On May 5, 2017, Representative Raul Labrador spoke at a town hall audience in Lewiston, Idaho following the Republicans’ vote the previous day to change and improve upon the Affordable Care Act.
One of his comments, taken out of context, went viral.
In response to an audience member’s comment that Labrador, and Republican constituents, “are mandating people on Medicaid accept dying,” Raul replied quickly.
“No, no, you know that line is so indefensible. Nobody dies because they don’t have access to health care.”
Audience members responded by howling in protest. Mainstream media grabbed his comment and has, since then, used it to justify opposition to the Republican-led bill.
CNN political commentator Chris Cillizza awarded Labrador with his “Worst Week in Washington” designation, saying that the clip was “a ready-made attack line against every vulnerable House Republican,” according to PolitiFact.
But Labrador hasn’t been given credit for the context in which his now-infamous comment was taken.
“In the five-second clip that the media is focusing on,” he wrote on his Facebook page, “I was trying to explain that all hospitals are required by law to treat patients in need of emergency care regardless of their ability to pay and that the Republican plan does not change that.”
To his credit, Labrador was explaining to the audience in Lewiston that people will not be turned away from medical care, i.e. emergency rooms, because they don’t have insurance, under the Republican plan.
He never intended his comment to mean that people never die because they don’t have health care.