ABC: Is CNN’s Gupta Qualified for Surgeon General?

On World News Saturday, during the show’s "A Closer Look" segment, ABC anchor David Muir gave attention to those who question whether CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta has sufficient qualifications to be Barack Obama’s surgeon general. Muir even played a clip of David Letterman poking fun at Gupta twice during the show: "The choice, it was between a Gupta, Dr. Phil, and a guy on Scrubbs. I don’t know what the hell-" He also recounted that Muir was forced to apologized to liberal filmmaker Michael Moore after making errors in a report fact-checking Moore’s film Sicko. As Muir gave voice to those in the pro-Gupta camp who believe it is important for the surgeon general to be well known to the public, the ABC anchor reminded viewers that Dr. C. Everett Coop talked about AIDS while President Reagan was "largely silent," and that President George W. Bush’s surgeon general resigned in protest in 2006 charging he had been "muzzled by the White House."

ABC showed the first clip of Letterman mocking Gupta during a plug before a commercial break:

DAVID MUIR, BEFORE COMMERCIAL BREAK: From the doctor on TV to the nation’s top doc, tonight, the growing debate over Dr. Sanjay Gupta as surgeon general.

DAVID LETTERMAN: The choice, it was between a Gupta, Dr. Phil, and a guy on Scrubbs. I don’t know-

Muir introduced his report: "We're going to take ‘A Closer Look’ tonight at the debate brewing over President-elect Obama's potential pick for surgeon general, CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Turning a doctor who’s on TV into the nation's top doctor. Proponents ask, when was the last time you knew who the surgeon general was? Picking Gupta would solve that. But opponents argue there should be far more to the role."

As Muir noted that Gupta has been "silent about whether he’ll accept" the job, but that "other voices have quickly filled the vacuum," the Letterman clip was played a second time, although it was incomplete due to technical difficulties. Letterman: "-Dr. Phil, and a guy on Scrubbs. I don’t know what the hell-"

After playing soundbites of advocates on each side of the question of whether Gupta has the qualifications, the ABC anchor recounted some of Gupta’s high-profile experiences and reporting, and reminded viewers that he was forced to apologize to Michael Moore for making error’s in his critique of the film Sicko. Muir: "But his reporting has also stirred controversy. Some of Gupta's facts in his critique of Michael Moore's documentary on the nation's health care woes were wrong. Gupta apologized to Moore."

Muir went on to remind viewers that Dr. C. Everett Koop talked about AIDS when Reagan was "largely silent," and that President Bush’s surgeon general resigned in protest. Muir: "Not since the Reagan years has a surgeon general been a household name. Dr. C. Everett Koop spoke out against cigarette smoking and spoke publicly about AIDS at a time when the President was largely silent. ... President George Bush's surgeon general resigned in 2006, claiming he’d been muzzled by the White House. Since then, the position hasn't been filled, which is why health advocates on both sides of the Gupta debate say Obama's choice now takes on even greater significance."

Below is a complete transcript of the report from the January 10 World News Saturday on ABC:

DAVID MUIR, BEFORE COMMERCIAL BREAK: From the doctor on TV to the nation’s top doc, tonight, the growing debate over Dr. Sanjay Gupta as surgeon general.

DAVID LETTERMAN: The choice, it was between a Gupta, Dr. Phil, and a guy on Scrubbs. I don’t know-

...

MUIR: We're going to take "A Closer Look" tonight at the debate brewing over President-elect Obama's potential pick for surgeon general, CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Turning a doctor who’s on TV into the nation's top doctor. Proponents ask, when was the last time you knew who the surgeon general was? Picking Gupta would solve that. But opponents argue there should be far more to the role.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, ON CNN: Good morning. Welcome to "House Call."

MUIR: Normally reporting medical news, this week Dr. Sanjay Gupta became the news. So far, he has been silent about whether he’ll accept any offer for surgeon general. But other voices have quickly filled the vacuum.

LETTERMAN, AFTER AUDIO GAP: -Dr. Phil, and a guy on Scrubbs. I don’t know what the hell-

MUIR: There are many, though, who are not laughing, arguing the doctor on TV shouldn't become the nation's top doc, the doctor who would advise the President and the nation about health and disease and lead some 6,000 uniformed health officers across this country.

DR. DOUGLAS KAMEROW, FORMER ASSISTANT SURGEON GENERAL: He obviously knows a lot, and he spent a lot of time reporting about all kinds of things in medicine, but still, it's not the same as spending 15 or 20 or 25 years working in various public health locations, working in these issues and working in the government.

MUIR: During the Clinton years, Gupta was a White House fellow advising then-First Lady Hillary Clinton on health care. But some argue, years of service in the public health arena isn't necessarily what's most important.

DR. LINDA DEGUTIS, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE AMERICAN PUBLIC HEALTH ASSOCIATION: One of the reasons that it is a good pick is that Dr. Gupta is already recognized by the public, and one of the key roles of the surgeon general is to communicate with the public.

MUIR: The 39-year-old doctor embedded with the Navy medical unit in the Iraq war drawing attention when he performed surgery on an injured Iraqi child. He reported on the health crises after the tsunami and hurricane Katrina. But his reporting has also stirred controversy. Some of Gupta's facts in his critique of Michael Moore's documentary on the nation's health care woes were wrong. Gupta apologized to Moore.

GUPTA, APPEARING ON CNN’S LARRY KING LIVE WITH MICHAEL MOORE: We want to get these facts and figures right, as a doctor and a journalist, so we corrected that.

MUIR: But proponents argue a Gupta appointment would bring renewed prominence to the role. Not since the Reagan years has a surgeon general been a household name. Dr. C. Everett Koop spoke out against cigarette smoking and spoke publicly about AIDS at a time when the President was largely silent.

DR. C. EVERETT KOOP, FORMER SURGEON GENERAL: Let's stop the rumors and misinformation about AIDS.

MUIR: President George Bush's surgeon general resigned in 2006, claiming he’d been muzzled by the White House. Since then, the position hasn't been filled, which is why health advocates on both sides of the Gupta debate say Obama's choice now takes on even greater significance. Our "Closer Look" for tonight.