CBS's John Dickerson Downplays Obama Aide's Private Investor Meetings: 'Wouldn't Necessarily Have to Be Sinister'

On Tuesday's CBS This Morning, John Dickerson spun a front page scoop from the Washington Post that spotlighted the several private meetings that a top Obama health care adviser had with investment firms on the future implementation of ObamaCare: "It's a little hard to see what those investment firms got that wasn't already publicly available."

The liberal CBS political director brushed aside concerns that "some traders are gaining access to information that is not available to investors in general or the wider public", as Post writer Tom Hamburger outlined in his Sunday article. Dickerson asserted, "There's a lot of information exchange that wouldn't necessarily have to be sinister."

Anchor Norah O'Donnell raised Hamburger's article halfway through a segment with the former Time magazine correspondent: "John, what about this Washington Post report over the weekend that a top policy aide to President Obama met with a number of these health care investment firms?"

John Dickerson, CBS News Political Director; Screen Cap From 28 May 2013 Edition of CBS This Morning | NewsBusters.orgDickerson led with his "it's a little hard to see" line, and continued that "it shows one of the important things about this law, in all of its complexities: everybody is trying to get an angle on exactly what it's going to look like....a lot of companies that can make business decisions based on this, or trade based on health care companies, are trying to get every little piece of new information they can get."

O'Donnell then seconded her colleague's take: "That was my sense...about that story, too, is that there are many – not just investment firms, but businesses who really have no idea how the law's going to be implemented. So, [they] were just looking for information."

Near the end of the segment, co-anchor Charlie Rose wondered if "this kind of meeting is a regular course of business, in terms of this kind of mammoth legislation." Dickerson answered by repeating his initial point and concluded with his "wouldn't necessarily have to be sinister" line.

Another component of the continuing political debate over ObamaCare that the CBS political director didn't mention was the fact that HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius "made multiple phone calls to health industry executives, community organizations and church groups" to pressure them to contribute to non-profit groups that are "working to enroll uninsured Americans and increase awareness" of the Affordable Care Act, as reported by the Post's Sarah Kliff on May 10.

It should be pointed out that Dickerson had mentioned this detail on the May 19, 2013 edition of Face the Nation. This was the only time that a Big Three network mentioned Kliff's scoop during the 10 days that followed its publication.

The transcript of the relevant portion of the John Dickerson segment from Tuesday's CBS This Morning:


NORAH O'DONNELL: John, what about this Washington Post report over the weekend that a top policy aide to President Obama met with a number of these health care investment firms?

JOHN DICKERSON: Well, if you look at the story, it's a little hard to see what those investment firms got that wasn't already publicly available. So, everybody says that it was just – that was just information that anyone else could get. But it shows one of the important things about this law, in all of its complexities: everybody is trying to get an angle on exactly what it's going to look like. We've had two, three years, really, of guesses about what this law is going to look like, what all the regulations will look like. It stacks up to many, many feet of complexity in this law. And so, a lot of companies that can make – can make business decisions based on this, or trade based on health care companies, are trying to get every little piece of new information they can get.

O'DONNELL: That was my sense that – about that story, too, is that there are many – not just investment firms, but businesses who really have no idea how the law's going to be implemented. So, [they] were just looking for information.

DICKERSON: That's right, and – and each little tiny piece of incremental information you can get about how this is going to roll out could be something that you can bank on or make an investment on that would give you an advantage over your competitors.

[CBS News Graphic: "Affordable Care Act Impact: Bad for business, 48%; Good for business, 9%; No impact, 39%; Source: Gallup Poll: Margin Of Error: +/- 4%"]

CHARLIE ROSE: So, this kind of meeting is a regular course of business, in terms of this kind of mammoth legislation?

DICKERSON: Well, it – we don't know. We haven't had mammoth legislation like this in a while. And, you know, both sides say nothing was conveyed that was not already publicly available. So, in a sense, we have to take their word for it on that. But, yes, it is an enormous piece of legislation in which people are just trying to get a handle on the basic facts. And so, there's a lot of information exchange that wouldn't necessarily have to be sinister.

GAYLE KING: All right. John Dickerson, we thank you.

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