This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," August 10, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Democratic congressman Steve Cohen got an earful at a recent town hall. So does Congressman Cohen think those people are, well, un-American? Let's ask. Congressman Cohen -- joins us live. Congressman, I'm sure you've heard the -- I'm sure you've read the op-ed piece today in USA Today, where the Speaker and Steny Hoyer referred to as "un-American" some of the protesters. Your response, sir?
REP. STEVE COHEN, D - TENN.: Well, I think town hall meetings are as American as apple pie. The meeting we had could have had more discourse and opportunity to exchange ideas. It was no Tammy Haddad garden party. But it was American and there were issues discussed, and I think we got across the fact that some of the myths that were being out there were indeed myths. And we let the health care professionals on both sides talk at first, and I think that was very helpful to the discussion.
VAN SUSTEREN: Do you disavow the term "un-American" because it certainly is hitting a nerve with a lot of people in this country who went to -- who've gone to town hall meetings. Do you disavow that term for people who are rather passionate and going to these town hall meetings and taking issue with some of the representatives?
COHEN: Well, I think "un-American" goes back to Joe McCarthy and accusing people falsely and using congressional powers to do that. Now, I'm not going to go so far as to say they're un-American. They were indeed Americans that came to my meeting. They had a right to express themselves. I wished that we'd have had a little bit more opportunity to discuss things before they started to boo. But they're all kind of performance art and they're all kind of opportunities of guerrilla theater to affect political issues and to make an impression, and I felt like it was a good discourse.
VAN SUSTEREN: Was the -- were the people in -- at your town hall meeting, were they people who were just citizens who've come to hear and to sort of challenge you, or were they -- did it seem like it was sort of organized, that there was a group, for instance, bused in from someplace? Did you feel it was an organized group against it?
COHEN: Nobody was bused in. I went over the cards of everybody who came, and over 90 percent -- give or take 90 percent were from my district. The ones that weren't were from my county. So they were pretty much my district. They weren't necessarily representative of the ninth district. My district is 62 percent African-American, and I'd say that at this particular activity, it was probably about 5 to 10 percent African- American.
There was an anti-government individual who is an activist who circulated petitions on the e-mail to encourage people to come and to be concerned about some of the myths, the ideas that Congress had opted out, which is not true, that abortion was part of this, which is not true, that there would be -- seniors would be hurt by a diminution in health care, which is not true, that there would be euthanasia, which is not true. But all these things were used to get people out and people came there with those things in mind. And that's what they wanted to cheer and jeer about.
VAN SUSTEREN: Have you had a chance to read the entire bill?
COHEN: Yes, I have. And chances -- "War and Peace" was...
VAN SUSTEREN: Is it clear to you...
VAN SUSTEREN: It is clear to you, or do you -- can you understand why people might be confused going through it with so you're jumping around for different definitions? Can you understand why -- you know -- you know, why people would be upset with the bill, those who have even gone through it?
COHEN: Well, all legislation is difficult. I've been in office for over 30 years, and legislation -- it amends certain sections and has certain code numbers and technical verbiage, and so it's difficult to understand. But you need to have trust in some people...
VAN SUSTEREN: You know...
COHEN: ... whether they're Democrats...
VAN SUSTEREN: You know what? Here's...
COHEN: ... and Republicans -- and the White House has a spot now, Whitehouse.gov/realitycheck, to get people the truth about the bill.
VAN SUSTEREN: Here's where I disagree with you, is because the bill could be simple. You know, smart people can write things so the rest of us can understand it. And here's the problem. If it is so complicated, the people down the road who are going to have to implement it, you know, that's going to be even a bigger nightmare and they're not going to get it right unless you guys write a bill that's very plain and very easy to understand so we can all understand it. I actually believe you can if you want to.
COHEN: Well, Greta, it's difficult to do that because if you make it too simple and too plain and don't get technical, that's when the courts come into play to interpret what the words are. And if you don't get the words to be precise and specific and based on precedent and refer to code sections that exist now, then the courts will get involved, and you never know what the courts will do.
VAN SUSTEREN: And I'll let you have the last (INAUDIBLE) other than to say we respectfully disagree on that particular point. But Congressman, you get the last word on it. Thank you, sir, for coming. Hope you'll come back.
COHEN: Thank you, Greta. I appreciate your having me.
Content and Programming Copyright 2009 FOX News Network, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2009 CQ Transcriptions, LLC, which takes sole responsibility for the accuracy of the transcription. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material except for the user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon FOX News Network, LLC'S and CQ Transcriptions, LLC's copyrights or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.