Republican lawmakers are up in arms over the White House efforts to fight disinformation about the president's health care proposals. In a blog post, White House Director of New Media Macon Phillips asked people to report any stories floating around online that seemed "fishy" so they could rebut the false ones
There is a lot of disinformation about health insurance reform out there, spanning from control of personal finances to end of life care. These rumors often travel just below the surface via chain emails or through casual conversation. Since we can't keep track of all of them here at the White House, we're asking for your help. If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to email@example.com.
GOP officials have taken the campaign personally. In a letter to the president, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) wrote:
By requesting that citizens send "fishy" emails to the White House, it is inevitable that the names, email addresses, IP addresses, and private speech of U.S. citizens will be reported to the White House. You should not be surprised that these actions taken by your White House staff raise the specter of a data collection program. As Congress debates health care reform and other critical policy matters, citizen engagement must not be chilled by fear of government monitoring the exercise of free speech rights.
I can only imagine the level of justifiable outrage had your predecessor asked Americans to forward emails critical of his policies to the White House. I suspect that you would have been leading the charge in condemning such a program--and I would have been at your side denouncing such heavy-handed government action.
Of course, Cornyn was a staunch defender of President Bush's domestic spying program.
And Joe Pounder from House Minority Whip Eric Cantor's (R-Va.) office implied that they could be muzzled in an email: "This morning, the White House posted on their blog a note asking Americans to report anything they get or see about health care reform 'that seems fishy.' We'll keep sending stuff out but if we stop..."
However, RedState founder Erick Erickson claimed that "given the near certainty that no one will be stripping from e-mails the names of the people forwarding on the information, the White House is most likely engaged in illegal activity."
The White House says they are not compiling any email lists -- merely gathering the rumors so they know what's out there.