Media Ignore Reid, Baucus' Co-op Comparisons to Public Option, Exclude Conservative Critics

The threat of a government-run public option plan in health care legislation was frightening enough to spur thousands of people to attend town hall meetings across the country and voice their dissent, sometimes angrily.

Now legislators and the national media are talking about a possible "compromise" that could replace the public option with health care co-ops. Conservatives are concerned that such an attempt will just be "government health care in yet another set of clothes," but national broadcast or print media have practically omitted that perspective.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., stirred up those concerns July 9 when he said, "We're going to have some type of public option, call it 'co-op,' call it what you want."

According to Nexis, ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN, as well as the five major newspapers, ignored this admission from Reid. In fact, on the three broadcast networks Reid wasn't even mentioned in any of the 21 health care co-op stories. More than half of those stories (12) used the word "compromise" to discuss the co-ops and only 2 conservatives critical of co-ops were included.

On June 12, another senator had drawn comparisons between a co-op and public option plan. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., told Politico a co-op compromise would have to "be written in a way that accomplishes the objectives of a public option, even though" it's not public.

The same national news media failed to report Baucus' comment. Instead, the news media have been promoting the "compromise," portraying it as "not government-run," and including mostly criticism from liberals who claim a co-op would be unable to compete or who say that health care reform without public option would be worse than no reform.

Phil Kerpen of Americans for Prosperity told the Business & Media Institute, "The media is selling this as a compromise even before we know details."

Details certainly have been missing from the media coverage, although some of that is because the Senate Finance Committee (the committee considering co-ops) hasn't even released a proposed bill yet.

The lack of details also upset some liberals, including former Gov. Howard Dean. Dean told "Face the Nation" "no one knows what it would look like."

You can find the rest of this article at the Business & Media Institute.

Julia A. Seymour
Julia A. Seymour
Julia A. Seymour is the Assistant Managing Editor for the MRC's Business and Media Institute.