The GOP ad released online earlier this week makes it appear Solicitor General Donald Verrilli gave a worse presentation than he did, a Bloomberg News analysis of the ad and the court’s official audio recording shows. The full story follows:
Republicans Alter U.S. Supreme Court Audio in Obama Web Attack
By Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Greg Stohr
March 29 (Bloomberg) — A Republican Party web-based advertisement uses altered audio from U.S. Supreme Court oral arguments to attack President Barack Obama’s health-care law.
In a spot circulated yesterday, the Republican National Committee excerpts the opening seconds of the March 27 presentation of Obama’s top Supreme Court lawyer, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, in which he is heard struggling for words and twice stopping to drink water.
“Obamacare,” the ad concludes, in words shown against a photograph of the high court. “It’s a tough sell.”
A review of a transcript and recordings of those moments shows that Verrilli took a sip of water just once, paused for a much briefer period, and completed his thought, rather than stuttering and trailing off as heard in the doctored version.
The RNC points to Verrilli’s halting performance as evidence that the 2010 law he is arguing to uphold — the marquee item on Obama’s domestic agenda and a favorite line of attack for Republican candidates seeking to defeat him in the November elections — is invalid.
“It seems that Obama’s lawyer hit a bit of a snag trying to defend the constitutionality of Obama’s health care takeover,” the RNC said in a statement accompanying the ad. “Maybe he’s beginning to realize something the American people already know: It’s hard to defend a law that is indefensible.”
Recordings of the court proceedings reviewed by Bloomberg News reveal that the audio has been edited. While Verrilli paused once to drink water during the opening moments of his presentation, he stopped talking for only a few seconds before continuing with his argument. In the RNC ad, he pauses for about 20 seconds, seeming to lose his train of thought.
The RNC’s transcript of Verrilli’s delivery, circulated with the web ad, is as follows: “For more than 80 percent of Americans, the ah insurance system does provide effective access [pause]. Excuse me. Ah [cough] it ah be-be because the ah the ah the [pause]. Excuse me.”
In the actual proceedings, Verrilli finishes his thought. “For more than 80 percent of Americans, the, ah, insurance system does provide effective access,” Verrilli says, pausing briefly and saying, “Excuse me.” He quickly continues, “But for more than 40 million who do not have access to health insurance, either through their employer or through government programs such as Medicare or Medicaid, the system does not work.”
Sean Spicer, an RNC spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the ad. Tracy Schmaler, a Justice Department spokeswoman, declined to comment. The solicitor general’s office is part of the Justice Department.
The Democratic National Committee declined to comment on the video, and requests for a comment by Obama’s re-election campaign received no immediate response.