POLITICS
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Dick Armey: I Don't Believe In "Death Panels" But If People Believe That, It's OK With Me

In a profile in the upcoming New York Times magazine, former House Majority Leader Dick Armey touts his role through his FreedomWorks group in watering down health care reform and says "pretty soon it's going to be about cap and trade, which is another big Democratic power play."

In the interview, Armey reveals that he doesn't personally believe the "death panels" myth but he isn't too bothered by such hysteria, on display at town-hall rallies promoted by FreedomWorks. Despite the fact that the group launched a website called DontKillGrandma.com, Armey dismisses concerns about such lies. "Are their fears exaggerated? Yeah, probably. But are Obama's promises exaggerated? I may think it's silly but if people want to believe that," Armey says, referring to death panels, "it's OK with me."

Armey also betrays a nonchalant attitude to far-right activists such as Mason Weaver, an African-American former radio personality, known for outrageous statements. At a FreedomWorks rally in North Carolina, Weaver warned the audience that Obama wants to enslave them and goes on to minimize the horrors of slavery by claiming "slavery was a choice. The master didn't lock up those slaves at night." When Weaver finished his speech, Armey threw his arm around him and said, "Way to go, brother!"

Fresh off organizing several of the biggest anti-Obama rallies over the summer and stirring up public anger about health care, FreedomWorks has moved on to its next goal -- defeating climate change legislation.

Over the summer, the conservative advocacy group led by Armey generated over 40,000 emails to Congress to defeat the bill, according to spokesman Adam Brandon.

In a press release, the group said that the Boxer-Kerry bill "threatens to devastate the U.S. economy and yet have no tangible environmental benefit."

Several of the claims in the release are blatantly false. The group warns of $4 a gallon gas, while the Energy Information Administration (EIA) found that the bill's provisions would raise gas prices by 23 cents by 2020. In addition, FreedomWorks claims that the bill would add $1300 in increased annual energy costs per American household. The EIA found that the cost totaled $83 per year.

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