MIT economics professor Jonathan H. Gruber ’87, often referred to as a key Obamacare “architect,” has come under fire recently for videos from 2012 and 2013 in which he calls American voters “stupid” and attributes the passage of the Affordable Care Act in part to “basic exploitation of the lack of economic understanding of the American voter,” according to press reports from this past weekend.
Gruber was paid almost $400,000 by the Obama administration for his work on the ACA. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., said that “he ought to just give the money back.”
Gruber said on MSNBC last week that he regretted his “off the cuff” remarks. Lecture transcripts on OpenCourseWare show that he seems to call things “stupid” frequently.
Republicans have used his videos to argue that the Obama administration was not sufficiently transparent about the ACA before it passed. President Obama dismissed the criticisms on Sunday.
“I just heard about this,” Obama said at a press conference. “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.”
Democrats have been distancing themselves from Gruber, with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi claiming that she didn’t know who he was despite citing him in 2009.
Prominent Democrats have disputed his claims that the ACA passed because voters were in the dark about the taxes associated with insuring more people. Former Obama campaign advisor David Axelrod took to Twitter to assert that the ACA was clear and that Gruber was the one being “stupid,” and White House press secretary Josh Earnest said that every step of the ACA “has been extraordinarily transparent.”
Fox News’s Sean Hannity sent a camera crew to MIT’s Building E25 on Monday to confront an umbrella-toting Gruber.
“Professor, do you really think the American voters are stupid?” a crew member asks. “What about the Obamacare? Is that just a hoax on the American people?” Hannity’s footage then shows Gruber walking away without responding.