Only CBS Evening News Covers Senate Confirming New V.A. Chief

On July 29, the Senate confirmed Robert McDonald by a vote of 97-0 to be the next Secretary of Veterans Affairs but that evening only the CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley covered the story whereas ABC and NBC were nowhere to be found.  

Fill-in host James Brown introduced the report on the V.A. by explaining how “the first job for the former CEO of Procter & Gamble will be cleaning up the scandal at the V.A. A new internal audit obtained by CBS News shows it was even bigger than we knew.” [See video below.] 

During her coverage, Nancy Cordes detailed how the “internal audit was conducted in May and found 95 facilities where appointment requests by veterans were mishandled. Like the Horsham clinic in Pennsylvania where staff were encouraged to inaccurately enter a patient’s desired appointment date in an attempt to game the system.”   

The story also noted how “other facilities fudged appointments to improve clinic numbers to reflect no wait times or to improve their performance scores..And in nearly all of the Pacific Northwest, schedulers claimed they were simply confused about how the system was supposed to work. 

The fact that CBS was the only network to cover the confirmation of Robert McDonald on Tuesday night should come as no surprise given the sharp decline in network coverage of the V.A. over the last several months. NewsBusters’ Scott Whitlock documented how network coverage of the V.A. scandal dropped 84 percent from May to June and that trend continued into July with the networks devoting less than 22 minutes to the Department of Veterans Affairs from July 1-July 23. 

See relevant transcript below. 


CBS

CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley

July 29, 2014

JAMES BROWN: The Senate today confirmed Robert McDonald as the new Secretary of Veterans Affairs. The first job for the former CEO of Procter & Gamble will be cleaning up the scandal at the V.A. A new internal audit obtained by CBS News shows it was even bigger than we knew. Here's Nancy Cordes. 

NANCY CORDES: The internal audit was conducted in May and found 95 facilities where appointment requests by veterans were mishandled. Like the Horsham clinic in Pennsylvania where staff were encouraged to inaccurately enter a patient’s desired appointment date in an attempt to game the system. Other facilities fudged appointments to improve clinic numbers to reflect no wait times or to improve their performance scores. In Montgomery, Alabama schedulers actually kept paper wait lists so delays wouldn’t show up in the system.

In Illinois and elsewhere, schedulers said they feared retaliation from leadership if they didn't go along. And in nearly all of the Pacific Northwest, schedulers claimed they were simply confused about how the system was supposed to work. On Capitol Hill, the chairs of the Veterans Affairs Committees in the House and Senate struck a deal this week on a bill allowing veterans to seek care at a private facility if they've been waiting for a V.A. appointment for more than the 30 days. Florida Republican Jeff Mller. 

JEFF MILLER: The V.A. has caused this problem and one of the ways that we can help solve it is to give veterans a choice. A choice to stay in the system or a choice to go out of the system. 

CORDES: The bill has big bipartisan support and is expected to pass both houses of Congress by the end of the week. Meanwhile, James, the Va’s Inspector General says the number of facilities it's now investigating has grown to 90. 

BROWN: Nancy Cordes on Capitol Hill. Thanks, Nancy.

Jeffrey Meyer
Jeffrey Meyer
Jeffrey Meyer is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center.