Hoyer Regrets "Un-American" Phrase
House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer said he regrets using the phrase "un-American" in an op-ed article about health-care protesters at congressional town hall meetings last summer.
"I don't regret the editorial, or the op-ed, but the rhetoric was not good," Hoyer said in an interview Saturday with The Baltimore Sun.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Hoyer wrote in a USA Today opinion piece last August that "an ugly campaign is underway not merely to misrepresent the health insurance reform legislation, but to disrupt public meetings and prevent members of Congress and constituents from conducting a civil dialogue."
They went on to say: "These disruptions are occurring because opponents are afraid not just of differing views — but of the facts themselves. Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American."
Republicans immediately seized on the phrase to attack the Democratic leaders as intolerant. House Republican Leader John Boehner said that "to label Americans who are expressing vocal opposition to the Democrats’ plan “un-American” is outrageous and reprehensible."
In the interview, Hoyer explained that he was on the road when his staff either faxed the final version of the article to him or sent it to his BlackBerry and that he read right over the "un-American" phrase.
"I read it quickly, and I didn’t catch it, and I’m ticked at myself for not catching that, because opposition is not un-American," he said.
Hoyer said he "was not a happy camper" after the article was published and that he expects to see the incident recycled in the aftermath of Sunday's showdown vote in the House.
After the interview, a Hoyer spokeswoman explained that the Maryland congressman's "regret is more about using what is a hot-button phrase that can easily be taken out of context rather than the underlying point, which was not that the opposition is un-American, but that 'drowning out opposing views is simply un-American.'"
Read more about Hoyer and health care later on BaltimoreSun.com and in Sunday's print edition of The Baltimore Sun.