As the implementation of the Affordable Care Act continues to gain momentum and reduce the rolls of the uninsured, many colleges have begun hosting informational sessions to explain the changes and benefits that the new law will introduce for enrolled and graduating students.
One such event is being hosted at Stony Brook University, a public university in New York. Entitled “The Affordable Care Act: Effects on College Students,” the event is being sponsored by the school’s Office of the Provost and presented as an impartial discussion on what Obamacare will mean for young people.
But the guest speaker at the event, Dr. John Hassett, has a well-documented record of comparing Obamacare to the Holocaust and equating progressives to the Nazis.
Hassett has been involved in Tea Party groups throughout Long Island for years, even running as a Tea Party candidate for a village trustee seat in the small town of Malverne in Nassau County (his campaign was derailed by violations of state campaign finance laws). Numerous conservative groups have invited Hassett to deliver speeches on Obamacare, and he has used those opportunities to compare President Obama and Democrats to Nazis and equate the Affordable Care Act to the Holocaust.
At a speech last May organized by a group calling itself The Guardians of Religious Freedom, Hassett laid out the comparison for attendees by claiming — falsely — that a single person will be responsible for doling out health care and will be making all health care decisions for anyone enrolled through Medicare or the state’s exchanges. It’s the same argument that conservatives made when raising the alarm over so-called death panels, but Hassett expanded on the idea further.
“That was the initial steps in Germany, before they headed to the sterilizations and murders,” he said. “How does this relate to Obamacare? Very closely unfortunately, if you follow paradigms from the past.”
Jewish leaders at Stony Brook University (full disclosure, this reporter’s alma mater) reacted with disappointment over Hassett’s remarks and his invitation to speak. “Any comparison of the Affordable Care Act to the Holocaust is not only absurd, but offensive as well,” said Rabbi Joseph Topek, head of the university’s Hillel. “To make that correlation is offensive to victims of the Holocaust.”
Hassett is hardly the first conservative to make the connection, but it’s unusual to see a public entity like a state university involve itself with such controversial figures. Indeed, students involved in the planning of the event have said they did not realize Hassett had such a checkered past.
A representative from the university was not immediately available for a comment.
Over the weekend, event organizers announced they were postponing the lecture, writing on Facebook that they “will work to reschedule the lecture based on the community response that the campus would benefit from a broader panel discussion providing multiple perspectives on the subject.”
Stony Brook University Media Relations Officer Lauren Sheprow responded to ThinkProgress, offering additional details about the event.
“Dr. Hassett’s lecture was organized by the provost-student advisory group, a committee consisting of undergraduate Stony Brook University students that periodically meets with the Provost to provide student perspectives on academic matters and to help engage students in events and lecture series,” said Sheprow via email. “The group is determined to bring inspiring speakers to campus who tackle controversial yet relevant issues that are pressing today’s Stony Brook Students in Society.”
“The students approached the Provost a couple of weeks ago with the idea of a lecture on The Affordable Care Act and the topic seemed timely. The Provost’s Office supports student initiatives, but its role is not to endorse or censure the student groups’ initiatives,” she added.