BELGRADE – President Barack Obama on Friday denounced what he suggested was news media overemphasis on scenes of angry protesters at town-hall meetings on health care. “TV loves a ruckus,” Obama said.
Trying to sell his overhaul plan amid an increasingly noisy partisan debate, Obama told a town hall-style meeting in an airport hangar, “What you haven’t seen on TV and what makes me proud are the many constructive meetings going on all over the country.”
He said Americans are being held hostage by health insurance companies that deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions or cancel coverage when people get sick.
The president kicked off his four-state push for his plan with a pointed joke: He said Montana has bears, moose and elk, and “in Washington, you just mostly have bull.”
While hundreds demonstrated outside, there was no sign of protesters on the airstrip where Air Force One landed or inside the hangar at the airport near Bozeman.
Minutes after Obama landed, a downpour began, making it difficult to hear inside the metal-roofed hangar. A crowd the White House estimated at 1,300 took up half of the space, sitting politely as Obama gave introductory remarks.
The president appeared in campaign mode. He showed up in a suit, but no tie. As he began to take questions, he took off his coat and rolled up his sleeves.
“I know there’s been a lot of attention paid to some of the town hall meetings that are going on around the country, especially when tempers flare,” Obama said.
He said that what weren’t being shown were the gatherings in which people “are coming together and having a civil, honest, often difficult conversation about how we can improve the system.”
Obama aimed part of his pitch at Americans who already have health insurance.
“Most of us have insurance, and most of us think, knock on wood, and think: ‘I’m going to stay healthy,'” Obama said.
He cited examples in which people have lost their insurance, including when going from job to job and because of pre-existing conditions.
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