Bozell Column: PBS and Health-Care Hypocrites

Struggling to sell a "public option" of socialized medicine on America, the left needs demons. So here comes, right on time, the focus on all the "lies" that free-market "front groups" are pushing on the failures of nationalized health care in countries like Canada and Great Britain.

These leftists are shameless. Their intellectual dishonesty is boundless. One wonders if socialized medicine might include treatment for this condition.

A man named Wendell Potter was the star of the hour on PBS’s "Bill Moyers Journal" on July 10. Potter used to be a spokesman for the insurance giant Cigna. He painted a picture of gilded excess. "I was served my lunch by a flight attendant who brought my lunch on a gold-rimmed plate. And she handed me gold-plated silverware to eat it with." Sitting in a spacious corporate jet, he said he was overcome by guilt at the gap between his creature comforts and the health struggles of the poor and uninsured.

He became a convert to the socialist cause by remembering the Kennedys. One of JFK’s favorite quotes, he said, was a Dante line that "the hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who, in times of moral crisis, maintain a neutrality." He panicked. "I'm headed for that hottest place in Hell, unless I say something."

That’s a tidy story. Moyers unveiled it carefully, which is to say: keeping some details hidden. Potter has a new job, a senior fellow at a radical left-wing group called the Center for Media and Democracy. CMD touts how Potter’s "working with us to examine the role of the powerful insurance industry in undermining, manipulating and thwarting reform."

Potter’s so enthusiastically leftist now that he and Moyers discussed how Michael Moore’s mockumentary "Sicko" was a misunderstood work of genius. But Potter’s job was never revealed to the Moyers audience. Why not?

Moyers was hiding more than that. CMD’s website touts a rapturous endorsement from....none other than Bill Moyers. "[N]ot a day goes by that I don't go to their website for a stirring encounter with the truth of America. You should visit their website," Moyers told the crowd of a CMD reception in Manhattan in 2005. "They do the best journalism about what is really happening in this country to our media system. I couldn't exist as a journalist without it, nor would I want to as a citizen. It arms me with the information that I need, reporting that I need to make the case I want to make about our society."

In the interest of full disclosure, should not he have told his PBS audience of his public association with this group? Yes, unless you’re Bill Moyers.

Then there’s another hidden layer. Moyers is more than a public endorser of CMD. He’s been a financial supporter, through his other job as the president of the Schumann Center for Media & Democracy (formerly the Schumann Foundation). This interview is merely the latest in a long line of Moyers PBS interviews that he hands out like candy to his Schumann grantees – without disclosing the glaring conflict of interest to the viewers or the taxpayers.

Stephen Hayes of the Weekly Standard nailed Moyers to the wall on this hypocrisy back in 2003, and Moyers is still shamelessly practicing it. He told Hayes that he always disclosed the fact when a Schumann grantee appeared on his programs. That was a falsehood. This program was just the latest proof of this PBS host’s habit of lying by omission.

CMD is shameless enough to have its own website – Frontgroups.org – assailing the notion that some people aren’t what they say they are. These "hidden persuaders," they allege, are quoted in blogs and the media while "pretending to represent the grassroots when in fact they are working against citizens’ best interests." All this, while newspapers and television shows spotlight Potter as a corporate whistleblower, and ignore the group now employing him. Amazing.

Welcome to situational socialist ethics. The left thinks its own non-disclosures aren’t malicious because they’re in the "public interest." They have no profit motive – just power lust. Hiding your affiliations isn’t dishonest when you seek to abolish the insurance industry and put the government in charge of everyone’s life-and-death decisions.

In the last two months, Moyers has featured three one-sided interview segments, pleading to impose a Canadian-style "single payer" system. He even insisted "Armageddon" was coming on health care, casting Obama as the Messiah and Rupert Murdoch, the Business Roundtable, and the Chamber of Commerce as the Antichrists.

If Moyers ever gets his way and America gets shackled to such a rigid and rationing system, you can be sure that if he ever gets denied care by the government, that hypocrite Moyers will take his PBS merchandising millions (that isn’t disclosed to his audience, either) and buy better health care for himself.

Brent Bozell
Brent Bozell
Brent Bozell is the Founder and President of the Media Research Center