CNN Bashes Conservative Ads With 'Industry Insider,' Omits His Far Left Affiliation

[Update, 3 pm Eastern: Video and audio clips added.]

CNN glowingly featured an entire segment on Thursday’s American Morning about Wendell Potter, a former chief corporate spokesman for the health insurance company Cigna, and he attempted to discredit conservative ad campaigns against health “reform” proposals as “outright lies.” But reporter Jim Acosta left out his current ideological employment: since May, Potter has worked as a senior fellow on health care for the Center for Media and Democracy, the brainchild of John Stauber, the co-author of  “Banana Republicans: How the Right Wing is Turning America Into a One-Party State,” and a unpaid advisor to the anti-war group Iraq Veterans Against the War [audio clip from segment available here].

Acosta’s segment, which aired at the end of the 7 am Eastern hour of the CNN program, featured four extended clips from Potter, and introduced the former Cigna spokesman as a “health insurance company insider...[who] has stepped forward to warn the public about the industry’s practices, and some of those ads shaping the debate.” After a short introduction of his subject, Acosta began by playing the first clip of Potter from a recent Senate hearing, where Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller compared him to Russell Crowe’s character in the tobacco-industry-expose movie “The Insider.”

The CNN correspondent  told the story of how Potter the “industry insider” was converted to the cause of health “reform” by seeing uninsured people getting free medical care in a Virginia barn. Then the focus shifted to how the senior fellow was “taking aim at those TV ads warning of a government-run system.” The CNN correspondent assisted Potter when he tried to play gotcha with Amy Menefee, a former MRC employee, who now works for a coalition running the TV spot featured during the report.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Now a supporter of health care reform, Potter is taking aim at those TV ads warning of a government-run system.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE ANNOUNCER: Now, Washington wants to bring Canadian-style health care to the U.S.

POTTER: Like, sometimes you’ll see misleading information, and sometimes outright lies like that is.

Amy Menefee, Patients United Now | NewsBusters.orgAMY MENEFEE, PATIENTS UNITED NOW: We’re not saying that there’s a Canada- you know, Health Care Act of 2009. We’re-

ACOSTA (off-camera): But that’s what the ad implies- the ad implies Washington wants to bring Canadian-style health care to the U.S. That’s what it says.

MENEFEE: Well, it is. It is that trend. It’s- it’s trending in that direction.

When asked to comment on the interview, Menefee, a policy advisor for Patients United Now, pointed out that “during the lengthy portion of the interview that did not air [on CNN], I explained that every idea on the table increases government control of health care, which would be detrimental to patients.”

Potter echoed the usual liberal argument against rationed health care in Canada and Britain: “There are a lot of critics of health care reform that say that we would be possibly rationing care if we reform health care. What you have now is rationing by corporate executives and- who are beholden to Wall Street. It happens all the time.” Acosta helpfully added after the final clip from Potter that “the leading health care proposals in Congress would not set up Canadian-style health care in the U.S. They do offer Americans the option of joining a government-run plan. Critics say that would drive insurance companies out of business. Wendell Potter says the option would keep the industry honest...an industry that is dumping sick people.”

During a recent interview with the Columbia Journalism Review, Potter accused mainstream media reporters of being too willing to take health insurance companies at their word, and that they were “happy to do a superficial job.” It appears, in the case of this CNN report, that Acosta was all too willing to do a “superficial job” on the behalf of the leftists’ health care “reform” proposals.

The full transcript of Jim Acosta’s report from Thursday’s American Morning:

(CNN Graphic: “‘They’re Dumping Sick People:’ Fmr. health insurance worker blasts industry”)

JOHN ROBERTS: Well, Democrats on the Hill are passing around new details on a revised plan for health care reform this morning. The president took his version of the plan to an online town hall meeting, taking aim at so-called scare tactics from his opponents. Critics say it’s the first step towards government-run health care.

Our Jim Acosta sat down with one industry insider from the health insurance industry. Jim, why did this man decide to step forward?

Jim Acosta, CNN Correspondent | NewsBusters.orgJIM ACOSTA: Well John, he saw that this battle over health care is escalating in Washington, and he has some opinions on the subject. Groups on both sides are flooding the airwaves with ads on this issue, and now, a health insurance company insider, Wendell Potter, has stepped forward to warn the public about the industry’s practices, and some of those ads shaping the debate.

ACOSTA (voice-over): For 15 years, Wendell Potter worked for the health insurance giant Cigna, most recently as the company’s chief spokesman. These days, he’s telling a different story about the industry.

WENDELL POTTER (from June 24, 2009 Senate hearing): I know from personal experience that members of Congress and the public have good reason to question the honesty and trustworthiness of insurance companies.

ACOSTA: Potter told a Senate hearing on health care the industry is only out to please investors.

SENATOR JAY ROCKEFELLER: I was going to say that you were- you were better than Russell Crowe on ‘The Insider’

ACOSTA: He told CNN how his former company would drive small businesses with expensive claims to dump their Cigna policies, a practice Potter says the industry calls ‘purging.’

POTTER: When that business comes up for renewal, the underwriters will jack the rates up so much that the small businesses have no alternative but to- to drop insurance.

ACOSTA (off-camera): Or walks away.

POTTER: The employer walks away.

ACOSTA (voice-over): In an e-mail to CNN, a Cigna spokesman says, ‘We do not practice that. We will offer rates that are reflective of the competitive group health insurance market. We always encourage our clients to compare our proposed rates to those available from other carriers’ [from Chris Curran, Director, Corporate Communications, Cigna].

Potter finally decided to leave Cigna after visiting this medical charity event at a Virginia fairground-

POTTER: It was almost like an- an electrical jolt- almost like being hit by lightning, and it really was.

ACOSTA: Where he snapped these pictures of doctors offering free health care to the uninsured.

POTTER: The volunteer doctors were seeing patients in barns, and treating people and animals to-

ACOSTA (off-camera): And this changed it for you?

POTTER: It changed it for me, just seeing that.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Now a supporter of health care reform, Potter is taking aim at those TV ads warning of a government-run system.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE ANNOUNCER: Now, Washington wants to bring Canadian-style health care to the U.S.

POTTER: Like, sometimes you’ll see misleading information, and sometimes outright lies like that is.

ACOSTA: Not so, says the conservative group running the spot.

AMY MENEFEE, PATIENTS UNITED NOW: We’re not saying that there’s a Canada- you know, Health Care Act of 2009. We’re-

ACOSTA (off-camera): But that’s what the ad implies- the ad implies Washington wants to bring Canadian-style health care to the U.S. That’s what it says.

MENEFEE: Well, it is. It is that trend. It’s- it’s trending in that direction.

POTTER: There are a lot of critics of health care reform that say that we would be possibly rationing care if we reform health care. What you have now is rationing by corporate executives and- who are beholden to Wall Street. It happens all the time.

ACOSTA (on-camera): In fact, the leading health care proposals in Congress would not set up Canadian-style health care in the U.S. They do offer Americans the option of joining a government-run plan. Critics say that would drive insurance companies out of business. Wendell Potter says the option would keep the industry honest- John, he says an industry that is dumping sick people.

ROBERTS: You know, the Urban Institute, as well, said that there was no reason for private insurers to go out of business- that some might be in difficulty, but the bigger ones should be able to stay in there. So- more on the discussion, Jim- it’s all in the pot there, and being stirred around. We’ll keep watching this real close. Jim, thanks so much.

 

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center