MIT economist Jonathan Gruber begged House Republicans for forgiveness Tuesday, weeks after videos of him slamming President Barack Obama's signature health care policy went viral, inciting conservatives and rallying Obamacare critics. "I know better. I knew better. I am embarrassed, and I am sorry," Gruber said during questioning before the House Oversight Committee.
But U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, the committee's chairman, was not ready to forgive and forget the man dubbed by conservatives as the architect of the health care law. Gruber essentially said the Affordable Care Act became law because of the "stupidity of the American voter" in a series of old videos that recently spread across social media.
"In excerpts of these videos I am shown making a series of glib, thoughtless, and sometimes downright insulting comments," Gruber said. "I would like to begin by apologizing sincerely for the offending comments that I made. In some cases I made uninformed and glib comments about the political process behind health care reform. I am not an expert on politics and my tone implied that I was, which is wrong. It is never appropriate to try to make oneself seem more important or smarter by demeaning others. I know better. I knew better. I am embarrassed, and I am sorry. Let me be very clear: I do not think that the Affordable Care Act was passed in a nontransparent fashion." He went on to praise the law as "a milestone achievement for our nation."
Issa, of California, took the long approach to dressing down Gruber. He recalled attending the Kennedy Center Honors on Sunday night as Tom Hanks, who won an Oscar for Forrest Gump, received a medal. Forrest Gump, Issa said, was "the ultimate ... stupid man." The chairman then asked Gruber: "Are you stupid?" "No, I don't think so," Gruber replied, according to The Atlantic. Issa concluded: "So you're a smart man who said some ... really stupid things."
At another point, Issa said Gruber and the Obama administration had demonstrated “a pattern of intentionally misleading the public about the true nature and impact of Obamacare.”
Democrats also had harsh words for Gruber. Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., said Gruber had given Republican critics of the law a "PR gift." "You wrapped it up with a bow," Cummings said."
Gruber helped craft the health care law in Massachusetts that became a model for Obama's federal policy. He received $400,000 from the Obama administration for his work on Obamacare.