Obama says insurers aren't villains, breaking with Pelosi

President Obama insisted Friday he's not trying to vilify insurers in his bid to overhaul the nation's healthcare system, subtly breaking with one of the House's top leaders.

Obama said during a town hall meeting this afternoon that he's not seeking to make insurers into a bogeyman, just over two weeks after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called insurance companies "villains" in the national discussion over health reform, and just over a week after his own political arm chided insurers.

Facing a question from a Montanan who sells individual health insurance policies, the president denied that he is trying to turn the powerful insurance industry into a bogeyman in the debate over heath reform.

"My intent is not to vilify the insurance companies," Obama said in his Montana town hall.

"If I was vilifying them, what we would be doing would be to say that private insurance has no place in the health care market, and some people believe that," the president added. "I don't believe that."

Those words contrast a bit with those made by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) earlier this summer. Pelosi accused insurers of a "carpet-bombing" campaign against reform, and said the companies were immoral for engaging in their campaign against reform.

"It's almost immoral what they are doing," Pelosi said in late July. "They are the villains. They have been part of the problem in a major way. They are doing everything in their power to stop a public option from happening."

The president's words toward insurers may also be a bit inconsistent with messaging dispatched by his political arm, Organizing for America. That group, which is administered by the Democratic National Committee, accused insurance companies of using "scare tactics" to "incite" unruly protests in town halls over the August recess.

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