CNN Again Omits Far Left Affiliation of 'Insurance Company Insider'

Wendell Potter, Center for Media and Democracy Senior Fellow; & Elaine Quijano, CNN Correspondent | NewsBusters.orgCNN’s Elaine Quijano failed to mention the left-wing political affiliation of Wendell Potter, whom she touted to be a health care “insurance company insider” on Wednesday’s Situation Room. When her network featured a glowing segment on the former Cigna spokesman over a month earlier, her colleague Jim Acosta also omitted Potter’s work as a senior fellow for the liberal Center for Media and Democracy.

Anchor Wolf Blitzer introduced Quijano’s report, which aired just after the beginning of the 5 pm Eastern hour, and described Potter as a “one-time insurance insider...turned whistleblower on industry tactics to try to sway the health care debate.” The CNN correspondent further described the former Cigna spokesman as being part of the pro-ObamaCare forces’ arsenal: “In the heat of the summer battle over health care reform, Democrats are deploying another weapon- he’s a former insurance company insider who’s speaking out once again.”

Quijano played up the former spokesman’s accusations against the health insurance industry, which echoes the left-wing argument that the anti-ObamaCare protests are being manufactured by the health care industry and conservative special interest groups: “Wendell Potter used to work as the chief spokesman for Cigna insurance, but he’s now accusing the industry of playing what he calls dirty tricks to manipulate public opinion.” The correspondent even gave an admission of sorts later in her report that “his [Potter’s] concerns fall right in line with the Democrats’ strategy of hitting insurance companies hard this summer.” Quijano, along with the on-screen graphics, would only identify Potter as a former Cigna spokesman during the segment.

Near the end of the report, the CNN correspondent claimed that “Potter insists he has no agenda, and says his decision to speak out is deeply personal, to expose what he says are dishonest practices.” If Quijano had only run an Internet search on Potter and discovered his position at the Center for Media and Democracy, she would have found out that he indeed has a left-wing agenda.

The full transcript of Elaine Quijano’s report from Wednesday’s Situation Room:

WOLF BLITZER: A one-time insurance insider is now turned whistleblower on industry tactics to try to sway the health care debate. We asked CNN’s Elaine Quijano to take a closer look. She’s here in The Situation Room with some answers. What are you finding out, Elaine?

ELAINE QUIJANO: Well, it’s interesting, Wolf. You know, in the heat of the summer battle over health care reform, Democrats are deploying another weapon- he’s a former insurance company insider who’s speaking out once again.

QUIJANO (voice-over): Wendell Potter used to work as the chief spokesman for Cigna insurance, but he’s now accusing the industry of playing what he calls dirty tricks to manipulate public opinion.

WENDELL POTTER, FORMER CIGNA SPOKESMAN: Words matter, and the insurance industry is a master at linguistics and- and using the hot words, the buzz words- the buzz expressions that they know will get people upset.

QUIJANO: Potter first came to Washington in June to testify before a Senate panel about insurance company practices.

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

QUIJANO: Now, he’s back, at the invitation of Democratic Representative Louise Slaughter. Potter is questioning insurance companies’ public relations tactics, and says some of the rhetoric at recent town hall meetings is familiar.

POTTER: People talk about a government takeover of the health care system, for one. That’s a buzz term that comes straight out of the insurance agency. It’s not true. It’s not at all proposed. It’s not going to happen.

QUIJANO: His concerns fall right in line with the Democrats’ strategy of hitting insurance companies hard this summer.

REPRESENTATIVE ELAINE SLAUGHTER: There’s no question that this is a whole setup here to try to protect one industry.

QUIJANO: But many Republicans argue insurance companies aren’t solely to blame for the health care crisis, and they know many of their constituents are perfectly happy with the current system.

For his part, Potter insists he has no agenda, and says his decision to speak out is deeply personal, to expose what he says are dishonest practices.

POTTER: This is hard to do. It’s- it’s scary to do something like this, and I don’t think I’m any more courageous than anybody, but I just felt I was- I had to do this.

QUIJANO (on-camera): Now, a Cigna spokesman wouldn’t comment directly on Potter’s accusations. Instead, the company released a written statement saying, ‘Officials agree that health care reform is needed.’  But the statement went on to say that officials don’t see how a quote, ‘government-sponsored plan can accomplish that.’

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