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From protesters outside depicting President Obama as Hitler to catcalls and shouting from audience members, Rep. Anthony Weiner‘s latest health care reform town hall meeting was marked by decidedly uncivil behavior.
About 100 people attended the forum at Kingsborough Community College in Manhattan Beach. Weiner, who usually allows for some discourse, attempted to control both the microphone and the questions.
Weiner began the forum, which had many in attendance holding placards reading “Medicine for all,” explaining a giant pie chart showing that $2.2 trillion in taxpayer money was spent annually on health care.
The congress member then argued that now is the time to bring in a single-payer system that does away with private health insurance.
During Weiner’s discourse, however, one audience member, Tim Prakope, began to question some of Weiner’s facts.
At this point, Prakope began to get into a shouting match with Weiner, stating he was a Brooklynite that doesn’t stand for bullieswho interrupt meetings like little children at the dinner table.
“Let me tell you something. I eat guys like you for breakfast,” Weiner said.
After Prakope, who declined to say what neighborhood he lived in, quieted down, Weiner went on to pick and choose questions written from audience members without allowing anyone to speak.
Meanwhile, audience members continued to raise their hands and after Weiner ignored them for some time, they began to erupt with boos and howls to allow some others to speak.
“You’re shushing us like you’re our father,” shouted one middle-aged women from Sheepshead Bay, who refused to give her name because of her distrust of the government.
The woman questioned nationalized health care in Canada and England, and said she had a friend in Buffalo, who told her doctor’s offices up there are filled with Canadian residents seeking current American health care.
Finally, Weiner relinquished the microphone to Prakope, who drew applause when he alleged the federal number of 45 million Americans without healthinsurance was fabricated.
Prakope said 15 million of that number were illegal immigrants and 10 million are people that can afford health insurance but refuse to get it.
That leaves 20 million or less than 10 percent of the population without health insurance, he said, adding that it’s not fair to change the whole system for that 10 percent. This comment drew applause.
Weiner quickly took the microphone from Prakope, and explained that taxpayers are paying for the uninsured anyway because they often go to hospital emergency rooms and the government foots the bill.
Others in the audience asked how a new national health plan will pay for more primary doctors and the shortage of nurses.
During a pause at the meeting, Prakope told this newspaper he had no hard feelings regarding Weiner’s verbal attack on him, but he felt the congress member was there to talk and not listen to concerns.
“His disrespect for the voting public really got me,” said Prakope.
Prakope and others in the audience also alleged that Weiner packed the audience with people supporting his plan, and they only found out through Web sites or word of mouth about the meeting.
Weiner spokesperson Marie Ternes responded that the meeting was posted in local newspapers and constituents who called the office were told about it.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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