As a journalist covering Chicago politics, verifying information is like climbing a mountain of sand. With each step you take, the deeper you sink.
Last week while researching claims from a local Tea Party activist, I found myself asking a family for proof that they had lost an unborn grandchild.
The family, Dan and Midge Hough, of Chicago, spoke in favor of health care reform and in support of U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd) at a Nov. 14 town hall meeting in Oak Lawn.
Their daughter-in-law, Jenny, and an unborn grandchild died recently due in part, they believe, to a lack of health insurance. They said Jenny was not receiving regular prenatal care and ended up in an emergency room with double pneumonia that developed into septic shock. Her baby died in the womb, and Jenny died a few weeks later, leaving behind a husband and a 2-year-old daughter.
Catherina Wojtowicz, of Chicago's Mount Greenwood community, an organizer for a Tea Party splinter group, Chicago Tea Party Patriots, falsely claimed that the Houghs fabricated their story. In an e-mail, she called them operatives of President Barack Obama who "go from event to event and (cry) the same story."
When the Houghs spoke at the Lipinski event, some Tea Partiers ridiculed them. They moaned and rolled their eyes and interrupted. Midge Hough began to cry.
The audience, Wojtowicz later explained, was exasperated by stories of isolated tragedies that cloud debate over the health care bill itself.
"What we are talking about is the bill," she said. "We've all had family members pass away, but would this health care bill really have prevented (Jenny's) death? We do question it."
Fox News host Chris Wallace on Sunday called the Republican Party's bluff and asked if lawmakers were prepared to "shoot the hostage" and shut down the federal government if President Barack Obama refused to defund his healthcare reform law.
Former Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich on Monday tied a scandal where the Internal Revenue Service targeted tea party groups to President Barack Obama's health care reform law and last September's attacks in Benghazi.
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