September 30th, 2009
09:32 PM ET
8 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. Michael

    Its time to motivate the poorest Americans back into the voting booth.

    The Democratic battle plan for the next election should simply be to tell the people the truth. Republicans would rather send more money to their friends in the insurance industry than offer basic medical care to 45 million Americans, many of whom are disabled or too old to work.

    If the Dems can stick to this message, they could easily have 80% of the seats in both houses.

    Adios Repubs !!

    October 1, 2009 01:40 am at 1:40 am |
  2. overtheTopofthebull

    Someone needed to say it. Its hard to believe that in our great country, the love of money and power has lower us to allow people to die because of lack of health care. While the world watches our shameful behavior!

    October 1, 2009 01:41 am at 1:41 am |
  3. ron

    Thank you congressman Grayson.... you really showed us in the situation room where CNN stands in this health care debate. I know of at least six situations where Republicans threw bombs at Democrats and no one said anything.... now you speak up and they are in a fizzy.
    Thank you again, because your other Democratic friends are bending over backward to be liked by the Conservatives. It ain't going to happen.
    Mitch McConnell said it today . "The only bill we want is a dead bill."

    October 1, 2009 01:45 am at 1:45 am |
  4. Betty

    Alan Grayson it seems is one of a very few who have integrity in the US House.

    October 1, 2009 01:45 am at 1:45 am |
  5. Mike in MN

    After watching the clip I am certain that Grayson is the single least qualified person to ever serve in the House of Representives. He never once addressed the fact that his own party is bitterly split over the pubic option to the point that a bill can't be passed. He blamed only Republicans, but at the end he indicated he wanted universal health care, must mean he supports the public option becasue there is no bill for universal health care. So where was the call for the Blue Dogs to support the public option, just blamed the Republicans. Total moron.

    October 1, 2009 01:51 am at 1:51 am |
  6. ATL Guy

    Finally, a Democrat with the cohones to stand up to those bullying, buffonish thuggish Repugnants. Smack them around a lil bit and show them you're a bigger man than they are. Then they all start crying like embarrassed school yard bullies. He called their stupid bluff and made them feel even more petty.

    October 1, 2009 01:56 am at 1:56 am |
  7. jeremy duncan

    Hurray for this freshman congressman!!!! He's right...the Republicans have fought every significant advance in public policy for the last 100 years. They fought Social Security, Medicare, Civil Rights, Gay Rights, Women's Rights, Voting Rights, consumer rights.......if it progresses our society they have voted to stop it. Republicans represent the have's versus the have nots....and all of the health care plans they have pushed are predicated on one having the money to buy Health Care Insurance in the first place.

    October 1, 2009 02:00 am at 2:00 am |
  8. Martin

    As a Neanderthal-American, I find Mr. Grayson's remarks insulting and inappropriate if not racist.

    October 1, 2009 02:00 am at 2:00 am |
  9. Jonathan

    Thank God someone in the person of Alan Grayson finally has the guts to be forthright about the truth.
    The insurance companies are lobbying to prevent the passage of a comprehensive health care bill which would reduce the number of uninsured americans and most importantly help those with pre-existing conditions to get the health care they need.
    No human in their right mind would intentionally want to fall sick or would wish to have the power to come into the world with some congenital medical conditions.
    So, why should it be difficult for republicans and some democrats to show compassion to the poor and needy if not because they reckon such to be a social nuissance who must "die quickly" if they ever fall sick?

    October 1, 2009 02:06 am at 2:06 am |
  10. Diane Noland

    Congressman Grayson speaks for me! We need more stand up guys like him in Congress. I love what he said about Republicans. He speaks the truth. Republicans can't take the truth. We need universal health care like ALL other industrialized nations. Republicans are Neanderthals and I pray they will be extinct in a short time, because they do NOTHING for the average citizen and we are sick and tired of it. It's either them or us and there's a lot more of us.

    October 1, 2009 02:06 am at 2:06 am |
  11. mark

    "Pathological...unstable...derailing the national debate..." my goodness me, Repbublicans just get all fluttery and flushed when someone barks back, don't they now? All hyperventilating and sweaty, just like old Tailgunner Joe when he was called out back in the 50s. Well, at least they're consistent.

    What Alex Castellanos failed to notice-distracted, no doubt, by the sound of his own voice piping away in community theatre level phony outrage-was that Rep. Grayson's remark about Neanderthals fully supports the Republican anti-evolution position, i.e. they haven't evolved (nor have their policy positions), but are just as they were 130,000 years ago.
    Now that we've found a point we can all agree on, perhaps we can move forward from there.

    October 1, 2009 02:17 am at 2:17 am |
  12. can't wait for 2012

    You know it seems funny to me, how many liberals have best selling books out there. On the conservative side you have Levin, Palin, Beck and Oreilly. It seems funny the liberals think they outnumber the rest of us and that the majority of the people want public option healthcare when its just not true. The majority is againist ya and its gonna be a landslide next year. Well I guess you all have Michael Moore with his big movie againist capitalism. He is such an idiot! He has made all his money from the free market that he is againist. If it wasn't for that he wouldn't have a pot to piss in. I am so sick an tired of people wanting something for free! If you really need it that's fine, I have no problem helping. If not get off your lazy butt and go to work. The sooner we change the govenment the better off we will be. Obama is gonna make Jimmy look like a Great leader when he is finished! I can't wait for next year, polls don't lie and things are gonna change!

    October 1, 2009 02:25 am at 2:25 am |
  13. SS

    Two thumbs up for Grayson!

    Please do not compare him to Wilson, Grayson is using the proper political platform to debate healthcare, whereas Wilson basically interupted a presidential speech.

    Grayson is speaking plain language and did the right thing by calling out GOP apologies necessary.

    If you're not moving forward then you're definitely not standing still...

    October 1, 2009 02:27 am at 2:27 am |
  14. Thomas

    Congressman Alan Grayson , THANK YOU !
    National Republican Congressional Committee " LOST IN SPACE "!
    James Carville get your Mojo Workin , rest of CNN panel, Castellanos ,Blitzer and the other two need to walk the street before siting at the round table !
    CNN, you need some younger people that are not so Jaded and out of touch !

    October 1, 2009 02:35 am at 2:35 am |
  15. Kirkland WA

    Looks like the Dems took off the gloves!!!

    October 1, 2009 02:35 am at 2:35 am |
  16. Slider

    "When you don't have a plan, what that means is your plan is don't get sick. So what I said is true." – Grayson

    H.R. 3218

    Read it, son. It's been there for quite awhile. Who knows, with your dragging knuckles you may actually stumble upon the other Republican plans that your party leaders threw on the floor when they were introduced.

    Truth sucks don't it?

    October 1, 2009 02:35 am at 2:35 am |
  17. Taj

    I love this guy, grayson. Thats the spirit every politician in the senate should have. Speak and most importantly act the truth and by God almighty it shall set you free.its obvious now that the republicans in the senate are in the back pockets of lobbyists. Grayson,keep fighting for the masses and you will be remembered for centuries as the freshman congress man that stood for the rights of the masses.

    October 1, 2009 03:00 am at 3:00 am |
  18. jules sand-perkins

    It is division among Democrats that obstructs health-care reform.
    Republicans are not "Neanderthals," Mr. Grayson, and they are not "regressive" either, Mr. Carville. Republicans are conservative regarding the type of economic system to be used in this country, favoring a retention of capitalism, which made America great, to the degree of socialism intended, by Obama, to "spread the wealth around."
    If one wants to be Free, he may fail. It is pathetic when failure occurs, but when success occurs in a Free society, it is glorious.
    Republicans want to retain the possibility of glory.

    October 1, 2009 05:28 am at 5:28 am |
  19. wilfred

    40,000 americans die every yr because of lack of health insurance. ridiclous!!! and the GOPers are there makinh hell of noise. i cannot but say the republicans are enemy of humanity.

    October 1, 2009 05:30 am at 5:30 am |
  20. shemeckel

    I am kinda glad he said that. I think he is a child but maybe he will get them to come up with some more small gov ideas.

    October 1, 2009 07:07 am at 7:07 am |
  21. kate

    Good for Grayson. Giving Republicans a taste of their own medicine but with 100 percent accuracy.

    October 1, 2009 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
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