Romney surrogates going up against CNN host Soledad O’Brien clearly haven’t learned their lesson.
A day after former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu angrily told O’Brien to “put an Obama bumper sticker on your forehead,” former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney’s national campaign co-chair, suggested that the CNN host didn’t understand English.
During an interview on Wednesday, O’Brien told Pawlenty that one of the presumptive Republican presidential candidate’s ads falsely claimed that President Barack Obama had cut $716 billion from Medicare — but the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) had determined that it was actually reduction in spending, not benefits.
“Isn’t that just patently untrue in that ad?” she asked the former Minnesota governor.
“No, that’s not correct, Soledad,” Pawlenty replied. “It is absolutely beyond factual dispute that [Obama] has cut $716 billion out of the money that was projected to be spent on Medicare over the next 10 years.”
“But, sir, it’s not a cut in Medicare, right?” O’Brien observed. “Let me just read from the CBO. It’s a ‘permanent reduction in the annual updates to Medicaid’s payment rates.’ It’s a cut in the spending — future spending. And it’s cut that actually goes to insurers, right? I mean, it’s not cuts to individuals.”
“No matter how you say this, it’s a cut to Medicare,” Pawlenty insisted. “You can’t even with a straight face, look your viewers in the eye and tell [them] that it’s not a cut to Medicare.”
“Well, I can’t look viewers in the eye from where I am,” O’Brien pointed out. “I’m saying the way the CBO puts it. … That is a savings.”
“Do you know what that is in English?” Pawlenty quipped.
“I speak English incredibly well, sir, as you know,” O’Brien shot back. “So, tell me what it is in English.”
“In plain speaking is this — and I just mean in compared to the mumbo jumbo in the bureaucracy in the CBO — what they’re saying is that Medicare was going to go up by X and now it’s going to go up by X minus $716 billion. There is no question that is a cut in where current law was before Obamacare was passed. There is no way you can present that in any other way.”
“Of you can call it a savings is actually the other way to present that,” O’Brien explained.
Although O’Brien is of Latino (and Irish and African American) descent, she actually only speaks English fluently.
On Monday, Sununu, who serves as the chairman of Romney’s national steering committee, had lashed out at O’Brien after she tried to fact check his claims about vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s plan to cut Medicare.
“Soledad, stop this!” Sununu shouted. “All you’re doing is mimicking the stuff that comes out of the White House and gets repeated on the Democratic blog boards out there.”
“I’m telling you what Factcheck.com tells you, I’m telling you what the CBO tells you, I’m telling you what CNN’s independent analysis says,” the CNN host explained.
“Put an Obama bumper sticker on your forehead when you do this!” the frustrated surrogate shot back.
“You know, let me tell you something,” O’Brien said. “There is independent analysis that details what this is about. … And name calling to me and somehow by you repeating a number of $716 billion, that you can make that stick when [you say] that figure is being ‘stolen’ from Medicare, that’s not true. You can’t just repeat it and make it true, sir.”
Watch this video from CNN Starting Point, broadcast Aug. 15, 2012.