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June 29, 2013 9:30 AM Today in Republicans making jackasses out of themselves: the baseless “pro sports is pimping for Obamacare” freak-out

By Kathleen Geier

I’ve got to hand it the GOP. They never run out of things to freak out about. When they exhaust reality-based events (unsurprisingly, they were not fans of this week’s Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriage), they move on to things that have a grain of truth, but which they systematically distort. (Yes, the IRS did inappropriately target conservative groups, but progressive groups were targeted as well, and no conservative group was denied tax-exempt status).

And then, when they scrape the bottom of the barrel of half-truths, they resort to simply making @#$% up.

Today’s shrieking GOP hissy fit appears to fall squarely into the “making @#$% up” category. Senate Republicans are “warning” six professional sports leagues not to co-operate in efforts to inform the general public about benefits available through Obamacare. And they darkly hint that the Obama administration will enage in Nixon-style political vendettas against sports organizations that do not “play ball,” so to speak:

We have long been concerned by the Obama Administration’s record of using the threat of policy retaliation to solicit support for its policies or to silence its critics. Should the administration or its allies suggest that there will be any policy consequence for your decision not to participate in their outreach efforts, we urge you to resist any such pressure and to contact us immediately so that we may conduct appropriate oversight.

Let’s back up a bit. The Republican letter warns the sports organizations that co-operating in Obamacare-related public service messages could damage their reputations:

“Given the divisiveness and persistent unpopularity of this bill, it is difficult to understand why an organization like yours would risk damaging its inclusive and apolitical brand by lending its name to its promotion,” wrote Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX).

Of course, that business about Obamacare being “unpopular” is seriously misleading. Sadly, most Americans have no freakin’ clue what is in the Obamacare law. 42 percent of us actually believe the law may have been repealed or struck down.

Given this remarkable level of public ignorance, maybe the answer would be, oh, I dunno, a big PSA campaign educating Americans about what’s in Obamacare, and how they might access its benefits? Unfortunately, Republicans have a huge incentive to keep the public in the dark about Obamacare. Right now, Americans say they dislike the law overall, but they tend to register overwhelming approval for the law’s major provisions. So it makes sense that the Republicans, who fought Obamacare kicking and screaming and have a vested interest in making it fail, would prefer to keep the masses ignorant. This makes much easier for them to spread disinformation and foment hysteria (“death panels!”) about the program. Hey, it works for Fox News viewers!

One problem here is the professional sports organizations themselves are saying the GOP letter has no basis in fact:

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told TPM the league has “no plans” to engage on Obamacare.

Even more risible is the idea that these non-cooperating sports organizations are quaking in fear of some sort of thuggish, Tony Soprano-style political payback:

Asked about the suggestion in the letters that the administration may be threatening or pressuring the NFL, McCarthy responded, “Not correct. [Q]uite simply, the NFL, NBA and others were contacted by the administration. We made no commitments nor discussed any substantive details with the administration.”

So once again the GOP is crying wolf — surprise, surprise! They have to know there was no there there. But maybe this kind of empty political theater is good for fundraising, or something?

By now they’re probably already on their next ridiculous nothingburger. Next stop: the campaign to vilify those notorious gay child abusers, Sesame Street’s Ernie and Burt (and yes, I wish I were making that up).

Kathleen Geier is a writer and public policy researcher who lives in Chicago. She blogs at Inequality Matters. Find her on Twitter: @Kathy_Gee

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