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Ari & I: May 15, 2001

Russell Mokhiber questions White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer

Russell Mokhiber questions White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer

White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer gestures as he speaks to reporters at the White House briefing room April 2, 2003 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Mokhiber: Ari, in 1998, a jury in San Antonio ordered Diamond Shamrock refinery corporation to pay a widow, Donna Hall, $42 million for the death of her husband at the refinery. The jury thought that this was a way to punish the company for knowingly using unsafe equipment.

Governor Bush at the time pushed a tort reform law that limited that award to $200,000.

Last year, President Bush took $5,000 from Diamond Shamrock's political action committee.

Two questions.

One, is the President now concerned that there is a growing public perception of him siding with the oil industry on everything ranging from energy prices to workers' rights?

And two, does he have second thoughts about tort reform in light of the Diamond Shamrock case?

Ari Fleischer: First of all, the President again is going to do what he think is right regardless of whether or not one group in society supports him or opposes him on it. And he will continue to do that.

In the case of tort reform, what has happened all too often is that consumers pay far higher bills than what is necessary. Instead of people being able to get justice from the courts, the courts have turned into a system where lawyers are able to come in, especially trial lawyers, and drive up health care costs, consumer product costs, for everybody in society.

Under the Patient Bill of Rights for example, under the President's approach, patients will be entitled on an unlimited basis for economic damages suffered. When it comes to non-economic damages suffered, the President does believe, and so does a bi-partisan group of Senators, that there ought to be a reasonable cap.

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