With the Obama administration and their friends in the media denouncing the sometimes loud dissent that liberals are facing in town hall meetings on health care, it’s worth recalling how some of those same journalists celebrated the anti-Bush dissenters and denounced what they claimed was the Republican administration’s attempts to stifle dissent.
Back in 2006, MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann attacked what he called President Bush’s “portable public chorus” (does President Obama have one of those?) For telling “those who dissent...[that] we are somehow un-American.” PBS’s Bill Moyers in 2003 found it “galling” to see “all those moralistic ideologues in Washington...attacking dissenters as un-American.”
In 2003, Olbermann saluted protests: “It is political dissent that created this country and sustained it and improved it.” But on Friday’s Countdown, Olbermann called the anti-Obama protests “societal sabotage,” determined that the grassroots groups are “fake” and insisted that “the protestors are not interested in hearing any voices other than their own.” (But the anti-Bush protesters were open-minded?)
Not everyone on the left is in denial of the town hall protests and propagating the notion that any opposition to ObamaCare is manufactured "Astroturf" from the right.
Former Democratic Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, now a Bloomberg TV contributor, said that the issue of public sentiment isn't settled. Some prognosticators have concluded that everyone wants President Barack Obama's brand of health care reform.
"I think it's still a toss-up ball quite frankly," Daschle said on Bloomberg TV Aug. 11. "I think everybody is looking to see who gets to be on the offensive and there is a critical effort on both sides to do that. Whoever is usually on the offensive as you go into the legislative fight is the winner. And so, that's really the key - who can be on the offensive as we go through the next critical weeks."
ABC’s Kate Snow, who early on Monday couldn’t find time to show any Republican opposition to a controversial provision in the health care plan relating to end-of-life care, reversed course on World News and briefly highlighted a GOP voice. Congressman Thaddeus McCotter appeared and asserted, "And there should never be any doubt as to whether your end-of-life decisions are influenced by its effect on the United States Treasury."
Snow was filing a piece for Monday’s World News about a section in the House health care bill that reimburse doctors for discussing end-of-life care with their patients every five years. And although the segment was billed as a "fact check" to debunk incorrect claims, this report at least looked into something that her earlier piece on Good Morning America didn’t, Republican opposition.
On Monday, I asked Snow about this on her Twitter page. She justified the absence: "We often cut down pieces to fit time allotted. But always aim to include all pov's. On end of life v impt [sic] to fact check too."
NBC's Matt Lauer, on Tuesday's "Today" show, invited on Robert Gibbs to preview Barack Obama's town hall meeting on health care and warned the White House press secretary that it could become a "Super Bowl for shouters." In a segment headlined: "Town Hall Tensions, Obama Battles Health Care Outrage," Lauer, given all the "tension" at the meetings, worried about the President of the United States being shouted down:
MATT LAUER: Let me start with a blunt question. Is this a good idea? I mean, you're gonna send the President out there in a town hall forum and two more later in the week. This will, in some ways, become the Super Bowl for these shouters.
ROBERT GIBBS: Yeah.
LAUER: They're gonna get a chance to shout down the President of the United States. They've got nothing to lose, but the President certainly does. Doesn't he?
A little later in the interview Lauer granted that protestors "may give voice" to "real concerns" about health care reform but noted they may do it "in an inappropriate way." Lauer then went on to comment that once "you take the shouting out of it," Obama faced opposition from within his own party but feared that, that could lead to "health care reform-lite."
CNN’s Jim Acosta claimed that Rush Limbaugh’s website “compares the [ObamaCare] reform supporters to Nazis” during a report on Tuesday’s American Morning. The website actually draws a comparison between the DNC’s “Organizing for Health Care” logo and the Nazis’ Parteiadler (Party Eagle) symbol. Acosta also claimed that conservatives “falsely compared” ObamaCare to the Canadian health system.
Acosta filed his report from Portsmouth, New Hampshire where President Obama plans to hold a health care town hall meeting later in the day on Tuesday. He began by detailing how opponents to ObamaCare in the state “aren’t just sounding off at congressional town hall meetings...protesters descended on staff members of Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen in the middle of a routine constituent’s services meeting. It wasn’t a town hall forum, and the senator wasn’t even there. The protesters recorded the confrontation and put it on YouTube.”
MSNBC, the place for left-wing politics strikes again.
If there ever was a textbook example of what not to do in a TV interview for broadcast journalism students, "Hardball" host Chris Matthews put it on display during his Aug. 10 show. In a segment with Americans For Prosperity President Tim Phillips, Matthews did his dead-level best to discredit the opponent of Obama's health care policy proposals, first by trying to link him to those questioning Obama's presidency on the claims of an invalid birth certificate.
"Tim, where are you from politically? What's your story? Who are you politically?" Matthews said, peppering his free-market conservative guest with questions. "Are you one of the people that question's the president's legitimacy as president?" "You're not a birther or anything like that?"
Someone forgot to send the CNN health care kool-aid over to the office of Fortune editor at large Shawn Tully in the days leading up to July 24. Tully in turn forgot to toot his own horn, and ObamaCare opponents forgot to take a peek inside what is normally enemy lines to find it.
In a must-read special report at affiliate CNNMoney.com, Tully lays bare Barack Obama's core claim, while identifying five freedoms many Americans will lose if ObamaCare passes in its current form. In fact, Tully's piece is so good, it should be the equivalent of Betsy McCaughey's 1994 broadside that helped torpedo HillaryCare -- if only people knew about it.
Anyone who knows the e-mail address of CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen, who, as Matthew Balan of NewsBusters noted earlier today, is an ardent ObamaCare defender, should forward Tully's column to her. Copies to Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper, Howard Kurtz, and many others at CNN wouldn't hurt either.
Here are the introductory paragraphs and key points Tully made (bolds in text are mine):
When it comes to insulting people opposed to ObamaCare, you might say Ed Schultz has plumbed new depths . . .
On his MSNBC show this evening, Schultz branded people turning up at town halls as "dumber than Joe the Plumber." For good measure, he added a variation on the Washington Post's old canard about certain conservatives being "poor, undereducated, and easy to command."
Who says a little engineering mixed in with your journalism is a bad thing? At least one MSNBC host and Washington Post reporter said it's a journalist's job to focus on "real issues" in the hotly debated issue of health care reform.
This was the topic of discussion in a panel featuring John Rother, executive vice president of Policy and Strategy for AARP, Ceci Connolly of The Washington Post, Tim Phillips of Americans for Prosperity and host Dr. Nancy Snyderman during MSNBC's "Dr. Nancy" Aug. 10.
Rother argued there has been far too much hyperbole on the issue, which he insisted was meant to mislead the public.
Most of the viewer responses that CNN’s Jack Cafferty read during one of his “Cafferty File” segments on Monday’s Situation Room agreed with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Congressman Steny Hoyer’s “un-American” label against anti-ObamaCare protesters. Though he surprisingly remained neutral when he presented the issue, all but one of the responses sided with the two Democratic leaders.
Cafferty devoted his 5 pm Eastern “Question of the Hour” to Pelosi and Hoyer’s USA Today editorial which ran in Monday’s edition. He summarized their talking points, and then read an excerpt from Republican Senator Mitch McConnell’s response. His question to the CNN viewers: “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Congressman Steny Hoyer call the town hall protests against health care reform ‘un-American.’ Are they?”
Ten minutes before the top of the 6 pm Eastern hour, Cafferty returned with his selected viewer responses. Only one response disagreed with the Democrats’ “un-American” label, but this particular example raised a chuckle out of the CNN commentator (who earlier this year compared Pelosi to Mao Zedong).
It's no longer just enough to educate people about making healthy decision. You now have to influence them psychologically to effect true change according to CNBC's Jim Cramer.
Cramer, during his "Stop Trading" segment on CNBC's "Street Signs" on Aug. 10, suggested eating so-called unhealthy food be demonized, similar to how the tobacco industry has been - through a publicity campaign that even appeared in movie theaters.
"I think that what people in the tobacco business would tell you that what really cut back tobacco was when people who watch commercials saw that they were being demonized and it became a really un-cool thing, I know they still do it in movie theaters and movies, a lot of that is paid, but that's what Phillip Morris always said really was the downfall of tobacco."
On Friday's Glenn Beck Program, FNC aired a pre-recorded interview between host Beck and a British member of the European Parliament, Daniel Hannan, who warned against the dangers of instituting a national health system in America because of the problems Britons must endure from their country's government-run monopoly, the National Health Service. During an interview in which he recounted the long waits, the inability to go outside the system for faster treatment, and the system's discrimination against elderly patients, Hannan summed up his amazement that Americans would consider such a system:
I find it incredible that a free people living in a country dedicated and founded in the cause of independence and freedom can seriously be thinking about adopting such a system in peacetime and massively expanding the role of the state when there's no need.
He also warned that once such a massive bureaucracy and voting bloc of government workers becomes entrenched, such a system would likely be impossible to get rid of:
The New York Times suddenly isn't so fond of community organizing, now that the right has gotten into the game, attacking Obama's health-care proposals in clamorous town halls held by Democratic congressmen over the August recess.
In fact, the Times agrees with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that such meetings have become "hostile" and "extreme." "Beyond Beltway, Health Debate Turns Hostile" is the headline over a very slanted front-page story Saturday by Ian Urbina.
The bitter divisions over an overhaul of the health care system have exploded at town-hall-style meetings over the last few days as members of Congress have been shouted down, hanged in effigy and taunted by crowds. In several cities, noisy demonstrations have led to fistfights, arrests and hospitalizations.
Democrats have said the protesters are being organized by conservative lobbying groups like FreedomWorks. Republicans respond that the protests are an organic response to the Obama administration's health care restructuring proposals.
There is no dispute, however, that most of the shouting and mocking is from opponents of those plans. Many of those opponents have been encouraged to attend by conservative commentators and Web sites.
CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen tried to assuage the elderly over their concerns with ObamaCare on Monday’s Newsroom: “If there’s one group of people who needs to worry the least about health care reform, it’s probably the elderly... [they] already have Medicare.” This claim by Cohen ignores planned cuts to Medicare benefits announced by President Obama himself back in January.
Anchor Tony Harris brought on Cohen to answer viewer questions during the first minutes of the 11 am Eastern hour. One viewer named Jake asked if he would lose his Medicare under the Obama proposal. She replied, “If there’s one group of people who needs to worry the least about health care reform, it’s probably the elderly, and the reason for that is that the elderly already have Medicare. They already have government-sponsored health insurance. Reform is about helping people who are under the age of 65. So, he really doesn’t have to worry about his Medicare.”
MSNBC’s graphics department on Monday provided some visually obnoxious examples of media bias, fretting about "unhinged" conservatives and "health care hysteria." Throughout the morning, the left-leaning cable network featured on-screen texts promoting the Democratic agenda. At 11:35am, MSNBC News Live host Carlos Watson anchored a piece urging liberals to get tough in supporting universal health care. The graphic screamed, "Are Liberals Being Too Weak?"
At the beginning of the 12pm show Dr. Nancy, Nancy Snyderman discussed whether or not conservatives such as Sarah Palin are frightening the elderly over health care. This time, the on-screen visual spun, "Health Care Fight: Scaring Seniors?"
On Friday's Glenn Beck Program on FNC, substitute host Eric Bolling interviewed the now-famous "angry Democrat," Don Jeror, who confronted House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer at a recent public event as he challenged the Democratic push for universal health insurance. At the event, Jeror famously contended that while President Obama took six months to choose a dog for his family, Congress is "trying to stuff the health care bill down our throat in three to four weeks."
During his interview on FNC, Jeror summarized the potential risks to the elderly posed by the institution of public health insurance, and proclaimed that America has "the best health care in the world."
This summer, the Rockwellian ideal of neighbors gathering to discuss community issues in a neighborly way is gone, replaced by quarrelsome masses hollering questions downloaded from activist websites, as video cameras record every word of the squirming lawmaker's response. Many seem to be following advice laid out in a memo circulating on the Internet advising activists to “watch for an opportunity to yell out” early in the presentation and “have someone else follow up with a shout-out.”
Wangsness soon bemoaned the impact -- “Political specialists say, endlessly looping images of these confrontations on cable TV could hurt the case for the healthcare overhaul” -- before she set out to prove, as if it were something nefarious, how “conservative activist groups are deeply involved.”
On Thursday's The O'Reilly Factor, FNC host Bill O'Reilly hosted a discussion with FNC analyst and former CBS News correspondent Bernard Goldberg, as the two pointed out the mainstream media's double standard in "obsessing" over how protesters who have been challenging ObamaCare were organized, but have shown no interest in the organization of protesters by left-wing groups. After O'Reilly's "Talking Points Memo" addressed the subject, Goldberg observed:
The word "hypocrisy" in your "Talking Points" is the key word. Civil rights demonstrations, anti-war demonstrations, pro-abortion rights demonstrations, environmental demonstrations, I don't remember the media obsessing about who got these people out to the demonstration site, who orchestrated the demonstration, who manufactured, to use another of their words, the anger at the demonstrations. ... But the media only feels an obligation to look behind the curtain at the forces that are orchestrating and manufacturing the demonstrations when it's a conservative demonstration.
Below is a transcript of the relevant portion of the Thursday, August 6, The O'Reilly Factor on FNC:
ABC’s Good Morning America on Monday presented an extremely one-sided take on the controversial end-of-life provisions in the health care bill, decrying all the "screaming" and "shouting" at town hall meetings. Reporter Kate Snow featured no Republican voices (other than of people yelling) in the segment and instead focused on combating the "incorrect claims" about the legislation.
The network correspondent began by proclaiming, "We wanted to better understand all the shouting." She then went on to describe a provision in the House health care bill that would reimburse doctors for speaking to patients every five years about end-of-life decisions. Despite mentioning at the end of the segment that "there are clearly very strongly held views on the other side," Snow failed to highlight GOP or conservative voices who could have explained why some oppose the provision.
An online version of the article on ABCNews.com featured Republican Congressman Thaddeus McCotter protesting, "You see when discussion about whether or not the continuation of one's life has a nexus with the U.S. treasury saving money, that's a very dangerous recipe for those who can often time be the most vulnerable amongst us." McCotter did not appear in Snow’s GMA piece. Instead, she briefly summarized the conservative argument.
Franken, who departed CNN in 2006 and now shows up occasionally as an analyst on MSNBC, continued: “What do you call the partisan groups that whip up their fear-of-change ultra-conservative base to engage in that symbolic lynching and then disavow any responsibility? You have a choice here between 'deniers' and a word that rhymes with it.” I guess that would be “liars.”
The ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts in near-unison on Friday night disparaged the anti-ObamaCare protests at town meetings held by Members of Congress as “unruly,” “nasty” and “getting ugly,” while CBS and NBC targeted Rush Limbaugh -- NBC's Kelly O'Donnell charged “some anger...gets stoked by the provocative megaphone of Rush Limbaugh, who went so far as accusing Democrats of wanting the socialized medicine of Nazi Germany” -- without bothering to acknowledge Limbaugh was reacting to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who first put Nazi comparisons into play by accusing the opponents of “carrying swastikas and symbols like that to a town meeting on health care.”
Following O'Donnell, NBC's Chuck Todd checked in from a parallel universe at the White House where, except for the pesky health care opponents, Obama's staff achieved great things during the week:
They look back at this week, and they see that they've rescued two Americans from North Korea, that they broke a barrier at the Supreme Court with the confirmation of soon-to-be Justice Sonia Sotomayor, that a major terrorist was killed in, of the Taliban, a figure that is believed, that is somebody that might be able to break up the Taliban in such a way, that the cash for clunkers turned out to be a success, those good unemployment news. So they sit here and say, hey, it's pretty good, but then this health care debate and this town halls that Kelly was reporting on....
ABC anchor Charles Gibson saw “a pattern of disruption -- opponents of change shouting at members of Congress so loud that at times police are called in.” He then pointed to the Obama administration as an authority on civility, highlighting how “White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said today: 'We can discuss these issues without being uncivilized. It's the same thing I tell my six-year-old.'”
There’s something deeply wrong with journalism that scrutinizes and criticizes the institutions of free and successful nations, but produces puff pieces on the supposed achievements of totalitarian dictatorships. On Thursday, CNN aired a piece of Communist Party propaganda about how Cuba could serve as “a model for health care reform” in the United States, complete with an authoritative sound bite from an American medical expert, identified only as someone “who’s lived and worked in Cuba for decades.”
But the expert, Gail Reed, is a longtime admirer of the Cuban revolution, married to the Cuban official who served as ambassador to Grenada in the early 1980s when U.S. troops liberated the island from hardline communists who had executed the leftist Prime Minister Maurice Bishop. She's also worked at Granma, Cuba’s official communist party newspaper.
Correspondent Morgan Neill also recited all of the standard tropes about how Cuban health care is the best in Latin America, is completely free, and “no one falls through the cracks.” While he acknowledged that “critics charged that conditions in Cuban hospitals are appalling and that Cubans had to pay bribes to get decent care,” nearly all of the August 6 report was positive.
What follows is not meant in any way to make light of a literally life-and-death issue. It is instead meant to perhaps (we can always hope) drill a little truth into the thick heads of the establishment media's alleged "journalists" who continue to refuse to see what's right in front of them in ObamaCare (or in many cases to even read the legislation in the first place).
You see, abortion coverage in ObamaCare is analogous to the pasta afficionado's expected set of ingredients in Prego Spaghetti Sauce, as presented in this popular 1984 commercial -- that is, "It's in there."
On Sunday, in an alleged "Fact Check" piece on ObamaCare, the Associated Press tried to pretend abortion coverage isn't in there. Two days later, prodded by Steven Ertelt at LifeNews.com and others in the pro-life community, the wire service specifically backtracked and admitted that yes, it's in there ("Gov't insurance would allow coverage for abortion").
Now it's Stephanie Condon of CBS who is pretending that abortion coverage is not in there in ObamaCare. LifeNews.com and pro-lifers are once again out there pushing back, while deliciously reminding the network of a 2004 story that wasn't all there -- or was only there in the vivid, anchor-ending imagination of Dan Rather (link to CBS story within excerpt added by me; bold is mine):
Are you opposed to ObamaCare? Willing to attend a town hall to express your disapproval? Odds are good you're a racist. Just ask Cynthia Tucker . . .
As Clay Waters has noted, Paul Krugman alleges that racist motives are at the heart of the town hall protests against ObamaCare. On this evening's Hardball, Cynthia Tucker of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution was willing to get specific, estimating that "45 to 65%" of the protesters are motivated by racism.
On Friday’s Your World program, Fox News Channel’s interviewed Kenneth Gladney, the victim of an assault outside a health care town hall meeting in St. Louis on August 6, along with his lawyer David Brown. A video of the immediate aftermath of the attack (posted earlier on NewsBusters by Seton Motley) showed some of the suspects wearing t-shirts bearing the logo of the SEIU union, which is a member organization of Health Care for America Now!, a left-wing coalition pushing for the passage of ObamaCare [video clips from the segment are available here; audio clips are found here].
Mr. Gladney stated that he arrived outside the building where the town hall meeting was taking place, and started distributing and/or selling flags which bear the famous slogan “Don’t Tread on Me.” He continued that “this guy...walked up to me and said...who in the blank is selling this blank here. And I said, sir, this is my merchandise, and....he was like, what kind of ‘N’ are you to be giving out this kind of stuff here? And he snatched the- the button board. And when he snatched the button board, I snatched it back from him, and that’s when he proceeded to hit me in my face.” He added that others joined in the beat-down.
(Earlier today, Clay Waters covered Krugman's column for NewsBusters here.)
The group (full disclosure: I work for the National Center for Public Policy Research, which sponsors Project 21) has also called on President Obama to condemn "this effort to stifle debate with race-baiting tactics" as well as "all efforts to derail legitimate public debate."
Krugman's column drew the following specific comments from Project 21 members:
About the only thing you can conclude about the Agence France-Presse wire service's August 4 "news" item about a health care poll result ("Majority back Obama on health care reform: poll") is that they couldn't find anything more recent than three weeks old to provide the result they were looking for. So AFP went back to a poll done between July 9-13 -- an online one no less. As NewsBusters colleague Noel Sheppard would say, "I kid you not."
The House Democrats' 1,018-page health-care plan wasn't even released until late in the day on Tuesday, July 14. To say that AFP's report and the related poll results are worse than worthless to any current discussions is almost to praise them too much.
Here is a mini-pic of the first several paragraphs presented for fair use, discussion, and repudiation purposes:
New York Times columnist Paul Krugman is not pleased with some of his fellow racist mobs -- er, U.S. citizens -- as he demonstrated in his column on Friday, "The TownHall Mob," on loud protests that have met some Democratic congressmen who support Obama's costly health care ideas.
There's a famous Norman Rockwell painting titled "Freedom of Speech," depicting an idealized American town meeting. The painting, part of a series illustrating F.D.R.'s "Four Freedoms," shows an ordinary citizen expressing an unpopular opinion. His neighbors obviously don't like what he's saying, but they're letting him speak his mind.
That's a far cry from what has been happening at recent town halls, where angry protesters -- some of them, with no apparent sense of irony, shouting "This is America!" -- have been drowning out, and in some cases threatening, members of Congress trying to talk about health reform.
At the top of the 4:00PM ET hour on MSNBC Friday, fill-in co-anchor Monica Novotny issued a dire warning about protests at health care town hall meetings: "The town hall confrontations are turning violent....Where is all of this heading? New fears for the safety of America’s first African-American president." [Audio/video (0:33): Mp3 | WMV]
In a later segment, co-anchor David Shuster interviewed Virginia Democratic Congressman Jim Moran and asked: "We know that threats to President Obama are up by like something 400% compared to the Bush administration. Is this putting our president in some sort of danger because of some wacko that will see this stuff and say, ‘oh, yes, it’s fascism and the way we dealt with Adolf Hitler was to try to kill him, so therefore, let’s do this with our president.’"
Congressman Moran responded to that outrageous scenario by remarking: "Well, you know, it only took – takes one person. It took one person to shoot Ronald Reagan, Jack Kennedy, and so on. But I think the Secret Service can be trusted to protect the President. But it does discredit those people who are using such extreme measures to achieve an objective which is really corporate profit."