September 30th, 2009
09:32 PM ET
3 years ago

Grayson calls Republicans 'knuckle-dragging Neanderthals'


WASHINGTON (CNN) - Freshman Congressman Alan Grayson refused to back down Wednesday from controversial remarks he made on the House floor the night before saying the Republican health care plan calls for sick people to "die quickly."

In fact, Grayson - a Democrat who represents a central Florida swing district that includes Orlando - made another floor speech in which he apologized to the dead and their families for not acting sooner on health care reform, and then defended both speeches on CNN's "The Situation Room."

"What I mean is they have got no plan," Grayson told Wolf Blitzer. "It's been 24 hours since I said that. Where is the Republican plan? We're all waiting to see something that will take care of the pre-existing conditions, to take care of the 40 million Americans who have no coverage at all.

"That's what I meant when I said that the Republican plan is don't get sick. And if you do get sick, die quickly."

Republicans pounced on Grayson's late-night speech and demanded an apology.

"That is about the most mean-spirited partisan statement that I've ever heard made on this floor, and I, for one, don't appreciate it," Tennessee Republican Rep. Jimmy Duncan told the Politico.

On Wednesday, Grayson apologized, but it wasn't the apology the Republicans wanted. Citing a Harvard University study released earlier this month that said 44,000 Americans die each year because they have no health insurance, Grayson called on Democrats and Republicans "to do our jobs 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," he said.

That prompted National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Ken Spain to issue a stinging rebuke saying that Grayson is "doubling down on his despicable remarks and he is dragging his party with him."

"This is an individual who has established a pathological pattern of unstable behavior," Spain said. "He is derailing the national debate on health care reform and embarrassing his constituents as a result."

But in a spirited discussion on CNN that included Democratic strategist James Carville and Republican strategist Alex Castellanos, Grayson stood his ground. He flatly rejected the suggestion that his remarks were the political equivalent of South Carolina Republican Rep. Joe Wilson's shout of, "You lie," at the president during his nationally televised speech on health care.

"I didn't insult the president in front of 40 million people," he said. " ... When you don't have a plan, what that means is your plan is don't get sick. So what I said is true. What Joe Wilson said, on the other hand, is false."

Castellanos insisted that Republicans agreed with the Democrats on pre-existing conditions and would "stand with him 100 percent" if the president added such Republican-backed proposals as tort reform and allowing citizens to shop across state lines for insurance - a strategy Democrats say will drive insurance companies into the states with the most lax regulations.

"The congressman is at least giving the chance for the Republicans to look responsible. It's not fair to say that the Republicans have no plan. They actually do," said Castellanos, whose campaigns include George W. Bush in 2004, Mitt Romney in 2008 and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and the late Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina in the 1990s.

Carville, who was Bill Clinton's lead strategist during his successful run for the presidency in 1992 and worked Hillary Clinton's campaign last year, congratulated Grayson for having "the courage to go up and say what he said."

But Carville backed away from Grayson when the congressman said that Republicans he believes are obstructing health care reform are "foot-dragging, knuckle-dragging Neanderthals."

"I would call (them) regressive as opposed to Neanderthal," Carville said.

Grayson also rejected comparisons between his comments and those of some Republicans, including former Alaska governor and GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, that the Democratic reform plan called for "death panels" to decide who would get life-saving treatments.

"I said to myself, 'I wish Sarah Palin read the bill.' That's not what this bill says. That's a scare tactic," he said. "What I said is the god's honest truth."

Grayson said he decided to deliver his after-hours speech Tuesday after the Harvard study was released and he realized "we cannot go on any longer in this country where people cannot afford health care, where they coverage they got is good until they need it."

Calling for universal health care, he slammed "whoever it is that's causing the Republicans to fight tooth-and-nail against anything, absolutely anything, to have every vote come down to being 257 to 175 in the House, over and over and over again."

"Those are the people who are really disserving Americans," he said.

– CNN's Alexander Mooney contributed to this report.


Filed under: Alan Grayson • Health care • Popular Posts • The Situation Room
soundoff (171 Responses)
  1. Bob G.

    Tell it like it is Grayson! The Republicans have nothing to offer, no ideas, no plans except to wish for the failure of the Democratic initiatives. Call them on it. They want to fight Obama every inch of the way. They are as obdurate as blocks of granite, and have as much in the way of innovative and productive thinking as blocks of granite. Keep our country and people foremost in our thoughts as we navigate through these challenging times.

    September 30, 2009 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  2. Duck Fallas

    YES!!! A democrat with GUTS!!!

    DO NOT back down.

    September 30, 2009 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  3. Lisa

    The republicans only plan is to protect the insurance companies!!

    September 30, 2009 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  4. Slacko

    Yes, there we go. Alan Grayson, you are a hero.

    September 30, 2009 10:09 pm at 10:09 pm |
  5. clifton Swanson

    Wow! So the Republicans are scandalized by inflammatory comments! They have been pouring on comments like that for years while Democrats have been much more restrained. It's fascinating to watch how desperation has driven them to finesse and distort truths for the past year. This was just a taste of their own "medicine". Maybe now we can get back to civility.

    September 30, 2009 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  6. Mark

    How about HR 3400 for starters? Democrats are refusing to acknowledge that Republicans have offered a multitude of bills that either reform specific aspects of healthcare or a more comprehensive overhaul of the system. Talk about lying....the left needs to look in the mirror. Stop covering up the alternatives offered with your own screaming and shouting about Republicans' screaming and shouting.

    September 30, 2009 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  7. Crazy Democrats

    Grayson looks like a Neanderthal, literally Takes one to know one.

    September 30, 2009 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  8. m smith

    The man is right on. All this wanting a public apology. Do they think we are so stupid to fall for this. How much crap have they said and when the shoe is on the other foot they whine. No Ideas from the party of NO just a bunch of cry babies.Obstruction is all they are good for.

    September 30, 2009 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  9. once upon a horse

    when you get a Democrat that has the guts to act and verbalize like a right wing Republican and it actually BOTHERS the Republicans...he's done his job very well.

    September 30, 2009 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
  10. Biased

    I watched that tonight and his display could be classed as neanderthal. For any elected representative of the people to say what he did is reprehensible, But then I can assume that most democrats will rush here to post how truthful he is and that republicans can't stand to hear the truth. Seems now we will discover whether democrats can accept behavior like this or will excuse it because he is a democrat all the while bemoaning how low the level of discourse is becoming.

    September 30, 2009 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  11. Craig Whyel

    I salute Alan Grayson for standing against the insanity of the Republicants.

    The politics of constant inertia in health care reform shows how oblivious the right is, just like they were from 2000 – 2008.

    September 30, 2009 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  12. Gary

    Grayson is exactly right!

    September 30, 2009 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
  13. John O. Jorgensen

    Thank you Congressman Alan Grayson.

    September 30, 2009 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  14. TS

    What Grayson said is correct. The Republicans have been blocking anything which might fix all the problems they and Bush led us into .They don't give darn about this country. It seems to me they are trying to finish it off and our preseident to protect their rich backers. They are not worried about where we might end up with all the hate mongering; it makes no diffence which direction you look.

    Post but please don't use my email address. I would fear for the safety of and my famiy and me.

    September 30, 2009 10:23 pm at 10:23 pm |
  15. Adelita

    I think I'm in love.

    September 30, 2009 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  16. Sniffit

    Now...all he needs to do is run up and deliver a merciless clothes-line to Baucus and he will have my money.

    September 30, 2009 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  17. Lola

    After months of Republicans saying this health care reform will "kill grandma" and go on and on about "death panels" they have absolutely no place to complain about one democrat voicing his opinion – shame on them and their ten minute memories! Grayson is absolutely right when he apologized – all of congress, and Washington for that matter, should be apologizing to the American people for letting this mess of a for-profit health insurance fiasco continue.

    September 30, 2009 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  18. Tammy

    And (generalizations aside), your point is? the extreme right is exactly that, except they don't know who or what Neanderthals were

    September 30, 2009 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  19. Obamalism

    Keep talking moron... they may put you on the same pedestal as harry and Pelosi.

    September 30, 2009 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  20. Bob in Pa

    First off Congressman, since when is it my responsibility to supply my neighbor by force with health care insurance.

    Secondly, you and your friends continue to say things like death panels are not in the bill... trust us.

    It is specifically that we no longer trust you because
    – we now see you as people who can not take the time to read and understand the legislation and request better clarity in it's writing.
    No there is nothing in the house bill called a death panel, but there is nothing that states how and what procedures will be covered.

    September 30, 2009 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  21. Barbara

    Finally the Republicans are brought to the test. Way to go Rep. Grayson! You nailed them. Why should they bother to fight for Health Insurance for all of Americans when they have the best coverage possible and their pockets are lined with Insurance Company donations.
    Keep it up! You are a true champion of struggling Americans who deserve Health Insurance. We need a Public Option. That is Real Reform!

    September 30, 2009 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  22. malclave

    In the spirt of Congressman Grayson's soaring rhetoric...

    Democrats want Americans to die slowly and painfully, taking over -the-counter aspirin as the wait months to get in to see one of the physicians who is actually still practicing.

    September 30, 2009 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  23. m jeff

    Grayson is right, all the GOP care about is making their pockets fatter at the hands of poor people. I hope they enjoy their checks from the insurance crooks.

    September 30, 2009 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  24. Eva from Tampa

    I love this guy!!!! I am a proud Democrat from Florida! Go Congressmen Grayson!

    September 30, 2009 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  25. kate

    Democrats are the party of hate speech!!!!

    September 30, 2009 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
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