DARTMOUTH, Mass. — Rep. Barney Frank lashed out at protester who held a poster depicting President Barack Obama with a Hitler-style mustache during a heated town hall meeting on federal health care reform.
"On what planet do you spend most of your time?" Frank asked the woman, who had stepped up to the podium at a southeastern Massachusetts senior center to ask why Frank supports what she called a Nazi policy.
"Ma'am, trying to have a conversation with you would be like trying to argue with a dining room table. I have no interest in doing it," Frank replied.
He continued by saying her ability to deface an image of the president and express her views "is a tribute to the First Amendment that this kind of vile, contemptible nonsense is so freely propagated."
Frank, who chairs the House Financial Services Committee, sought to assure more than 500 people attending the rowdy meeting that the average taxpayer wouldn't be hurt by plans currently under consideration in Congress.
Some of those attending the meeting organized by the Democratic Town Committee of Dartmouth shouted and booed as Frank and others addressed the crowd.
At one point, Frank asked the crowd: "Which one of you wants to yell next?"
Several people wanted to know how the government would pay for the reforms without worsening a growing federal budget deficit.
At least two dozen protesters gathered in small groups outside, handing out pamphlets and holding signs criticizing the overhaul, Obama and Frank. Some of the posters read: "It's the economy stupid, stop the spending" and "Healthcare reform yes, government takeover, no. Tort Reform Now"
Audrey Steele, 82, from New Bedford, said she does not want the government to get involved with health care because "they just make a mess of everything," referring to the $700 billion bailout of financial institutions that was used to pay for lavish conferences and hefty executive compensation.
Others at Tuesday's meeting were more supportive of reform.
Dr. Sheila Leavitt, a physician from Newton, said she hoped for changes that would support primary care physicians who aren't paid as much as specialists. She said some of the rowdy critics at Tuesday's meeting appeared to be using the same "talking points" as those who showed up at similar meetings around the country.
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