Hypocrisy: Maddow Calls VA Scandal Merely 'Problem in Progress'; Bush-era Walter Reed Fiasco Was 'Scandal'

Call it partisan hypocrisy in progress. Last night, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow furiously spun the VA hospital waiting-list scandal as merely a “problem in progress.”

That was radically different from her reaction to the 2007 Walter Reed Army Medical Center scandal, which involved shoddy, run-down accommodations for injured servicemen (MP3 audio here; video below).

Reacting to new developments in the VA scandal on her May 21 program, Maddow was quick to come to the defense of the nation’s chief executive. While she was fair to note that not all of the VA’s administrative issues are new in nature, she chose to play semantics regardless, imploring her guest–and her liberal audience–to understand:

 It feels to me like it's the media coming upon a problem in progress and calling it a scandal, rather than something brand-new being uncovered. I mean, how do you handle that? I know you know this isn't new.

Now, it is fair to state that there have been decades long systemic problems within the VA. This fact is widely recognized on both sides of the aisle. However, to claim that a VA hospital’s treatment delays that led to the deaths of dozens of veterans–possibly more–is not a scandal is simply absurd. Understanding that problems exist within the VA is one thing; what has come to light in recent weeks is unprecedented and certainly worthy of the ‘scandal’ label.

What is more appalling is that Ms. Maddow has a habit of picking and choosing when to use that term, in order to fit her liberal agenda. When the Walter Reed Hospital scandal entered the news cycle in 2007, the liberal media was quick to label it a scandal, and justifiably so. That scandal was smaller, of course; it mainly consisted of gross neglect of the hospital, which is a shame, and inexcusable for our veterans.

Rachel Maddow, on a podcast in 2007, almost joyfully labeled  Walter Reed a legitimate scandal:

...making clear what the real problem is with the Walter Reed Scandal. And that’s of course, that it’s a scandal. That’s of course that it looks really bad. That’s the problem.

So, in her world view, new and troubling revelations regarding the VA are scandals when a Republican is president, but when the media’s favorite liberal is in the White House, it’s nothing more than a “problem in progress.”   

Here are the relevant transcripts:

MSNBC
The Rachel Maddow Show
May 21, 2014
9:29 p.m.

RACHEL MADDOW, host: Paul, I know that the American Legion has called explicitly for General Shinseki to be fired, for him to resign over the failure to fix these problems. As far as I know, IAVA hasn't said that organizationally yet. It sounds like you just got kind of close. What are your personal feelings on that and where does IAVA come down on that issue? How important is he individually?

PAUL RIECKHOFF, IAVA (Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans for America) founder and executive director: He's very important. He sets the tone, sets the command climate. He has to be the advocate in chief on behalf of our veterans. There's an old saying that sometimes the V.A. stands for veterans advocate, and sometimes it stands for veterans adversary. He's got to be the biggest veterans advocate in America and he really hasn’t met that challenge. For us, we're asking our members. We're going to continue to poll, memorial day is coming up this weekend, we’ll  be doing events around the country, we’re gonna listen to them. We want to hear from our all of our members and make sure we're thoughtful about this decision and take it seriously. But I also want people to know, our members are furious. They're outraged and absolutely disgusted by this entire controversy and they were very disappointed with the president today. He did not lay out any clear action steps and he was late to this issue. It's sad that it takes them getting beat over the head by the media for weeks and weeks before they finally respond and then when they do it's a weak response with no real plan. They've got to get ahead of this story and they also have to understand it's deep, it's vast, and not going away anytime soon, because it hasn't gone away in the past six years.

MADDOW: Let me just ask you about that last point. That is, I feel like part of the reason that it this has been a weird story to cover over the last four weeks, we've covered it a number of times on this show, I feel like so much of the "This is a scandal" coverage is covering it as if this is a totally new problem.

RIECKHOFF: Right, right.

MADDOW: As if something like this has never happened before feel like, yes, we've uncovered a new way that we're doing this, just like we were doing this with mental health numbers, just like we were doing this with the backlog, just like we were doing it before. It feels to me like it's the media coming upon a problem in progress and calling it a scandal, rather than something brand-new being uncovered. I mean, how do you handle that? I know you know this isn't new.

RIECKHOFF: It's a wake-up call.  I mean honestly, I thought this was going to happen years ago. People are complaining this has been politicized in the last couple of weeks. It's a miracle it wasn't politicized four years ago. This stuff has been out there, there have been multiple hearings and IG reports and GAO studies. America just wasn't paying attention and the media wasn't paying attention. You've been very aggressive and consistent in covering it, but the reality is that most of America and most of the media has not been. So welcome to the discussion, America. It's really a big problem, we need everyone's help, and it's one of the most urgent, political issues facing our country. If we can't get veterans right, we can't get anything right in this country because it does offer a unique, bipartisan opportunity to finally tackle something that matters. And it's just really, I think, disappointing and disheartening for everyone. We're exhausted by it, but maybe the silver lining is that we can finally get the reform that we deserved a decade ago.

The Rachel Maddow Podthing
2007

BRIT HUME, Fox News: This is unfortunate, it looks terrible, which is the problem. The problem is that it looks as if this administration which has sent troops into harms way is now neglecting them when they’re injured and need care and help.
    
MADDOW: That’s Brit Hume on Fox News Sunday, making clear what the real problem is with the Walter Reed Scandal. And that’s of course, that it’s a scandal. That’s of course that it looks really bad. That’s the problem.
    
HUME: It looks terrible, which is the problem.
    
MADDOW: Makes it look like the administration is neglecting the troops and the veterans and that appearance, that appearance, is clearly an emergency, a public relations emergency for the administration.

Connor Williams
Connor Williams
Connor Williams is a contributing writer for NewsBusters.