CBS's Greenfield Highlights Michael Moore's One-sided Presentation of 'Sicko'

On Friday's CBS Evening News, correspondent Jeff Greenfield, formerly of CNN, pointed out the one-sidedness of Michael Moore's film Sicko during a report that explored whether the film was likely to impact the presidential race. Although Greenfield did not debunk any aspect of the film in his report, he pointed out that the film "does not include critics" of government-run health systems in other countries "championed" by Moore. And, regarding Moore's claim that typical Cubans receive the kind of quality care presented in the movie, Greenfield cautioned: "That assertion is likely to be sharply challenged."

Anchor Katie Couric set up the report by relaying a CBS News/New York Times poll finding that 90 percent of Americans support "fundamental change or a complete overhaul" of America's health care system as she contended that those happy with the system are "in a minority." Couric: "If you're happy with the health care system in this country, well, you're in the minority." (Transcript follows)

Greenfield introduced the story relaying that Moore's new film "assails America's health care system and champions more or less uncritically a government-run health care system." After conveying that Moore's film praises socialized health care in Canada, France, and Britain, Greenfield added: "The film does not include critics of those systems."

Then the CBS correspondent recounted the story of Moore's trip to Cuba with 9/11 first responders who were treated to health care they had not been given access in America, and the filmmakers's dubious claim that the care was the kind typically received by Cubans. Greenfield: "Later, at a Havana hospital, they received health care that Moore claimed was typical for Cubans. That assertion is likely to be sharply challenged."

Without exploring the merits of private versus government health care, Greenfield concluded by making the case that the film is unlikely to bring about government-run health care in America, citing a health analyst who argued that Americans are "less willing to have government make decisions" than people in other countries.

Below is a complete transcript of the story from the Friday June 22 CBS Evening News:

KATIE COURIC: If you're happy with the health care system in this country, well, you're in the minority. In a CBS News/New York Times poll, nine out of ten people told us the system needs fundamental change or a complete overhaul. Filmmaker Michael Moore has his own point-of-view on that in a movie that's just opened smack in the middle of the presidential campaign. Here's Jeff Greenfield.

JEFF GREENFIELD: Another movie premier, the red carpet, the paparazzi. But the draw this night isn't a pirate captain or Spider Man -- but this man. Filmmaker Michael Moore, whose new film Sicko assails America's health care system and champions more or less uncritically a government-run health care system.

MICHAEL MOORE: We can no longer have a system where private health insurance is calling the shots. We have to remove profit.

GREENFIELD: Sicko features affecting stories of personal suffering at the hands of indifferent corporations, and the film celebrates the government-run systems of Canada, France, and Britain. The film does not include critics of those systems.

Unidentified man: It's not America.

GREENFIELD: Most controversially, Moore took 9/11 rescue workers, denied health care after taking ill, to Guantanamo Bay to demand the same care given al-Qaeda suspects.

MOORE, standing on a boat: Hello?

GREENFIELD: Later, at a Havana hospital, they received health care that Moore claimed was typical for Cubans. That assertion is likely to be sharply challenged. But beyond the arguments that seem to surround every Michael Moore movie -- is it accurate advocacy, is it distorted propaganda? -- lies a bigger question. Could it help shape the direction, even the outcome, of the coming presidential campaign? Recent history says there is reason for some skepticism. There are examples of cultural events that helped shape politics. The 1979 movie The China Syndrome intensified anti-nuclear sentiment. By contrast, 1983's The Right Stuff did nothing to advance the presidential hopes of former astronaut John Glenn. And Moore himself says his 2004 smash Fahrenheit 9/11 didn't change many minds about President Bush.

MOORE: Probably a lot of people who went to see it already didn't like what was going on.

GREENFIELD: So far, the candidates for President have all talked a lot about changing the health care system.

RUDOLPH GIULIANI: Then we should have a health savings account.

Governor BILL RICHARDSON (D-NM): No new bureaucracies.

Former Governor TOMMY THOMPSON (R-WI): Make it a wellness system and make it a prevention system.

GREENFIELD: But no one -- Democrat or Republican -- has come close to advocating the kind of government-run national health system Michael Moore proposes. Why not? Health analyst Paul Ginsburg says Americans are just different.

PAUL GINSBURG, Health analyst: We're much less willing to have government make decisions for people than is the case in Canada and Europe. It's a cultural difference.

GREENFIELD: Michael Moore has proven that he can bring much bigger audiences to his movies than the typical documentary. But if history is any guide, Sicko is likely to have a much bigger impact at the box office than at the ballot box. Jeff Greenfield, CBS News, New York.