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. Stephen Cooper

    There they go again with that evolution talk. Now the neo-con's will be up in arms again. It must really hurt to raise you arms in the air when you have scraped up knuckles.
    It used to be that people were embarresed at their ignorance and did everthing possible to create better lives for their childern.
    At what point did ignorance become some sort of new fashion?

    I am glad there is one Dem in DC that wil stand up and tell these boneheads the thruth.

    October 1, 2009 12:39 am at 12:39 am |
  2. rufus

    Rep Grayson is the most fantastic thing that has happened in months!! Why weren't you guys supporting him???? What are you thinking???

    The Grayson guy has it right!! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!!

    I could cry with gratitude that someone finally is calling out the reality!!

    October 1, 2009 12:43 am at 12:43 am |
  3. arielle

    I agree...I'm glad a congressman is finally standing up for what's right and putting politics aside, which, ironically is the best political move.

    October 1, 2009 12:44 am at 12:44 am |
  4. Wake Up

    OK, forget which party you think helps you (neither will). How do ridiculous comments like this further any process? Outlandish remarks like this create anger, and stop debate!! Quit advocating poltical parties...they are there for power and money. Less Government NOW!

    October 1, 2009 12:47 am at 12:47 am |
  5. jay

    Right on Grayson. That's what the Democratic party needs. More leaders with the guts to call a spade a spade. Republicans are a collective of angry, belligerent, extremists, They inbreed on their own bitter rhetoric, so their Republican personality never changes.

    October 1, 2009 12:49 am at 12:49 am |
  6. Anthony

    WOW.. THIS GUY IS AWESOME!!!!!!!

    "Stop blocking the plan or at least come up with something of their own" And then I love how Castellanos got PUT IN CHECK!

    THIS GUY JUST LAID THE SMACK DOWN!

    This INTERVIEW just single handedly nullified ANYTHING these Republicans, Fox, the RightWing Radio Shows, or these ignorant posters can even attempt to come up with.
    You can try to call him crazy, bring up lies about Obama, bring up Wilson, or Sarah Palin's Death Panel, or any other hate filled venom Hannity or Rush or Beck spew, and it all falls flat.

    Check, and MATE!

    October 1, 2009 12:50 am at 12:50 am |
  7. Mike in Texas

    I think Mr. Grayson didn't have to that far in his comments but he is right that Republicans don't want to reform health care. If they really did why didn't they when they were in power? That is all I ask. Thank you and have a great day.

    October 1, 2009 12:50 am at 12:50 am |
  8. Mike

    Rep. Grayson is right! This isn't about reforming health care for the Republicans, it is about seeing how they can obstruct any sort of real reform of the Health Care System to try and protect their friends in the insurance industry. They want Health Care Reform to FAIL! When the Baucus bill was passed it still did not receive any support form Republicans, even without a public option. Republicans want our Health Care to fail, they want the President to fail, and they want the country to fail to make themselves look good. That way they can play "blame it on the Liberal" while Rome burns. That is what they always do. They mess things up in Washington, and a Progressive comes in to clean up after their corporate nepotism and corruption, then they blame him when everything doesn't get done in one year.

    ALAN GRAYSON HAS NOTHING TO APOLOGIZE FOR!

    October 1, 2009 12:51 am at 12:51 am |
  9. bri6

    I am not afraid of being called names in fact career pollitician is far worse than any handed down to the average taxpayer at this point.

    October 1, 2009 12:52 am at 12:52 am |
  10. JJ in Chula Vista, CA

    Americans need to rally together to counter the "teaparties"... Give Republicans a dose of their own kind of rhetoric. Rally to support the president, and show those Republicans that they cannot lie and intimidate people their way to the top any more.

    October 1, 2009 12:58 am at 12:58 am |
  11. Mike in Texas

    Dragging down his party? The do nothing conservatives who still think they should be in power are dragging down their party. All the uproar is from the far right. Their inability to go against GW until his ratings hit rock bottom have cost them. All they care about is regaining power. They don't care about the average American. Thank you and have a great day.

    October 1, 2009 12:59 am at 12:59 am |
  12. Fed Up

    You people (and I say that with the greatest amount of disdain I can muster) are absolutely disgusting!! I am talking about politicians. If you can't keep it civil, go home, and get someone in there who will do what they are supposed to do. Obviously, there is no one on the Hill who has even a modicum of a brain. I am totally disgusted by the attitude of everyone in the House and Senate. EVERYONE!!! They don't care about the people who are your employers (THAT MEANS THE LITTLE PEOPLE THAT THEY DON"T LISTEN TO). It is time to clean house, and start a Common Sense party. No one who makes over $50,000 should be allowed to run for ANY office. Oh yes, and the government should pay for the elections. Evidently, when money comes in one pocket, the brains leak out the bottom of the pants. GO HOME!!

    October 1, 2009 12:59 am at 12:59 am |
  13. john

    can we please be civil and not trash neanderthals

    October 1, 2009 01:14 am at 1:14 am |
  14. tj

    I am so proud of him. God bless u sir for fighting for the poor. I am a physical therapist working in maryland and I am so mad how the insurance treat the sick, poor and middle class people. We have to take care sick and poor people. f

    October 1, 2009 01:20 am at 1:20 am |
  15. Jim Doyle

    Go Grayson! We need a lot more Democrats to call these creeps on this game. They've been ranting and raving all summer, actually for 30-40 years if you want to be honest. Look what they did to Bill Clinton. Look at what they've been saying about President Obama. Grayson got it right. Calling them knuckle-dragging Neanderthals is an insult the other upstanding "Christian" "Family Values" Neanderthals who comprise their base.

    October 1, 2009 01:22 am at 1:22 am |
  16. lovable liberal

    Democrats need to stand up for Grayson. This is a fight we're in, not a white glove tea party at the club.

    October 1, 2009 01:23 am at 1:23 am |
  17. Mike Webb

    Absolutely true!! I agree with Grayson 100 percent! Mike Webb Austin Tx.

    October 1, 2009 01:24 am at 1:24 am |
  18. Greg, PA

    While his statements may or may not have been in poor taste, he did not violate the rules of decorum, thus any remarks bringing up Rep. Wilson are a false comparison. He has no obligation to apologize and there are no grounds for censure.

    October 1, 2009 01:26 am at 1:26 am |
  19. Al Bluengreenenbrownenburger

    I am outraged! I demand that Congressman Grayson apologize immediately and fully to neanderthals for insulting them by comparing them to Republicans.

    October 1, 2009 01:29 am at 1:29 am |
  20. what?

    What? Apologizing to the "Death Panel", "Pull the plug on Grandma", "Let's all waste taxpayer dollars and grandstand at the bed of Terri Schiavo and insert government (GOP government) will on her situation" GOP? That is cracked. One party is vulgar and seemingly trying to instigate violent riots (GOP), and the other party is lying down wimpering about bi-partisanship (DEMS) and Americans are paying dearly for these worthless parties indecisions about HEALTH CARE.

    October 1, 2009 01:32 am at 1:32 am |
  21. Daniel

    It is about time we have a Dem with a backbone. Calls it like everyone sees it. And not afraid of the trueth.

    October 1, 2009 01:35 am at 1:35 am |
  22. Veracity

    Good for him. He is from a rare breed.

    October 1, 2009 01:36 am at 1:36 am |
  23. Steve in Las Vegas,NV

    Words just fail me here. What is this, sandbox 101?

    October 1, 2009 01:36 am at 1:36 am |
  24. C Shares

    Bravo Mr. Grayson that is exactly the correct description and better one than the party of NO for the republicans and their party. Knuckle dragging Neaanderthals! GThey are also tell lies about health care reform, spout hate and prejudice against this president and betray their country by wanting to destroy anything that comes their way. They are noit a valid respresentation of the american people they have the lunatic Glen Bedk and ole Russ Limbaugh.They all love fear mongering statements that are all false and they cause people to hate our president. I will blkame them all if anything happens to our president because they are causing a lot of hate and fear. They nhave no idea that everyone thinks they are all nuts who who in the world would ever vogte for these numb skulls in this party of HATE! I woouldn't they are worse than terrorist because they condone haye against the governemnt and the people.

    October 1, 2009 01:39 am at 1:39 am |
  25. Gus The Willie

    This is so hilarious, and haven't laughed like am doing now in quite awhile. Neanderthals is about right for the Republicans, and if they don't fess up to the needs of the country in the health care reform, they might be also be going the way of the Neaderthals.

    October 1, 2009 01:40 am at 1:40 am |
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