US House Rep. Alan Grayson, the Florida Democrat who became a national figure last month when he declared that the Republican health care plan amounts to hoping that sick people "die quickly," has launched a Web site Wednesday to honor people who died as a result of inadequate access to health care.
"Every year, more than 44,000 Americans die simply because they have no health insurance," Grayson wrote on his site, Names of the Dead. "I have created this project in their memory. I hope that honoring them will help us end this senseless loss of American lives."
The site has on its front page a fill-out form where members of the public can submit the name of a relative who they believe died because of inadequate access to health care.
Originally, the idea was to allow the submitted names to appear in a scrolling list on the front page. But, as several bloggers pointed out on Wednesday, the site hadn't been online long before fake entries began appearing.
Eric Kleefeld at TalkingPointsMemo listed four names he believed were suspect: Lassie Martin (the name of the dog that starred in the 1950s TV series Lassie), Norma Jeane Mortenson (Marilyn Monroe's real name), Steve Rogers (the alter ego of Captain America), and Wile E. Coyote, of Looney Tunes cartoons fame.
"It seems that allowing any reader to upload names (with no editing) that would then run on the front page of the site was not a good plan," commented Josh Marshall at TPM. The name list has since been removed from the site.
The Web site has come under criticism from Republicans. The National Republican Campaign Committee has suggested it could violate House ethics rules or even Federal Election Commission regulations.
“What is wrong with this man?" asked NRCC spokesman Andy Sere in a statement, as reported at The Hill. "Alan Grayson's morbid exploitation of 'the dead' for personal political gain may be the most shameless stunt he's pulled yet. ... Once again, he's proved himself to be an abject embarrassment to Central Floridians who want more than a circus clown for a congressman."
But, as Sam Stein posited at the Huffington Post, Grayson's "explosive partisanship" on the health care issue "might make the message a bit more effective."
"The Democratic Party has repeatedly used stories of people suffering from poor (or denied) insurance coverage as a means of selling the need for reform," Stein wrote. "The death toll of non-insured has really never been considered a viable political point (likely because of the sensitivities that come when referencing the dead). The fact, however, remains that 45,000 people in America do die from lack of health care insurance every year, according to a Harvard study -- and that does provide, at the very least, the most compelling argument for getting expansive reform done quickly."
Grayson has been one of the most vocal proponents of the Harvard study that estimates 44,000 people die annually in the US from inadequate access to health care. It was that study which Grayson referred to when making his "apology" for the "die quickly" quip.
"I apologize to the dead and their families that we haven't voted sooner to end this holocaust in America," Grayson told the House last month.