Following an event in Warrenton on May 12, U.S. Rep. Jody Hice published a piece on his Facebook page eviscerating Channel 11 reporter Doug Richards. This was my response:
Congressman, I was there, and I can find no fault with the reporting by Doug Richards. You did indeed leave early, and you did indeed not take questions.
“There were no protesters and no hostility, because the event didn’t warrant any,” your press secretary wrote. That is almost true. There were silent protesters who had too much respect for the vulnerable people in that room to cause any disruption—their entire lives are chaos, as you know from personal experience. However, you showed them the greatest disrespect possible when you stood there and told them a blatant lie. You told them no one would lose their health care because of a pre-existing condition.
From the May 4 edition of Money magazine: “The Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which narrowly passed a vote in the House today, rolls back protections for people with pre-existing conditions, which could increase health care costs for an estimated 130 million Americans.
“The American Health Care Act stipulates that states can allow insurers to charge people with pre-existing conditions more for health insurance (which is banned under the ACA) if the states meet certain conditions, such as setting up high-risk insurance pools. Insurers still cannot deny people coverage outright, as was a common practice before the ACA's passage, but they can hike up premiums to an unaffordable amount, effectively pricing people out of the market.
“In fact, premiums could reach as high as $25,700 per year for people in high-risk pools, according to a report from AARP. People who receive insurance through their employer would not be affected, unless they lost their job or moved to the individual insurance market for some other reason.”
Is it just semantics? You say they can’t lose their coverage. I say when coverage becomes unaffordable, that is the same as losing it because of a pre-existing condition. You were wrong to reassure them of something that at this point in time is untrue. Those people are hurting, and to mislead them was a great cruelty.
I think you also made a huge mistake in not taking any questions. Let’s face it, you will never face a safer audience. You would have looked like a hero, and could have bragged to your constituents about what a peaceful meeting you had, even when you allowed questions from the floor. Then Richards would have had a totally different story. So don’t fault the reporter, fault the story you created.
Freedom of the press is one of the dearest and most important freedoms in the First Amendment, and you disparaging the press in this way makes me question you, not the press.
And by the way, why are you so afraid of us?
Editor's note: Richards posted his side of the story on his blog, Live Apartment Fire.