In April, a right-wing urologist in Florida who put up a sign stating, “if you voted for Obama … seek urologic care elsewhere.” At the time, Rep. John Fleming (R-LA), a leading conservative in the Republican doctors caucus, told a town hall audience that he “applaud[s]” what the Florida doctor “said and did.” Fleming had suggested that the doctor has a “First Amendment” right to deny care based on political affiliation — a right that appears nowhere in the Constitution. On Thursday, ThinkProgress caught up with Fleming at an event hosted by the GOP Healthcare Solutions caucus on Capitol Hill. Fleming explained that he stands by his comments and still supports the doctor’s right to put up the anti-Obama patients sign, but as a physician, he would not do the same. He also said the doctor was not truly denying patients, despite the clear message of the sign:
TP: What about the doctor who posted a sign that would deny Obama voters, patients into his office, you applauded him. Do you still think that is a good idea, and would you recommend doctors in your district to do that?
FLEMING: That’s not an accurate characterization of what I said. I said I applaud the right that he has to post a sign and it says that those who supported Obamacare need not come for service. Truth of the matter is, he never said that he would refuse care to him. He clearly said he was not even asking them. He just simply was making a political statement, that’s a First Amendment right. I also stated that I myself as a physician would not have done that. But I would support the right of any American in their First Amendment right to political speech.
The Florida doctor has faced wide condemnation for his sign, and Fleming was widely criticized after ThinkProgress reported on his remarks. MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann exclaimed on his show, “Really? He‘s got a first amendment right to see patients based on how they voted? Is that the same first amendment right to doctors in the south used to invoke and to refuse treatment of black people or keep them out of hospitals?” Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL), the congressman who represents the district of the Florida doctor discriminating against Obama voters, said, “Maybe he thinks the Hippocratic Oath says, ‘Do no good.’ If this is the face of the right-wing in America, it’s the face of cruelty.”