During an appearance at a Southern Baptist Convention event in Nashville on Tuesday, Jeb Bush made an offhand remark that he wasn't sure that "we need half a billion dollars" in government funding "for women's health issues." However, not long afterward, his team released a statement saying he "misspoke, as there are countless community health centers, rural clinics, and other women's health organizations that need to be fully funded."
Bush's remark came in the context of his support for defunding Planned Parenthood, which receives more than $500 million in public funds per year and is currently embroiled in controversy. The former Florida governor was trying to preemptively rebut the criticism that defunding Planned Parenthood takes away money from women's health initiatives. So he made the point that the money that goes to Planned Parenthood could well go to other organizations working on women's health — but, he said, he wasn't sure that $500 million worth of spending on it would be necessary.
Here's the video, and a transcript, of Bush's comments:
The next president should defund Planned Parenthood. I have the benefit of having been governor and we did defund Planned Parenthood when I was governor. We tried to create a culture of life across the board. The argument against this is, well, women's health issues are gonna be — you're attacking — it's a war on women and you're attacking women's health issues. You could take dollar for dollar — although I'm not sure we need half a billion dollars for women's health issues — but if you took dollar for dollar, there are many extraordinarily fine organizations, community health organizations, that exist, federally sponsored community health organizations, to provide quality care for women on a wide variety of health issues. But abortion should not be funded by the government, any government, in my mind.
The "women's health" remark quickly got attention on Twitter, from journalists who spied a gaffe and Democrats who were positively gleeful over what they saw as a new opening to attack Bush.
"I'm not sure we need half a billion dollars for women's health issues," Jeb Bush says at Southern Baptist Convention.— Sabrina Siddiqui (@SabrinaSiddiqui) August 4, 2015
A few more months of this and the GOP will be wishing for a candidate with the political skills of @MittRomney https://t.co/iiuiXLPz4f— Dan Pfeiffer (@danpfeiffer) August 4, 2015
Bush's tendency to freelance, resist talking points = Romney's tin-ear for political rhetoric. https://t.co/JZEpAZVcl8— Josh Kraushaar (@HotlineJosh) August 4, 2015
Isn't one benefit of an establishment candidate supposed to be that he's not going to make gaffes like this? http://t.co/h96OWUmRKR— John McCormack (@McCormackJohn) August 4, 2015
It was a casual aside that could haunt Jeb Bush throughout 2016: http://t.co/BzotgpdVKl— Michael Barbaro (@mikiebarb) August 4, 2015
Hillary Clinton didn't take long at all to give a full-throated response:
.@JebBush: You are absolutely, unequivocally wrong. https://t.co/a6O17dlEh4— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) August 4, 2015
And not half an hour after Clinton's tweet, Bush's team released this statement saying that he misspoke:
"With regards to women's health funding broadly, I misspoke, as there are countless community health centers, rural clinics, and other women's health organizations that need to be fully funded. They provide critical services to all, but particularly low-income women who don't have the access they need.
"I was referring to the hard-to-fathom $500 million in federal funding that goes to Planned Parenthood - an organization that was callously participating in the unthinkable practice of selling fetal organs. Democrats and Republicans agree we absolutely must defund them and redirect those funds to other women's health organizations."
From the context of Bush's remarks, it does indeed seem like he was speaking offhand and didn't quite think through the implications of what he was saying. But it certainly won't be the last time we hear about this comment from Democrats.