CNN's Roberts Omits Far Left Affiliation of 'Inside' Health Care Guest

John Roberts, CNN Anchor; & Wendell Potter, Senior Fellow, Center for Media and Democracy | NewsBusters.orgAnchor John Roberts became the fourth CNN personality to omit the left-wing affiliation of Wendell Potter, as he interviewed the  on Tuesday’s American Morning. Roberts only described Potter as someone who “worked for two different insurance companies in the past, and now he’s working against them to help get reform passed.”

Before introducing his guest, the CNN anchor played up the merits of Senator Max Baucus’s health care reform proposal: “The Senate Finance Committee’s health care reform bill got high marks from the Congressional Budget Office for keeping the deficit down, but now, insurance companies say it will actually cost you and your family thousands of dollars more than you’re paying now. So who is telling the truth?”

After posing this rhetorical question, Roberts introduced his guest: “We’re joined by Wendell Potter. He has worked for two different insurance companies in the past, and now he’s working against them to help get reform passed.” An on-screen graphic gave a glowing description of the former insurance company spokesman’s career: “Former head of public relations at Cigna Corp. and Humana Inc., now a whistleblower against health insurance industry- advocate for health care reform.” Another chyron finally revealed that the guest was also “Sr. Fellow on Health Care, Ctr. For Media & Democracy,” but Roberts never revealed Potter’s affiliation with the left-wing organization.

The anchor conducted a softball interview with the senior fellow, letting him deliver his talking points without question:
ROBERTS: Just six months ago, Wendell, there were America’s Health Insurance Plans standing up, saying, ‘We want to work with you on health care reform.’ Just yesterday, they came out with this study, this PricewaterhouseCooper’s report which- it was a scathing criticism of the so-called Baucus bill in the Senate Finance Committee. What changed between then and now?

POTTER: You know, what happened on that March day, that summit at the White House, was what made me decide to become a critic of the industry, because that was the beginning of their charm offensive, the part of the P.R. campaign that they want us to see, they want us to hear. And what we saw, and what we’re seeing now is the other side of that, their efforts behind the scenes, and now more publicly, to defeat reform, and it’s all an effort to try to shape reform, if they can, or kill it if they can, but shape it for their benefits, and at the benefit of Wall Street shareholders, more than Americans.

ROBERTS: Are you suggesting that Karen Ignagni [America’s Health Insurance Plans CEO] was being disingenuous during that meeting?

POTTER: I think the industry has been disingenuous from the beginning of this debate. They have never had any intention of being good faith partners with the President and Congress, and I know this from having been a part of many, many efforts over the past 20 years, almost, to defeat reform, or to help shape reform to the industry's benefit, and I was a part of some of the efforts to plan this very campaign.

ROBERTS: Now, AHIP’s initial problem was with the public option, which is not in the Senate bill, but now, they’re saying, ‘Well wait a minute. There aren’t stiff enough penalties for people who don't buy health insurance.’ That’s the new beef. What’s that all about?

POTTER: You know, it’s an argument- it’s probably the best case that I’ve heard from anybody why we need a public health insurance option. What they’re saying is, in fact, they bought and paid for this report from an outfit- you know, that’s worked for them and done many reports like this over many years. They’ve taken selective parts of the bill and not even bothering to read the full bill, or take some other elements into consideration, and are claiming that the bill, if enacted, would raise premiums. It’s nonsense- it would not work the way they would- the way that they’re saying. In fact, one of the authors admitted, apparently late yesterday, that they did not take into consideration other important elements of the bill.

ROBERTS: Okay. So let me stop you there and just drill down on this claim that they’re making, that the health care bill that’s now in the Senate Finance Committee would add hundreds, if not thousands of dollars to the cost of a health insurance package for most people and families. That- you’re saying that that’s just not true.

POTTER: It’s just not true because they’re taking the parts of the bill that the industry now does not like. What the Finance Committee did, fortunately, toward the end of last week, was reduce some of the very, very severe penalties that the insurance industry wanted to have in the bill that would be assessed against us if we decide we don’t want to buy their overpriced and inadequate products that are often nothing more than fake insurance.

ROBERTS: So, how do they go forward and make such a claim if it’s just patently not true?

POTTER: Because they can- because they know they can often get away with it and they know that they’ve got a lot of shills on Capitol Hill. One thing we’ll be able to see over the next- you know, today and the coming days, is whether or not people will be revealing themselves as the industry shills by quoting from this bogus report.
Near the end of interview, Roberts went so far to let Potter “shill,” to use his own word, for the so-called public option. The CNN anchor also voiced his gushing approval of the senior fellow.
ROBERTS: And you said that this is the greatest argument for a public option that you have heard to date, but do you think that this could breathe new life into this idea of a public option?

POTTER: I think it already is. From what I’m hearing, people who have been trying and working, really, in good faith to get legislation passed are now- knowing that a public option is one of the most important ways to try to keep this industry honest. Without the public option- you know, these companies will continue to have the free reign they’ve had over the last several years, and they will, indeed, raise our prices, our premiums to the point we can’t afford them, and more and more people will be in the ranks of the underinsured.

ROBERTS: Well, in terms of just the argument that AHIP has been making, Wendell, I can’t tell you how good it is to have you on and how refreshing it is to have someone who was on the inside now coming on and telling us like it is.

POTTER: Thank you very much, John

ROBERTS: Really, really appreciate it very much. Thanks so much.
“Someone who was on the inside” -that’s just another saying “industry insider,” which is the label which correspondent Jim Acosta gave Potter back in July 2009. A month later, CNN’s Elaine Quijano used the moniker “insurance company insider.” Earlier in October, Roberts’s fellow anchor, Rick Sanchez, went so far to deny the “insider’s” left-wing background: “Is he [Potter] some crazy lefty? Is he Ralph Nader? Is he Dennis Kucinich? No. In fact, he’s a former player in the health insurance world.” All three neglected to mention Potter’s job as senior fellow at the Center for Media and Democracy, so it’s no surprise that Roberts did the same.
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center