants. And the signs were more professionally made with the ACORN folks. They were pre-produced and not the homemade ones.
But I talked to one of the organizers for SCIU, a women, and she said there as well, and she said look, we're not -- we're making no bones about it. We're here to balance the debate.
The problem is the folks at the town hall that are on the conservative side that have questions about the president's health care plan are upset because they feel like they are being drowned out.
BREAM: Quickly, Dana Perino touched on this, the fact that a lot people think that this is about a lot more about health care. This is a backlash against Washington in a much bigger sense.
JENKINS: Earlier in the week Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was dismissing it, saying it's is food for -- fodder on the cable TV channels.
I'm telling you, it behooves the White House to pay attention to what's happening there, because in the experience I've had this past week going to two of these in Pennsylvania, it's more a referendum on Washington than it is a discussion on health care.
Everything from cash to clunkers is coming, deficit spending. You name it, they're asking about it. I have numerous questions about czars, and I asked Senator Specter about this, what do you think about labeling these town halls angry mobs? Was it racism?
And he said absolutely not mobs, absolutely not racism. These are my guests at my town halls and I want them to be heard.
BREAM: And I have to say, for the tough questioning that he has taken, he stood up and took it like a man. He has not run away from these town halls. So he has done a good job, and he's done his job showing up.
JENKINS: He has, and we saw a poll numbers released today that he is down a little bit. So he either is a politician with a thick skin or he's doing everything he can to get those numbers back up.
BREAM: Griff Jenkins, thank you.