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Health Care Protest: When Will the Left Stop Posting False Mitch McConnell Polio Meme?

Meme contends senate majority leader received government-funded polio treatment as a child

A meme claiming Mitch McConnell received government-funded health care as a child has been gaining traction on the left despite being false.

“As a kid, Mitch McConnell had polio, and the government paid for ALL of his care and rehabilitation,” the image, posted by the Facebook group Occupy Democrats. “Now, as the leader of the Republicans in the Senate, McConnell is taking government-funded care away from tens of millions of Americans. Let that sink in.”

The image has since spread across social media, and was shared on Twitter by “Hand of God” star Ron Perlman, a vocal critic of President Donald Trump and the GOP. The meme has also led to articles making the same claim on Death and Taxes and Daily Kos.

But as Snopes pointed out in a post debunking the meme on Friday, there’s no evidence McConnell’s medical care as a child was paid for by the government.

McConnell did suffer from polio as a child, and he reflected on the experience in his 2016 memoir “The Long Game.” In an interview with “PBS Newshour” that same year, McConnell discussed his stay at the rehabilitation center in Warm Springs, Georgia founded by President Roosevelt.

“[Polio] hits you like the flu, and then, when the flu went away, you could have all different kinds of outcomes, from dying to complete recovery,” he said. “Happily enough, we were one hour’s drive from Warm Springs, where President Roosevelt had set up the polio treatment center. My mother took me over there. They trained her how to do a physical therapy regimen and said, do it four times a day.”

The center, now known as Roosevelt Warm Springs, was funded by the Warm Springs Foundation, a private non-profit organization established by Roosevelt and his law partner Basil O’Connor. Money was raised through a series of “birthday balls” tied to the then-president’s birthday, as well as annual “March of Dimes” fundraiser.

“Some aspects of the [foundation] perhaps reflect a more innocent time,” wrote Snopes fact-checker Dan MacGuill. “For example, the hundreds of thousands of dimes sent by members of the public were processed at the White House and a cheque was given to Roosevelt, who then turned it over to O’Connor for distribution via the Foundation. However, in many ways the operation was a precursor of the professional, almost corporate style of non-profit fundraising and campaigning that has followed since.”

Despite it’s connection to the White House and the president, the foundation was funded by “the kindness and charity of the public, as well as wealthy celebrities and large corporations.”

Indeed, the Georgia state website for Roosevelt Warm Springs notes that the center was managed by a non-profit and “operated independently until 1974 when the state acquired the private Georgia Warm Springs Foundation Hospital and combined the two facilities into one comprehensive medical and vocational rehabilitation center.”

Sen. Mitch McConnel’s press office did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.