Accessibility links

Breaking News

Obama: Too Much Media Emphasis On Health Care Protests 

U.S. President Barack Obama says news organizations are putting too much emphasis on scenes of hostile protesters at public meetings on his health care reform plan. The president received tough but polite questions from Americans Friday in the Northwestern state of Montana.

Americans have recently seen television pictures of protesters shouting and screaming at lawmakers at public meetings on health insurance reform.

President Obama held a public forum on health care in an airplane hangar in the small town of Belgrade, Montana Friday, where he faced a polite crowd estimated at 1,300 people.

The president said the news media are paying too much attention to the disturbances at other meetings. "I know there has been a lot of attention paid to some of the town hall meetings that are going on around the country, especially when tempers flare. TV loves a ruckus," he said.

Mr. Obama said most meetings on his plan have been civil, and those that have been disrupted are in the minority. "What you have not seen on TV, and what makes me proud, are the many constructive meetings going on all over the country. Everywhere across the country you are seeing people who are coming together and having a civil, honest, often difficult conversation about how we can improve the system," he said.

As if to prove the president's point, one audience member, when called on, introduced himself as a proud member of the National Rifle Association, which usually supports Republican candidates. The man said he believes in the U.S. Constitution and asked Mr. Obama a pointed question about how he would pay for his health care overhaul.

"You cannot tell us how you are going to pay for this. You are saving here, you are saving over there, you are going to take a little money here, you are going take a little money there, but you have no money. The only way you are going to get that money is to raise our taxes. You said you would not.

The president agreed with the questioner that more money would be needed for the program. "You are absolutely right that I cannot cover another 46 million people for free. You are right, I cannot do that. So we are going to have to find some resources. If people who do not have health insurance are going to get some help, then we are going to have to find some money from somewhere," he said.

Mr. Obama said there are, however, ways to fund health reform other than raising taxes. And he thanked the man for the civil tone of his question. "I appreciate your question and the respectful way you asked it. By the way, I believe in the Constitution, too. So, thank you very much. I appreciate it," he said.

Mr. Obama, his wife and daughters are spending the weekend touring some of the nation's biggest national parks. The president was expected to go fly-fishing for the first time, at Yellowstone National Park. And the family will go to Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona on Sunday.