CNN's Sanchez to 'Progressive' Pastor: Right Wing Media Spreading Lies

Rick Sanchez, CNN Anchor; & Rev. Jim Wallis, Sojourners | NewsBusters.orgCNN anchor Rick Sanchez accused anti-ObamaCare activists of forwarding “misrepresentations, and flat out lies in some cases” during a segment with “progressive” pastor and Obama apologist Jim Wallis on Wednesday’s Newsroom program. Sanchez placed the blame on the protesters relying “exclusively [on] right-wing media and right-wing television channels.”

The anchor brought on Reverend Wallis, the head of the “progressive Christian group Soujourners,” to discuss the phone-in town hall meeting he was hosting with President Obama. Midway through the interview, Sanchez raised the “wild behavior that we’ve seen in some of these health care forums” and made his first accusation against the anti-ObamaCare protesters: “When you hear, for example, some of the misrepresentations, and flat out lies in some cases, like calling things death panels and saying that people are going to be- old people are going to be killed, including some of them spread by people who profess to be Christians. How do you- how do you reconcile that as- as a Christian yourself?”

After Rev. Wallis answered, in part, that health care shouldn’t be used as part of a “shouting match on partisan politics,” Sanchez brought in the conservative media factor:

SANCHEZ: Is it their fault, or is it the fault of-

WALLIS: No, they’re afraid.

SANCHEZ: Well, wait. I just saw a poll that says something like 75 percent of the people who watch exclusively right-wing media and right-wing television channels, for example, actually believe that there are death panels.

WALLIS: Oh yeah.

SANCHEZ: So they watch this- they take this as the truth and they get out there and they get all excited and then they may act this way. So they’re not- they’re not really being dishonest, but their messenger may be. What do you think of that?

WALLIS: They are- they are being manipulated- I want to use that word very strongly- by a well-organized campaign that is lying about health care reform. They are lying about health care reform. Euthanasia is not a part of health care reform. It’s in none of the bills, and yet, they’re being told it is. Christian doctors will not have to do abortions. That’s another lie. It’s not in the bills. So they’re lying about this, and- and ordinary folk are getting afraid. So it’s complicated, as you said. It is complicated. Let’s have a sane, rational discussion, and let’s not forget, people were hurting in this- are hurting. There’s too many stories. We’ve got to fix a broken system, and let’s do it together.

In all likelihood, Sanchez was referring to a NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll that found that “75% [of self-identified Fox News viewers] believe that it [ObamaCare] will allow the government to make decisions about when to stop providing care for the elderly.” However, NBC’s Chuck Todd, despite agreeing with his CNN colleague that this view was “misinformation,” concluded that “it would be incorrect to suggest that this is ONLY coming from conservative viewers who tune in to Fox” [emphasis his].

Sanchez complimented Wallis at the end of his segment for being “one of the best people for putting these kinds of things into perspective, and just when we start looking at it too much from a political vantage point, you bring it back to spirituality, and I think a lot of people out there would agree with me that it’s a good place to look at it from.” Certainly, Rev. Wallis does put issues into a certain perspective, but it’s usually from the left-of-center part of the political spectrum, and the CNN anchor was his willing accomplice throughout the segment.

The full transcript of the interview, which began 33 minutes into the 3 pm Eastern hour of Wednesday’s Newsroom:

RICK SANCHEZ: In less than an hour, President Obama is going to pick up the phone to commute and talk to religious leaders to try and enlist them to sell health care reform from their pulpits.

Jim Wallis is going to be one of those. He’s going to be talking with the president. He’s good enough to join us now. He’s president of the progressive Christian group Sojourners. Mr. Wallis- Reverend Wallis, good to see you, sir.

REV. JIM WALLIS: Nice to be with you again.

SANCHEZ: Where do- where do I start? Let me ask- let me ask you this. I’ve been wanting to talk to you about this for some time as I have been watching this debate go on, which at times has not been very Christian-like on either side. Do- do we as a society have a moral imperative to make sure that people have affordable health care, as some on the left have charged?

WALLIS: Yes. But I’m not saying that from the left. I’m saying that from a biblical point of view. I was watching- I came in earlier. I was watching some of these- these confrontations. Wow- ‘Heil Hitler.’ I mean, this is very worrying to me- in the shouting, in the anger, in the fear- even now, we can say hate. We’re losing the moral core of this debate, which is that we need to reform health care because the system was broken for too many people- too many people are hurting. They’re not covered, or they’re covered but they’re- they’re not getting what they need. They’re paying too much. So if you like your health care- great, keep it. But for those who are hurting, we have to fix a broken system. That’s where we were.

SANCHEZ: Isn’t that-  is that in the Bible- help the least among you?

WALLIS: Yeah. It’s- well, you know your Bible, Rick.

SANCHEZ: I'm a Catholic.

WALLIS: I know- I know you’re a Catholic, and Catholics’ social teachings are about the common good. I mean- health and healing are fundamental religious principles here. That’s why we’re involved. So tonight, where evangelicals, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, black, Hispanic- we’re all going to be on the call with the president, saying this is not just a partisan issue- a political issue. It’s a moral issue, and in fact, anybody can join the call. You can join- just sojo.net/healthcare. It is an open call for anybody who wants to join.

SANCHEZ: Oh, that’s cool. Well, by the way- that’s not to say that people who have serious concern about this-

WALLIS: Oh no.

SANCHEZ: And are saying, look- I’m all for health care, but- you know, God, please don’t jack up my prices- my taxes anymore. I can’t afford to pay the taxes I have now. So- so let’s just be- you know, let’s be balanced about this as much as we possibly can.

WALLIS: Well, indeed- as you know, Rick, this is complicated. The health care system is so complicated. So the principles we’ll be looking for are- one, making sure everybody- all of God’s children- get covered. Those who have insurance but can’t afford what they have, we take care of them too, and the thing must be built on a solid financial foundation.

SANCHEZ: Right.

WALLIS: All of those are valid concerns. Let’s have a sane, civil listening conversation, and let’s get rid of the shouting and the hate and- my goodness, ‘Heil Hitler.’

SANCHEZ: By the way, let’s go back to that real quick. When you do see some of this wild behavior that we’ve seen in some of these health care forums- when you hear, for example, some of the misrepresentations, and flat out lies in some cases, like calling things death panels and saying that people are going to be- old people are going to be killed, including some of them spread by people who profess to be Christians. How do you- how do you reconcile that as- as a Christian yourself?

WALLIS: Well, I have that concern. I say to my- some of my friends on the religious right, as a- Christians shouldn’t lie. I mean, raise concerns and raise complicated issues. But tonight, we’ll have pastors, lay people- real people telling stories about whether this is working for them. So I’m saying, let’s- we need the best from our- our elected officials- the best from the public, and this is a complicated conversation. But our principles- for us- have to be, everyone gets access to quality, good, affordable health care, whether you’re covered or not, and it has to be on a solid financial foundation. We can do that. But- you know, the system is broken. Let’s try and fix it, and not use this as a shouting match on partisan politics.

SANCHEZ: But- you know-

WALLIS: Pastors are telling me things like- Rick, you wouldn’t believe it. Seniors are saying to pastors, am I going to die in this new system?

SANCHEZ: Well, that’s- let me ask you about that. That’s an interesting thing that you just said. Is it their fault, or is it the fault of-

WALLIS: No, they’re afraid.

SANCHEZ: Well, wait. I just saw a poll that says something like 75 percent of the people who watch exclusively right-wing media and right-wing television channels, for example, actually believe that there are death panels.

WALLIS: Oh yeah.

SANCHEZ: So they watch this- they take this as the truth and they get out there and they get all excited and then they may act this way. So they’re not- they’re not really being dishonest, but their messenger may be. What do you think of that?

WALLIS: They are- they are being manipulated- I want to use that word very strongly- by a well-organized campaign that is lying about health care reform. They are lying about health care reform. Euthanasia is not a part of health care reform. It’s in none of the bills, and yet, they’re being told it is. Christian doctors will not have to do abortions. That’s another lie. It’s not in the bills. So they’re lying about this, and- and ordinary folk are getting afraid. So it’s complicated, as you said. It is complicated. Let’s have a sane, rational discussion, and let’s not forget, people were hurting in this- are hurting. There’s too many stories. We’ve got to fix a broken system, and let’s do it together.

SANCHEZ: All right. Final question- you are going to be meeting with the president in something like 20 minutes in this conversation. I know that you have been involved in these types of things before. That’s why we’ve tapped you. What are you going to tell the president?

WALLIS: Well, he joined us in this call- leaders in the faith community. I think he really thinks health care is important. He also thinks the faith community has a critical role to play here. Maybe the faith community can help refocus us on the moral core here, that people are hurting. We all should care about that. We all should want to bring everybody in. When you don’t bring everybody in, we all suffer. This is the right thing. It’s also the smart thing, because if you don’t cover people, it makes the cost of all of it go up. The president, I think, will get support from us if he supports our principle of making sure everyone is covered, and we want to, in fact, be engaged in truth-telling here. Truth-telling is a religious vocation as well. So I hope tonight’s call will have- there will be a Q&A time. People are going to ask questions of the administration, so-

SANCHEZ: You know, you’re always one of the best people for putting these kinds of things into perspective, and just when we start looking at it too much from a political vantage point, you bring it back to spirituality, and I think a lot of people out there would agree with me that it’s a good place to look at it from.

WALLIS: Well, I love being on your show because there’s space for this conversation. So Sojo.net/healthcare, and join the conversation.

SANCHEZ: You call in and listen to the president. That would be interesting.

WALLIS: Yeah.

SANCHEZ: Thanks so much. We appreciate it. 

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