Them's Bitin' Words: Man Loses Finger at Health Care Rally

Teeth come out at California clash

By Olsen Ebright
|  Friday, Sep 4, 2009  |  Updated 5:07 AM CDT
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Hungry for Health Care Reform

Ventura County Sheriff

The man on the far right, wearing a black shirt and black shorts, allegedly bit the finger of William Rice (white hair wearing a khaki T-shirt and olive drab shorts).

A 65-year-old California man is down to nine fingers after punching a supporter of President Barack Obama's health care plan.

About 100 people were demonstrating in favor of health care reforms on Wednesday night at Lynn Road and Hillcrest Drive, near the Oaks Mall. Across the street was a group of about 25 counter demonstrators.

The situation turned violent when William Rice punched an Obama supporter who had wandered over to the counter-demonstration.

"Yes, sir, I did. He came at me, calling me an idiot. And when … he got within my range, I threw a punch," Rice said during an interview with Fox News.

"Then I threw a second punch, and my fist ended up in his mouth," Rice said. "He bit my pinky finger off."

Rice said that because of human bacteria in the bite, doctors chose not to reattach the finger.

Rice said he was not there to debate either side of the issue.

"I didn't go out to demonstrate my beliefs, I happened to be driving by and I stopped to ask people what their purpose was," Rice told The Associated Press on Thursday. "I had no signs. I was not part of the demonstration."

Despite not aligning with either side, Rice has an interesting take on the issue.

"In my heart, I don't think this has anything to do with health care," Rice told Fox News. "I think that this is something much more devious than health care. I think health care is how we are being diverted while the government grabs what's left of our freedom away from us."

"It's what (the government has) us arguing about while they do something else," Rice said.

The biter remains on the lam.

"We don't know the identity of the man who bit the finger off," said Ventura County sheriff's spokesman Eric Buschow. "We want to contact him and get his side of the story.''

Rice said that he would not be suing the man, and he hoped his family members would come to forgive the biter.

Despite Rice not planning to sue, Fox News' Neil Cavuto decided to play the ol' speculation game.

"Now I'm already trying to think of this guy's legal defense -- not that you're suing or even interested in it, which says a lot about you, Bill. He might claim 'I accidentally bit his finger off. I didn't intend to.' Do you think he intended to?" Cavuto said.

"Neil, I can't look into the man's heart or into his mind. My finger was in his mouth and when it came out, I didn't have a finger -- that's all I know," Rice said.

Rice was treated at Los Robles Hospital and Medical Center. The top joint of his pinky, including his whole fingernail, was severed, hospital spokeswoman Kris Carraway-Bowman said.

She said his treatment was covered by Medicare.

Rice refused an interview with NBC on Thursday.

"The more I say about it, the more I feed the monster. I don't want to feed the monster anymore. I want this to go away," Rice said.

Anyone with information about the incident can contact investigators at 805-494-8201.

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