WASHINGTON — In a bid to confront criticism of his healthcare overhaul, President Obama has invited conservative talk-radio host Michael Smerconish to do his show from the White House.
The president will appear from 1:10 to 1:30 p.m. Eastern time today, with some cable networks expected to carry the program live and the audience likely to pepper him with pointed questions.
"There has been a lot of misinformation that's been spread, particularly in conservative circles, about this plan," said Joshua Earnest, a White House spokesman. "It's an opportunity to set the record straight, and hopefully he'll have an opportunity to confront that misinformation head-on."
The White House said it had a standing invitation to appear on Smerconish's show, and decided to accept.
Smerconish, 47, had consistently voted Republican in presidential races until last year, when he endorsed Obama. He favors the death penalty and a tough stance on terrorism, but said he also supported abortion rights and didn't care "if two guys hook up."
Asked who tends to listen to his nationally syndicated show out of Philadelphia, Smerconish responded in an e-mail: "Buxom women and high-income men." More seriously, he added: "I'd like to think I attract a mixed lot reflective of my hard-to-classify views; not solely an ideological lot."
Smerconish said he wanted Obama to get tough questions.
"I hear time and time again from people who say we won't be able to pay for programs going on, and they don't like the feeling that government is involved in every aspect of their life and industry," he said in an interview. "These are not people on the fringe. These are middle Americans that are very distressed at the involvement in banks, the auto industry and now healthcare."
In Smerconish, the White House has chosen a relatively centrist voice on the conservative spectrum.
"The type of Republican Michael represents is a moderate type," said Larry Ceisler, a political consultant and friend of Smerconish. "So if they can make a case to the middle, which Michael represents, then you have the right wing somewhat isolated."