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Parkersburg pastor’s words with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito go viral


The Parkersburg News and Sentinel

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — A local pastor’s plea for Sen. Shelley Moore Capito to vote against the Senate health care bill thrust her into the national spotlight after a video of the exchange went viral.

The Rev. Janice Hill is shown in her office at First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) on Washington Avenue in Parkersburg Wednesday. A video of Hill asking Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., to vote against the Senate health care bill last week has gone viral, and Hill has been interviewed on CNN and MSNBC.
(Photo by Evan Bevins)

“After MSNBC called, it was like, ‘Who is this?’” said the Rev. Janice Hill, pastor of the Mid-Ohio Valley Parish of the Disciples of Christ, which includes First Christian Church in Parkersburg and Central Christian Church in Marietta. “After CNN called … I was like, ‘Sure.’”

Hill was interviewed in her office at First Christian Church Wednesday by The Parkersburg News and Sentinel, just moments after concluding a phone interview with The Daily Beast news and opinion site.

The video of Hill’s conversation with Capito has been viewed more than 5 million times since it was posted on NowThis Politics’ Facebook page and the NowThis News Twitter feed.

Hill went to Washington, D.C., on June 20 on a bus trip organized by Common Defense, a grassroots veterans organization, and Save My Care, a group opposed to the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, according to Parkersburg residents Kim Van Rijn and Brad Heflin, with Save My Care. Van Rijn was one of eight Wood County residents in the group of about 40 people, who met with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., then Capito, R-W.Va.

When Capito began to speak, Van Rijn’s husband, Mark Dasher, started taking a video with his phone and continued filming as Hill approached the senator and showed her photos of her daughter, a 41-year-old California resident who has battled a rare form of cancer called small cell neuroendocrine carcinoma.

“She would not be alive today, had it not been for the ACA,” Hill tells Capito in the video.

The ACA is the Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare, which many Republicans have vowed to repeal and replace. The provision Hill said has benefited her daughter is the elimination of caps on how much insurance companies can spend on a person’s coverage.

“In seven months, her medical bills were over $1.2 million,” Hill said Wednesday, repeating information she told Capito. “She’s been in treatment four years.

“Because this cancer’s so rare, everything that she’s had and continues to have is experimental,” she said.

Hill emphasized to Capito that her daughter has worked throughout her treatment and hopes to continue to do so. But if she cannot, passing a law that does not mandate coverage of pre-existing conditions could be a major blow, she said.

“These are real people. My daughter. And so I just want you to have that in your brain when you look at this,” Hill says in the video. “West Virginia needs you so desperately to stand up against this immoral bill.”

Dasher said he shared his video on the Wood County Indivisible Facebook page. Vienna resident Jeanne Peters, a member of the group, said it was later posted to the West Virginia Indivisible page.

Within half an hour, “we saw the number of hits it was getting and realized it was something,” she said.

A few days later, Dasher was being contacted by multiple media agencies asking for permission to use the video.

“It’s just taken on a life of its own now,” he said. “I was kind of stunned. … I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.”

In addition to interview requests, Hill said she’s received messages from people around the country and the world, the majority of them positive.

“I continue to be just totally amazed,” she said. “That’s why I think this was a God thing. … We couldn’t have orchestrated it.”

Hill said she was “thrilled” when Capito announced Tuesday that she could not support the bill in its current form, although the pastor called the timing “convenient” since the statement came after a procedural vote on the bill was delayed.

However, “it’s the right thing, no matter when she did it,” Hill added.

Hill said she thinks stories like hers and others probably influenced Capito to a degree, something the senator acknowledged during a telephone press conference Wednesday.

During their conversation, Hill said, she felt like the senator was listening to her and being respectful. But she’s more interested in the action Capito will take than her demeanor when they met.

“I want her to do what is the right thing,” she said.

Hill said she is not a member of any political group associated with the bus trip but was invited because she is an Air Force veteran and a faith leader. She said she will continue to do anything she can to advocate against what she calls an “immoral”bill that is “on the backs and the graves of real people.”

“Do I want publicity? Absolutely not,” Hill said. “Do I want publicity for this cause? Absolutely.”

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