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U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, an Orlando-area Democrat, is a provocateur. He claimed Republicans' approach to health care was to urge people to "die quickly."
Many Democrats love him because he's so blunt. And now, many Republicans love him -- because he's so blunt.
On Feb. 26, 2010, the state Republican Party criticized a Grayson fundraiser that included Democratic Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank.The headline:
"You Are Cordially Invited to a Night of Shameless Promotion, Crude Remarks and Drug Busts with Congressmen Alan Grayson and Barney Frank."
In the release, RPOF spokeswoman Katie Betta makes a series of claims against Grayson.
For this fact-check, we'll examine two. Betta said Grayson "compared a former vice president to a vampire ... and compared America's health care system to the Holocaust."
"Over the last two years Alan Grayson has certainly made a name for himself in our nation’s capital, but instead of being recognized for his work for the people of Florida, he stands out as a quirky, irreverent embarrassment to his constituents and to the entire state of Florida,” Betta said.
Let's take the vampire claim first. Betta is referencing an Oct. 22, 2009, interview Grayson had with Chris Matthews on MSNBC. At the end of the interview -- which is about health care -- Matthews brings up that former Vice President Dick Cheney had complained that President Barack Obama was dithering.
That prompted this exchange (video attached here).
GRAYSON: "Well, my response is -- and, by the way, I have trouble listening to what he says sometimes because of the blood that drips from his teeth while he's talking. But my response is this. He's just angry because the president doesn't shoot old men in the face. By the way, when he was done speaking, did he just then turn into a bat and fly away?"
MATTHEWS: "Oh, God, we've got to keep it level here. Let me ask you this. Don't you have any Republican friends?"
GRAYSON: "Some of my best friends are Republicans."
While Grayson doesn't ever use the word "vampire," he says that Cheney has "blood that drips from his teeth," and that he can "turn into a bat and fly away." We've seen enough cheesy horror films to know what he was going for there.
As for the claim that Grayson compared the health care system to the Holocaust, Florida Republicans point to remarks Grayson made on the House floor during the health care debate.
You might recall, Republicans asked that Grayson apologize after accusing Republicans of wanting people to "die quickly."
Here was part of that apology. (Video here.)
"Well, I would like to apologize. I would like to apologize to the dead, and here's why. According to this study, 'Health Insurance and Mortality in U.S. Adults,' which was published two weeks ago, 44,789 Americans die every year because they have no health insurance. So I call upon the Democratic members of the House. I call upon the Republican members of the House. I call upon all of us to do our jobs for the sake of America, for the sake of those dying people and their families. I apologize to the dead and their families that we haven't voted sooner to end this holocaust in America."
By capitalizing the "H" in their press release, state Republicans are claiming Grayson compared America's health care system to the killing of European Jews and others during World War II. But, based on how he said it, Grayson is most likely using the word with a small "h," which is not specific to the World War II genocide.
In our view, the two uses have different meanings. The World War II "Holocaust" conveys a deliberate, horrific killing because of religion. While the uncapitalized "holocaust" is a broader term.
State Republicans got it right when they say Grayson has compared a former vice president to a vampire, but it's a stretch for their press release to liken American's health care system to the Holocaust of World War II. So we rate their statement Mostly True.
"You Are Cordially Invited to a Night of Shameless Promotion, Crude Remarks and Drug Busts with Congressmen Alan Grayson and Barney Frank," RPOF press release, Feb. 26, 2010.
"Barney Frank visits Orlando to stump for Alan Grayson," WDBO, Feb. 25, 2010.
MSNBC Transcript, Oct. 22, 2009, accessed via Nexis.
MSNBC Transcript, Sept. 30, 2009, accessed via Nexis.
"Grayson likens health crisis, holocaust," Politico, Sept. 30, 2009.
Definition of holocaust, The Free Dictionary.
E-mail interview with RPOF spokeswoman Katie Betta, March 2, 2010.
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