Whole Foods chief backs off ObamaCare 'fascism' claim, sustains criticism of health law

Co-CEO gives Greta tour of Whole Foods, dishes on new book, on whether he regrets calling ObamaCare 'fascism' and more


Whole Foods co-CEO John Mackey is backing off his controversial comparison of ObamaCare to "fascism," but he's not easing off his criticism of the health care overhaul. 

Mackey, who has long spoken out against the 2010 health care law, took heat earlier this week after saying in an NPR interview that the policy is not so much socialism as it is "more like fascism." He argued that in fascism, "the government doesn't own the means of production but they do control it," and compared that to the mechanics of the U.S. health care law. 

By Thursday, Mackey was walking back that statement and released a lengthy statement Friday morning. 

"I made a poor word choice to describe our health care system, which I definitely regret. The term fascism today stirs up too much negative emotion with its horrific associations in the 20th century," he said. 

Mackey, in an interview with Fox News, reiterated that he used a "poor choice of words that resulted in a lot of blowback." 

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He said he was trying to describe "government-controlled health care," or "the opposite of free-enterprise capitalism." 

With the major provisions of the health care overhaul poised to go into effect in 2014, Mackey continued to argue that the new system -- which provides subsidies to buy insurance, requires almost everyone to sign up and sets minimum standards for the industry -- will not be as effective as a system in which the government is less involved. 

"Competition forces business to improve and get better," Mackey said in an earlier Fox News interview, saying "bad regulations" are hurting. 

In the written statement, Mackey said the ideal would be to combine free enterprise with "a strong governmental safety net" for the poor and those with preexisting conditions. 

"This is what Switzerland does and I think we would be much better off copying that system than where we are currently headed in the United States," he said. 

Mackey indicated he would no longer use an "emotionally charged word" like fascism. 

"I need a new word or phrase to describe the state of health care now because it is something that I, like all folks entrusted with the wellbeing of a team, grapple with daily in this era," he said. "I think for now I will simply call it government-controlled health care to distinguish it from free enterprise capitalist health care."