September 30th, 2009
09:32 PM ET
7 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. Reagan was wrong

    The fact that there is an abundance of GOP antics against which to compare Grayson's speech speaks volumes about their deplorable behavior.

    September 30, 2009 11:11 pm at 11:11 pm |
  2. Rose

    I love Congressman Grayson!

    September 30, 2009 11:12 pm at 11:12 pm |
  3. Mark L

    The Neanderthal comment is a bit much, but he's right. Where is the Republican plan? I just hear, "keep everything the same. Let those poor people without insurance just continue to suffer."

    September 30, 2009 11:14 pm at 11:14 pm |
  4. Bill

    I think it's time the Right gets a taste of their own medicine. Dishonest Republican politicians, divisive pundits and faux cable news channels have been working hard against everything the current President is trying to accomplish mainly for political gain. Their lies and deceptions are provoking unwarranted anger that is growing more dangerous daily.

    September 30, 2009 11:15 pm at 11:15 pm |
  5. Moe, NY

    Grayson speaks the truth, and anyone with 1/2 a brain knows this for a fact. Kudos Mr. Grayson.

    September 30, 2009 11:19 pm at 11:19 pm |
  6. Mike in MN

    The Democrats do realize when they fail to pass health care reform and get destroyed in the 2010 and 2012, it will be because voters can plainly see it is the Democrats who are obstructing the passage of a reform bill. Senate Democrats just voted out the public option and the liberal Democrats are still insisting on it and Obama is still voting present. In the meantime Republicans are powerless to stop Democrats from passing whatever they want and are unable to pass their own bill. And so the Democrats send this clown out in front of all of America and stage a campaign stunt that has nothing to do with anything preventing the Democrats from passing a reform bill. Who was that supposed to impress? Was this supposed to convince liberal Democrats to vote for a bill without a public option or was it supposed to get Blue Dogs to vote for a bill with it? Top notch stuff Dems., really impressive.

    September 30, 2009 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  7. Jennifer


    September 30, 2009 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  8. Larry from Apex, NC

    RIGHT ON!! Congressman Grayson has hit the nail on the head and has said what has NEEDED to be said! Keep telling the truth, sir. The RePIGlicans care nothing about the American people-they only care about their power and their wallets. This group of pigs are the WORST America has to offer-no compassion, only greed and lies. Thank you again, Congressman Grayson!

    September 30, 2009 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
  9. Matthew Dougherty

    Did Congressman Tom Price vote for H.Res. 744 objecting to Representative Wilson decorum?

    Let the idiot file the bill and take it up on vote; let's see the hypocrites square this.

    There are only seven republicans (who voted for HR744) who have the ethical credentials to make the case.

    BTW, I apologize to the dead also.

    September 30, 2009 11:28 pm at 11:28 pm |
  10. Wake Up

    Wonder what he thinks of the US Constitution. What a joke of a congressman.
    God forbid, someone disagrees with the constitution being thrown in the toilet by Obama.

    September 30, 2009 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  11. Shelly

    Awesome ! This guy speaks the TRUTH!
    I am tired of the behavior of the far right loonies and it is about time someone told them the truth.
    Most of us have waited PATIENTLY for the GOP and the loons to see the light and change themselves. But unfortunately they continue to live in darkness. It is time for them to look in the mirror and see what they have become

    September 30, 2009 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  12. Rebekah

    I think I'm in love

    September 30, 2009 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  13. Robert in Austin

    Go Alan Go!

    September 30, 2009 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  14. kravitz

    I am so donating to this guy's campaign.

    September 30, 2009 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  15. Justin

    He is right when he says that America handed the majority to the democrats. Numbers don't lie and to think otherwise is ignorant. Opposition to a public plan is greedy, self serving and inhumane. When people loose, they refuse to admit that their choice isn't the right one, even after a land slide election.

    September 30, 2009 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
  16. Richard M Cundy

    Bravo to Congressman Grayson! At last, a Democrat that uses his intelligence and wit to respond to the GOP. America needs national healthcare and the time is now. We (U.S.) pride ourselves as the beacon of light in the world, yet we can't take care of the health of our own people? We need our elected representatives to speak out with passion.

    September 30, 2009 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
  17. John

    Really a hero. Cares more about others than his reelection. Stnd your ground Congressman Alan Grayson. you are my hero today.

    September 30, 2009 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  18. wycliffe

    we stand by you grayson, republican plan not get sick and if you do, die quickly.

    September 30, 2009 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
  19. ErnestNM

    This guy is good!....and spot on!

    September 30, 2009 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
  20. james

    Go Grayson!!

    September 30, 2009 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  21. pacaschera

    Plain speaking of the truth. I wish more Democrats had the cajones to follow Cong. Grayson's lead, or at least wise up and realized that the Republicans have no interest in bi-partisanship. Republicans seem to only care about "getting" the POTUS and to hell with America and Americans. I and other VOTERS are watching both parties very closely and will remember come election time who valued power and money over their service to America and the American people.

    September 30, 2009 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  22. ender

    This guy is fantastic. I watched him on Maddow tonight and he really IS a breath of fresh air that the Dems need.

    September 30, 2009 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  23. unshrub

    When a Democrat acts like a republican all of a sudden it's a bad thing. What a bunch of whining babies.

    September 30, 2009 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  24. RandyW

    Yes, the Republican Party of today is made up of "foot-dragging, knuckle-dragging Neanderthals." They have had since Reagan to do something other than reward their rich owners, including healthcare for all American Citizens – they have failed.

    Their leaders, Rush, Bill'O, Beck and the entire FOX staff want this country to go back to the dark ages. Enough.

    If the Blue Dogs and other ultra conservative senators go with these "knuckle-draggers" kick them out of the Democratic Party. We kicked the racist out years ago, these guys and gals can now go, or vote to get afordable, public options healthcare to the least of our citizens.

    September 30, 2009 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  25. John, Brooklyn, NY

    Go Grayson!

    Sadly, since the last election the Republicans have gleefully tapped into their constituents' worst natures and have actively (and subtly) encouraged outrageous outbursts at town hall meetings, rhetoric that rivaled the McCarthy era in vitriol, veiled threats of violence (guns at town hall meetings)...not to mention defamation of President of the USA on the floor of Congress.

    While, at the same time, their more "moderate" leaders have claimed they support health care reform while, like Cheshire Cats (Snowe, Collins, etc.), smugly smiled at the TV news cameras knowing that they would never support any reform whatsoever.

    Grayson is finally calling their bluffs. BRAVO!

    September 30, 2009 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
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