In his latest push for a health care overhaul bill, President Obama spoke to doctors in the White House Rose Garden yesterday. Painting a nice picture of the event were many media outlets that neglected to mention the White House's doctoring (forgive the pun) of the audience in an attempt at a powerful photo-op.
Doctors attending the event were instructed to show up in white lab coats to give observers the feeling that doctors stand behind the President's health care plans.
"White Coats in the Rose Garden, as Obama Rallies Doctors on Health Overhaul," read a New York Times blog post headline. "The roughly 150 doctors assembled wore white lab coats under the brilliant fall sun," the Washington Post recalled. The San Francisco Chronicle wrote, "Obama faced rows of smiling doctors, all wearing white lab coats." NBC News also noted the white coats donned by the doctors in attendance.
But none of these media outlets mentioned that the White House had to hand out lab coats to a number of the doctors in attendance who showed up in business attire. Apparently trying to drive home the image of medical professionals applauding the President, the White House would not start the press conference until all of the doctors were dressed in the "spiffy" outfits, in the President's words.
The Washington Post and the New York Times included pictures in their respective stories showing white-coated doctors listening to and conversing with the President.
According to the Associated Press, the Obama offered nothing new in his address to the doctors, so the event was clearly an opportunity to show the country that medical professionals support his plan. Many major media outlets declined to note the botched attempt to enhance the 'doctors-support-the-plan' image of the event, playing right into the White House's objectives.
Rather than cover the clear attempt by the President to use visuals to enhance the public perception of support from the industry, media outlets chose to rehash White House talking points.
The New York Times has revealed yet another double standard in covering political advocacy groups.
The Times was quick to condemn the Bush administration for conducting "too many photo-ops aimed at giving Mr. Bush and his fellow Republicans a short-term lift in the domestic opinion polls." But the Times didn't seem to have a problem with Obama "trying to use his platform to keep public attention on the effort."
Furthermore, the Times noted in an update to the aforementioned blog post, which appeared in print in today's paper (without the update), that Doctors for America, the group attended the Rose Garden photo-op, "appears to be working closely with Organizing for America," an extension of the Obama campaign.
Considering the Times claimed that Tea Party protests were organized by "some well-funded Astroturf outfits from the permanent lobbying class inside the Beltway," one would think they would mention this blatant connection to the White House in initially reporting the story. Handing out signs is comparable to handing out lab coats, after all.
The whole photo-op stinks of Astroturf. But apparently manufactured showings of support are all well and good, but manufactured showings of dissent are off limits.