Reality Check: False Claims Debunked About Last Week's Town Hall in St. Louis

FALSE CLAIM: Multiple SEIU members hit/kicked Kenneth Gladney, a conservative activist from St. Louis, while he was minding his own business selling buttons.

REALITY: In fact, it was an SEIU staffer --a disabled minister--who was assaulted. When the video that has been all over the radio and cable news shows begins, the Reverend Elston McCowan is already on the ground. Rev. McCowan is also seen clutching his shoulder, which was dislocated in the fall, once he is finally able to get up after the attack. He also sustained a chipped bone during the fall.

REALITY: Even Gladney, in the video, doesn't claim this happened. He only claims his hands were "hit"--which has been disputed--and he never claims that this took place before the disabled Reverend was hit.

FALSE CLAIM: There's video evidence of SEIU members beating Gladney from the town hall meeting.

REALITY: Videos taken that night, edited and unedited, do not support Gladney's claims. In fact, in this freeze-frame video, it's pretty evident that the person who has been pushed to the ground -- on his back -- is a wearing a purple SEIU shirt--and is not Kenneth Gladney. Teabaggers have consistently confused Rev. Elston McCowan with Gladney, a conservative activist who has said he was attacked by some of those arrested as he handed out yellow flags with "Don't tread on me" printed on them.
REALITY: Newspaper reports from that night cited no witness accounts of the incident, only Gladney's story. There are two sides to every story, and right now Gladney's is the only one being publicly told.

FALSE CLAIM: Gladney was rushed to the hospital after the alleged 'attack'.

REALITY: Gladney left the protest upright, walking and talking--and conducting live television interviews. In the video, Gladney does fall to the ground at one point in the shuffle--but he jumps back up and is standing up less than two seconds later. Furthermore, as Media Matters' excellent deconstruction of the supposed "union beating" points out, Gladney was not whisked away by an ambulance and "hospitalized" immediately after the town hall. Rather, he sought treatment of his own accord to treat injuries to his "knee, back, elbow, shoulder and face." All that from a two-second fall to the pavement?

That same night, Gladney also did interviews on live television. Yet two days later at an anti-SEIU protest, Gladney attended in a wheelchair. His lawyer claimed that Gladney was "under heavy medication" and would not be speaking at the event.

FALSE CLAIM: This was a "hate crime."

REALITY: Kenneth Gladney is accusing an SEIU staff member (and minister) who is African-American. SEIU is the nation's most diverse union: 56 percent of its members are women, and 40 percent are people of color.

FALSE CLAIM: Gladney has no health insurance.

REALITY: At the anti-SEIU protest, Gladney told reporters that he was recently out of work and had no health insurance, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. However, by Tuesday, his story had changed and conservative blogs were reporting that Gladney does, in fact, receive insurance through his wife. When Gladney's (now-former lawyer) David Brown was asked about this, he replied: "Well, who doesn't need a donation? If people want to give him a donation because he's injured and unemployed, that's up to them." Brown said Gladney has raised about $1,100 in donations so far. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 8/9; Washington Independent, 8/10)

FALSE CLAIM: Gladney was only hired to sell buttons at the town hall meeting, and has no ties to the broader Tea Party movement.

REALITY: Gladney, along with his lawyer (at the time), a Tea Party activist, were spoiling for a fight. Gladney came to the protest with his lawyer and Tea Party activist, David Brown. In February, Brown formed an LLC in Missouri under the name The Political Mint LLC. The Political Mint has openly promoted the fact that they are involved in "Tea Party Fundraising." Despite walking away from the protest, Gladney and his lawyer then contacted reporters and conservative bloggers with their tale, appearing on Fox News the next day. They immediately announced that they would be filing a civil suit. Brown's brother, Andrew Beeney, is going to be the lawyer officially presenting him.

FALSE CLAIM: The Tea Party protesters are only voicing the concerns of real Americans in the healthcare debate--and the protest in St. Louis is an important part of that debate.

REALITY: The Teabaggers themselves admitted that their real goal is "no reform at all;" the focus on St. Louis is an attempt to distract from our national healthcare crisis. On a private conference call, top Tea Party and conservative activists--including organizers from RecessRally.com, American Liberty Alliance, and "Tea Party Patriots"-- openly admitted their real goal: to defeat ANY healthcare reform bill. "The goal is not compromise, and ANY bill coming out this year would be a failure for us," said the call's moderator, according to reports at Greg Sargent's blog, The Plum Line. The report also indicated that one of the organizers on the call also added, "The purpose of Tea Parties is not to find a solution to the health care crisis -- it is to stop what is not the solution: Obamacare." (The Plum Line, 8/11/09)

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