Les Blumenthal of the McClatchy News Service wrote up another story on 11-year-old Marcelas Owens advocating for the liberal cause of nationalizing health care. But this time, it was an attack on conservative talk show hosts.
The headline at the Tacoma News-Tribune: "Conservatives attack Seattle boy's 'sob story' of mom's death without insurance." The subhead merely repeated: "Health: conservatives lambaste account of death of mom without insurance." (The photo is also McClatchy's.)
Blumenthal went straight to the boy for more sympathy against Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Michelle Malkin, with no rebuttal from the conservatives. The reporter robotically went right down a Media Matters for America report, quote by quote, Rush, Glenn, and Michelle.
Marcelas Owens, whose mother got sick, lost her job, lost her health insurance and died, said Thursday he’s taking the swipes from Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Michelle Malkin in stride.
“My mother always taught me they can have their own opinion but that doesn’t mean they are right,” Owens said in an interview.
Owens’ grandmother, Gina, who watched her daughter die, isn’t quite so generous.
“These are adults, and he is an 11-year-old boy who lost his mother,” Gina Owens said. “They should be ashamed.”
The quotes Blumenthal cited from Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck sound harsh, but the reporter doesn't seem to understand that the child-victim story is meant to short-circuit debate and shut up conservatives, to win through intimidation instead of on the policy merits:
“Now this is unseemly, exploitative, an 11-year-old boy being forced to tell his story all over just to benefit the Democrat Party and Barack Obama,” Limbaugh said on March 12, according to a transcript his show. “And, I would say this to Marcelas Owens: ‘Well, your mom would still have died, because Obamacare doesn’t kick in until 2014.’”
Here's more context of what Limbaugh said, objecting to the wild claims of Democrats that 45,000 people die every year because Republicans won't be intimidated into voting for a nationalized health system:
SEN. RICHARD DURBIN: Today, 70 Americans will die for lack of health insurance, 70. And when the Republicans tell us, "Go slow, start over, take your time," we've got to add it up. It's 70 a day. How much time can we take?
RUSH: Seventy Americans. No, his number is off. It's 124, because the number is 45,000 a year, 365 days. That's the number we had earlier this week, 100 some odd. Something happened to cut that number in half. Do we even believe this? Seventy people a day die because they don't have health insurance? You know how this number was arrived at? We had the guy call us. Some survey company went out there and if somebody did not have health insurance, what year was it? '85? Everybody that's died since 1985 is assumed not to have had health insurance if they didn't have it in 1985. That's the extent of the scientific nature of the survey. But here's the dirty little secret, Senator Durbin. And I would also say this to Marcelas Owens. Well, your mom would have still died, because Obamacare doesn't kick in until 2014 if they sign it this year. And Senator Durbin, that means that 70 Americans are going to die every day for the next four years until the actual so-called benefits of which there are none kick in. So why this mad dash on this? It doesn't kick in for four years.
But Blumenthal was only using the official Media Matters reading of the quote. He continued:
Beck, according to a transcript of his March 15 show, pointed out that Owens’ recent trip to Washington was paid for by Healthcare of America, a group that has been lobbying for a health care overhaul.
“That’s the George Soros-funded Obama-approved group fighting for health care,” Beck said. “Since all of the groups are so concerned and involved now, may I ask where were you when Marcelas’ mother was vomiting blood?”
Beck, who’s from Mount Vernon, said there are plenty of programs in Washington state that could have helped Tifanny Owens.
But here's where the Blumenthal sob-story sequel gets interesting: was Owens eligible for Medicaid, or state aid? It turns out that even if Owens had sought state aid for the working poor in Washington, it's quite likely she could have faced....a waiting list with 100,000 people on it. Is that "universal health care"?
Gina Owens said her daughter didn’t qualify for Medicaid. State officials said that without knowing the details, it was impossible to speculate on whether Tifanny Owens would have qualified.
Tifanny Owens might have been eligible for Washington state’s basic health care plan, which is aimed at the working poor. The plan has had a long waiting list for some time, said Sharon Michael of the Washington state Health Care Authority.
“Right now, we have 100,000 people on the wait list,” Michael said.
With that question completely unresolved -- and if these details are unresolved, is this "sob story" actually a completed, well-rounded news story instead of a loaded anecdote? -- Blumenthal turned back to whacking Limbaugh:
Limbaugh has gone after young people before. In 2007, he told listeners that Democrats were exploiting an 18-year-old Yup’ik Eskimo and that her congressional testimony on global warming made him want to “puke.”
Murray said she was appalled at how vicious the health care debate has become.
“The mom in me is getting really mad,” she said. “You don’t tear apart an 11-year-old because his mom died.”
Marcelas Owens said he’ll never know if his mother might have lived if she had health insurance.
“At least if she had it she would’ve had a fighting chance,” he said.
Or would she have a "fighting chance" to sit on a government waiting list? There's a difference between "universal coverage" and actual health treatment. Ask the Canadians, or the Europeans.
It might not be surprising, but Blumenthal was again relying on a Media Matters Limbaugh attack. Here's how Brian Maloney at Radio Equalizer brought out Rush's side of the story.
I called Blumenthal at the McClatchy D.C. bureau and asked him if he thought it might be unfair to interview one side, and merely use the transcripts on the other side. "No I don't think so at all. I presented them from their transcripts on national television." When I suggested this wasn't a real debate, he said it "could go on forever," interviewing one side and then the other.
The last report on Blumenthal and Marcelas Owens is here.