President Barack Obama addressed MIT economist Jonathan Gruber’s comments for the first time on Sunday.
“I just heard about this,” Obama told Fox News’ Ed Henry during a press conference at the G20 Summit in Australia. “I get well briefed before I come out here.”
“The fact that some adviser who never worked on our staff expressed an opinion that I completely disagree with in terms of the voters is no reflection on the actual process that was run,” Obama said.
Republicans have used the term “architect” to describe Gruber’s role in the creation of Obamacare, while Democrats have now sought to paint him as a marginal player.
Several videos surfaced over the past week in which Gruber spoke freely about how he believed Obamacare was passed.
Claiming a “lack of transparency” was necessary to pass Obamacare, Gruber said last year “this bill was written in a tortured way to make sure the [Congressional Budget Office] did not score the mandate as taxes. If CBO scored the mandate as taxes, the bill dies.”
“Call it the stupidity of the American voter,” Gruber said.
In another video, in which Gruber is discussing what is known as the Cadillac tax, which taxes expensive health care plans, the economist told the audience “It’s a very clever, you know, basic exploitation of the lack of economic understanding of the American voter.” (RELATED: In Third Video, Obamacare Architect Talks About ‘Basic Exploitation’ Of American Voters)
In an interview with PBS in 2012, Gruber said he discussed the Cadillac tax with Obama at the White House. (RELATED: President Crafted Obamacare Deception With Gruber At White House Meeting)
“And Obama was like, ‘Well, you know’ — I mean, he is really a realistic guy,” Gruber said, describing his meeting with Obama. “He is like, ‘Look, I can’t just do this.’ He said: ‘It is just not going to happen politically. The bill will not pass. How do we manage to get there through phases and other things?’ And we talked about it. And he was just very interested in that topic.”
Gruber was paid $392,600 to consult on Obamacare and helped craft Romneycare, which served as the model for the federal health law. He has described himself as “the numbers guy.” Gruber had developed complex economic models which were used to predict the long-term costs of the health care overhaul.
As Slate’s John Dickerson reported on Friday, Obama prominently acknowledged Gruber’s role in helping craft the law in the past.
“I helped Gov. Romney develop his health care reform or Romneycare, before going down to Washington to help President Obama develop his national version of that law,” Gruber says in a 2012 video published by Organizing for Action, Obama’s campaign arm.
Gruber’s role was further explicated by a former adviser to Kathleen Sebelius, the former secretary of Health and Human Services.
“I remember many a call to Jonathan Gruber about his expertise in Massachusetts as we were formulating the plan,” said Neera Tanden, who is currently the president of the Center for American Progress, in 2012.
“Not only did we call in Jon Gruber for his advice regularly, but we looked very much at the results [of the Massachusetts plan],” she continued.
Asked Sunday if he misled the public in order to get the federal health care bill passed, Obama said “No. I did not.”
“I would just advise every press outlet here: Pull up every clip and every story. I think it’s fair to say there was not a provision in the health care law that was not extensively debated and was fully transparent,” Obama said, according to Politico. “It was a tough debate.”
Gruber’s comments were brought out of the shadows last week by a Philadelphia financial adviser named Rich Weinstein.
Weinstein began sifting through Gruber videos after he lost his insurance coverage last year. He was particularly miffed by Obama’s statement “if you like your plan, you can keep your plan, period.”
This post was updated to include a more accurate transcription of Obama’s remarks. The article initially relied on a transcript provided by another news outlet. It differed slightly from Obama’s actual remarks.