CBS Links Anti-ObamaCare Protesters to Conservative Groups

On Wednesday’s CBS Evening News, correspondent Ben Tracy filed a report linking angry protesters opposing ObamaCare at town hall events to conservative groups, examining the possibility that the "outrage" has been "organized" by these groups, or even affected by "anti-government" sentiment over other issues, rather than legitimate concerns about the plans under consideration.

Tracy began his report: "For some, their anger is tightly focused on health care reform. But for others, this issue is simply the final straw." After a soundbite of a woman complaining about the legalization of abortion and the removal of prayer from public schools, Tracy continued: "Some experts believe a growing anti-government sentiment, fueled by extraordinary events such as the bailouts of the banking and auto industries, is spilling over into the health care debate."

Notably, eight minutes after the end of Tracy’s report, a piece was run in which correspondent Bob Orr relayed concerns by the liberal Southern Poverty Law Center about right-wing extremism motivated by "anti-government" sentiment, Democratic party control of the government, and the first black President, and the possibility of violence from these extreme groups in the near future.

Returning to Tracy’s report, the CBS correspondent relayed claims by conservatives that "the outrage is not organized," and showed a clip of Michael Patrick Leahy of the Tea Party Coalition arguing that the protesters are mostly "individual voices." But then Tracy dismissed Leahy’s contention by citing efforts by some conservative organizations to instruct activists on how to protest effectively:

TRACY: Yet, Web sites – such as Recess Rally, which is planning a nationwide health care bill protest – lists Freedom Works as part of its coalition. That's an organization led by former Republican Congressman Dick Amey, whose lobbying firm works for the health care industry. Also, a conservative group in Connecticut posted an online memo called, "Rocking the Town Halls." The playbook outlines tactics to give Congressmen, quote, "a reality check from we-the-people." The memo advises to "watch for an opportunity to yell out ... the goal is to rattle him."

Tracy informed viewers that counterprotests are being organized by supporters of ObamaCare, a clip was shown of one such protester blaming FNC hosts Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, and Sean Hannity for disseminating "talking points." Protester Pepper Mashay shouted: " It seems like the Republicans have all these talking points that have been delivered through Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity that's not true!"

Below is a complete transcript of the story from the Wednesday, August 12, CBS Evening News:

KATIE COURIC: Meanwhile, Americans have certainly spoken out about other controversial issues and other bills before Congress, but, as Sharyl mentioned, we'd never seen people turn out at town meetings the way they are as prepared and as organized as they are. Ben Tracy looks now at what's behind this passion to be heard.

BEN TRACY: For some, their anger is tightly focused on health care reform. But for others, this issue is simply the final straw.

NANCY SNYDER, OPPOSES HEALTH CARE REFORM: We didn't stand up, and what happened? They took prayer out of the school and replaced it with drugs. We didn't stand up, we got legalized abortion, and they're killing babies. And if we don't stand up now, God help us.

TRACY: Some experts believe a growing anti-government sentiment, fueled by extraordinary events such as the bailouts of the banking and auto industries, is spilling over into the health care debate.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN IN AUDIENCE TALKING TO SENATOR ARLEN SPECTER: I don't want this country turning into Russia, turning into a socialized country.

DAN DURBIN, USC ANNENBERG SCHOOL FOR COMMUNICATION: When people see the change as being sweeping, complete, or large, they feel threatened, and their immediate response is going to be to react.

TRACY: Those fighting the health care bill contend the outrage is not organized.

MICHAEL PATRICK LEAHY, NATIONAL TEA PARTY COALITION: It's a million or so independent individual voices, exercising their right to free speech.

TRACY: Yet, Web sites – such as Recess Rally, which is planning a nationwide health care bill protest – lists Freedom Works as part of its coalition. That’s an organization led by former Republican Congressman Dick Amey, whose lobbying firm works for the health care industry. Also, a conservative group in Connecticut posted an online memo called, "Rocking the Town Halls." The playbook outlines tactics to give Congressmen, quote, "a reality check from we-the-people." The memo advises to "watch for an opportunity to yell out ... the goal is to rattle him" or her.

SENATOR CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D-MO), ON STAGE: I don't understand this rudeness.

TRACY: But even some opposing the bill worry all the yelling will drown out their message.

DAVE SCHWARTZ, AMERICANS FOR PROSPERITY: They're hurting the cause now, and they're hurting the cause in the future.

TRACY: Yet, the other side is organizing, too. Attendees at this pro-reform event yesterday in Los Angeles were recruited by a local social service agency.

PEPPER MASHAY, SUPPORTS HEALTH CARE BILL: It seems like the Republicans have all these talking points that have been delivered through Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity that’s not true!

TRACY: And so Democrats are now trying to play defense, sending out these health care fact check cards to supporters with their own talking points. Ben Tracy, CBS News, Los Angeles.