Hours before ABC's Wednesday prime time special with President Obama from the White House, Questions for the President: Prescription for America, a World News piece conveyed the public's doubts that Obama will achieve his goals, but also endorsed Obama's premise that something must be done as reporter David Wright focused on concern over rising costs and a family without insurance before concluding: “Expectations are low, but the need is obvious.”
From Lynchburg, Virginia, Wright reported how “some folks here clearly have their doubts President Obama is going to be able to fix the health care system” as “some worry about big government programs, others that they'll pay higher taxes in the end.” But, he stressed, “Democrats and Republicans alike here told us they hope he can fix it because something needs to be done. Kimberly Gambiladi (sp?) is a stay at home mom. Her husband got laid off two months ago. Now the whole family has no insurance.”
Wright moved on to “a civil engineering firm with 85 employees” where “business has dropped off during the recession. But health premiums haven't.” After the stay at home mom with no insurance admitted “I don't have the answer. Hopefully, somebody will,” Wright delivered his closing line: “Expectations are low, but the need is obvious.”
On Capitol Hill today, the Media Research Center along with Americans for Tax Reform and the Health Care Freedom Coalition sponsored an event showcasing Sen. Jim DeMint, Rep. Tom Price and key health care experts who discussed the alternatives to and the pitfalls of President Obama's health care proposal.
Sen. DeMint explained what he would have said if he had been invited by ABC to participate in this evening's health care special:
ABC's Diane Sawyer on Wednesday hit Barack Obama with some refreshingly tough questions about his plans for health care reform, quizzing the President on potential rationing, reduction of services and whether Americans would really be able to keep their current plan. However, the program also devoted 13 minutes and two segments to Obama, neither of which featured any Republican opposition.
Sawyer, who reported live from the White House and will be co-hosting ABC's June 24 primetime special on health care, focused on a possible reduction of benefits as a result of government-run health care. After an ABC graphic appeared onscreen asserting that eight in ten Americans worry about such a result, Sawyer queried, "They're very concerned that there's going to be a reduction in treatment at some place in all of this. Will [your plan] have the weight of law? Will it have the weight of regulation?"
The GMA host brought up Obama's often-repeated pledge that Americans who like their current health plan will not have to change. However, she observed, "...I thought today [June 23] in the press conference, I heard you amend it to say, if your employer decides to change it, we don't have control over that." Obama justified, "Well, but, of course- that's the case whether we pass health care or not. I can't pass a law that says, 'I'm sorry, employers, you can never make changes to the health care plans you provide your employees.'"
CBS, of all news outlets, is setting a high standard for ABC to meet Wednesday in its broadcasts from the White House. On Tuesday night, just a week after a “Reality Check” on how President Obama's claim that his government-expansion health care plan won't hike the deficit doesn't match reality, the CBS Evening News aired a story on how his plan would likely force many to lose their current health insurance and/or doctor.
Katie Couric noted “72 percent of Americans say they favor a government plan that would compete with private insurers,” but “at the same time, nearly two-thirds are concerned that would reduce the quality of their own health care. And some experts believe they're right to be worried.”
Sharyl Attkisson featured the Cato Institute's Michael Cannon, who explained: “Employer premiums will go up and employers might respond by dropping coverage entirely. So if you're one of those unfortunate workers, then it will be a government policy that ousted you from your health plan.” Attkisson added: “And if you do choose a public plan, you may want to keep your favorite doctors, but they may not want to keep you. Under government health care, they could be paid 20 to 30 percent less.” Attkisson pointed out how “Obama also scoffed at claims that a public plan would put private insurers out of business,” but she countered: “The answer, say critics, is that the government has many tools to get an unfair advantage and undercut private companies.”
CNN anchor Campbell Brown used a proponent’s own talking point about President Obama’s planned health care socialization as she pressed a doctor over his skepticism of the project during her program on Monday: “There’s plenty of evidence...that...two-thirds of all bankruptcies in this country [are] due to people’s medical bills. It’s clear the current system isn’t working, so why not be open to trying this?”
Brown hosted Dr. Jorge Rodriguez, a supporter of the president’s plan, and Dr. Eric Novack, a senior fellow for the conservative Americans for Prosperity, for her regular “Great Debate” segment. After an opening statement from the two doctors on the health care issue, the anchor asked Dr. Rodriguez, “What do you say to critics who charge what we’re talking about, what we’re debating is really socialized medicine- that people envision hours of waiting to get into- you know, to get to see a doctor, the rationing of our health care?”
During the June 23 White House press conference, ABC News reporter Jake Tapper sparred with Barack Obama over the details of the President's universal health care plan, bluntly observing, "...If the government is offering a cheaper health care plan, then lots of employers will want to have their employees covered by that cheaper plan, which will not have to be for-profit, unlike private plans."
Although there was laughter in the press conference, the exchanges became pointed. At one point, Tapper sarcastically observed that he appreciated Obama's "Spock-like language about the logic of the health care plan." Tapper's question, about whether the so-called "public choice" option would actually allow employees to keep the current insurance plans they have now, was a follow-up to a similar one offered by USA Today's David Jackson. After the President failed to answer that query, Tapper began by challenging, "I wonder if you could actually answer David's? Is the public plan non- negotiable?" A testy Obama retorted, "All right, if that's your question."
Good Morning America's Diane Sawyer popped up on Sunday's Reliable Sources and swore that ABC's much-scrutinized health care special with President Obama "won't be an infomercial." She also seriously touted the objectivity of the network, cheering, "I know that our network has worked very, very hard to be completely- completely responsible and fair and serious about big issues." [Audio available here]
After host Howard Kurtz played a clip of FNC's Sean Hannity attacking the June 24 special as an infomercial, Sawyer, who will be co-hosting the program with Charlie Gibson from inside the White House, promised, "We will be there, and these people in this room are going to be able to ask questions from every single vantage point. And they are going to challenge the President, many of them."
When asked whether ABC should include guests from the health care industry, Sawyer, who appeared via phone, said such voices would be featured and again swore, "And I think a lot of people haven't understand fully that this is going to be a room full of widely diverse ideas in which people who actually experience the reality of front-line health care are going to get a chance to pose their challenging questions to the President." However, Kurtz didn't quiz the host as to why the ABC network has refused to air ads from the health care industry during the special. And when Sawyer noted that ABC "has done town hall forums before," he didn't point out that many of them have been severely slanted.
Sticking up for European socialism, Friday night on HBO's Real Time, BBC America's Katty Kay contended the “idea of demonizing” a “public option” for U.S. health care “as some sort of step toward socialism -- it just seems to me so out of touch with reality.” That's because “in Britain we have a purely public plan and even the Conservative Party calls it one of our great national treasures,” while other European nations “that have some sort of a public plan actually, you know what, they seem to like it” since “it seems to actually work pretty well and no one wants to get rid of it.”
The fact Britain's Conservative Party doesn't oppose that nation's nationalized health system says more about how far the party is to the left than anything about the benefits of the system.
Friday's World News carried a 15-second promo, the first I've seen, for Wednesday night's controversial prime time special, “Questions for the President: Prescription for America.” Over video of President Barack Obama, ABC exulted in how “Charles Gibson and Diane Sawyer take you inside his house” for “a television event” where “President Obama answers all of your tough questions about your health care.”
(Below the jump: Look at how ABC News has incorporated Obama's image into their graphic plugging the June 24 special.)
Script of the narration:
What's more important than having good health care when you need it? Nothing. That's why Wednesday at 10 on ABC Charlie Gibson and Diane Sawyer take you inside his house: The White House, for a television event as President Obama answers all of your tough questions about your health care.
The New York Times and the Washington Post had a pretty profound disagreement this morning on whether or not Obama has a chance to get a health care "reform" proposal through Congress this year, with the Times, predictably, being far more optimistic about prospects for the president's big-government health plan.
In their heart of hearts, few in the Obama administration would have predicted late last year that they would be this well positioned by June to achieve a major victory on health care. As the economy faltered, and attention focused on Wall Street and Detroit, it seemed unthinkable that Congress would be ready to devote the summer of 2009 to the costly proposition of providing health coverage for all, a goal that has eluded presidents since Theodore Roosevelt.
But five months after the inauguration, health care dominates the domestic agenda on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. Any package that emerges will preserve the country's private insurance system, at least for now. It could nonetheless bring sweeping changes, requiring that everyone be insured, creating a government health plan to compete with commercial carriers and perhaps taxing employer-provided health benefits.
By contrast, the top two paragraphs of Ceci Connolly's lead story in Friday's Washington Post seem to have come from an alternate universe:
Centering its story around a man unable to get “affordable” health insurance after a battle with cancer, Thursday's NBC Nightly News devoted its “In-Depth” segment to the “public option,” what anchor Brian Williams innocuously described as “a government insurance program similar to Medicare, but available to those under 65.” NBC didn't mention conservative concern such a program would become a “slippery slope” toward a single-payer system since the government could under-price private insurers.
Reporter Robert Bazell focused on Chuck Bille, who “at 61 loves the outdoors and feels healthy, but Bille had leukemia that is now in remission. And recently, he was laid off from his job that had provided health insurance.” Bazell contended “covering people like Bille who can't get affordable insurance is one of the most contentious issues in health reform,” so “some want a new government program, similar to Medicare, as an option for those who can't get or don't want employer-based insurance.” A university professor then enthused: “It could offer much broader coverage, more benefits, more services, deeper coverage, thereby allowing people a choice of a product that actually is tailored to their needs.”
While President Barack Obama's health care plan is garnering plenty of media attention including two prominent spots on ABC, Fox News host Glenn Beck says the plan won't even help the poor get insurance.
"Look, it doesn't even make sense," Beck said. "When you start to look at it, they're talking about savings, but their savings come from moving people from Medicaid over to universal health. We're also leaving, I think it's 33 or 39 million people off the roles. They - we're not even talking about people who are making less than $33,000."
ABC found itself in hot water this week after it announced on June 15 it would be airing a primetime special, "Questions for the President: Prescription for America," on June 24 from the White House. ABC also said "Good Morning America" and "World News" would also be broadcast from the White House that day.
ABC News' senior vice president Kerry Smith defended the network against critics saying in a letter the hour-long special from the White House will be "devoted to exploring and probing the President's position and the giving voice to questions and criticisms of that position."
Smith also claimed the network has "had many critics of the President's health care proposals on the air - and that's before a real plan has even been put before the country. In the end, no one watching, listening to, or reading ABC News will lack for an understanding of all sides of these important questions."
MRC's Business & Media Institute fact checked that claim and found that from January 20 to June 16 those quoted in health care stories on ABC's morning and evening news shows favored ObamaCare by a 3-to-1 margin (55 supporters to 18 critics).
MRC President Brent Bozell sat down in the Fox News DC bureau yesterday morning to record his reaction to ABC News's planned special at the White House on health care. [audio available here]
Fox News Channel ran Mr. Bozell's comments in news updates throughout the day, including a full story by correspondent Mike Emanuel that aired during "Special Report with Bret Baier":
Just try to put into context how ridiculous this ABC quote-unquote discussion is. Just try to imagine a world wherein ABC would give George W. Bush a two-hour opportunity to have a quote-unquote "discussion with the American people" on the war on terror.
So, not only is ABC not planning to include opposing voices to President Obama's health care proposals during its special presentation next week -- though ABC does claim "those in the audience" will ask questions of the president -- it is refusing to even allow groups that oppose Obamacare to purchase paid-for advertisements to air during the healthcare special.
Rick Scott, chairman of Conservatives for Patients Rights, contacted ABC and inquired about purchasing some ad time during the Obama infomercial, but was refused the sale. Scott wanted to air his 60-second ad before the healthcare show started. Though it was refused by the national network, apparently it is still possible for Scott the buy time on local affiliates should he desire it.
MRC President Brent Bozell sat down in the Fox News DC bureau on June 17 to record his reaction to ABC News's planned special at the White House on health care.
During the 1 p.m. EDT hour, correspondent Mike Emanuel aired one small portion of his comments [audio available here]:
Just try to imagine a world wherein ABC would give George W. Bush a two-hour opportunity to have a quote-unquote "discussion with the American people" on the war on terror. They didn't even cover some of his press conferences.
ABC and CBS's morning shows on Wednesday both provided surprisingly tough questioning to Christina Romer, one of Barack Obama's economic advisors. On the issue of health care, Good Morning America co-host Diane Sawyer compared the costs of Medicare to the new health care plan and pointed out past government inaccuracies when it came to accessing cost.
She grilled, "You know, in 1965, everyone was told that over 25 years, the cost of Medicare would be $12 billion. The actual cost, $107 billion." Sawyer added, "Ten-times what the estimate was. Can you know this cost? And can you guarantee it's not going to be more than the administration believes?" Early Show co-host Maggie Rodriguez quizzed Romer, the Chairwoman of the President's Council of Economic Advisors, on Obama's repeated insistence that he has no interest in meddling in the private sector. She wondered, "He sounds like he's being forced to do these things. If he believes that big government is actually a bad thing, why doesn't he at least try less intrusive options, which are certainly be offered up?"
ABC's "Prescription for America" special plugging the Obama health-nationalization plan is not the first time a network has taken on such a task. NBC did the same thing for Hillary-care in the summer of 1994, but with a twist: its two-hour special was commercial-free, paid for by the liberal Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. From the July 1994 edition of our newsletter MediaWatch:
NBC raised a lot of eyebrows by accepting $3.5 million from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for its two-hour, commercial-free June 21 health care special, To Your Health. Five foundation fellows served on Hillary Clinton's secret task force, and when that secrecy became an issue, the foundation spent $500,000 for four town meetings featuring the First Lady.
In 1991, foundation president Dr. Steven Schroeder told The Chronicle of Philanthropy: "We are very conscious that fundamental change [in health] is not going to happen without government...Many of our recent grants have been predicated on the idea that we would get government involved."
Reality catches up with CBS News which on Tuesday night ran a “Reality Check” story on how a new CBO report shows President Obama's claim that his government-expansion health care plan won't hike the deficit doesn't match reality. So, will ABC News display similar skepticism when it broadcasts GMA and World News from the White House next Wednesday, culminating in a prime time hour, “Questions for the President: Prescription for America”? (ABC's Jake Tapper on Monday night briefly cited the CBO report, but ABC and NBC were silent on Tuesday evening.)
Fill-in CBS Evening News anchor Jeff Glor announced “there are growing concerns that President Obama lacks a realistic plan to pay for this sweeping reform.” Reporter Wyatt Andrews related “how the nation really pays for health reform just got a shocking wake-up call. The Congressional Budget Office, CBO, said Senator Ted Kennedy's health care proposal could cost one trillion dollars over ten years, and 36 million Americans would still be uninsured.” Andrews proceeded to note how Obama “claims he can achieve reform without raising the deficit,” but, he asserted, “the fact is, this means raising taxes.” Andrews also pointed out that Obama's “more than $600 billion worth of spending cuts” to Medicare and other programs don't comport with inevitable resistance from hospitals.
President Barack Obama created “a very tender moment,” as he addressed the American Medical Association in Chicago, and “was right on target at reaching out to the heart of most physicians” ABC's Dr. Tim Johnson beamed on Monday's World News in reaction to fill-in anchor George Stephanopoulos paraphrasing how Obama told the doctors “our health care system should let them be healers, again, instead of bean counters.”
Johnson is a long-time advocate for a major expansion of the government's role in health care. On the March 1 World News, Johnson complained: “We spend more than twice as much per person on health care in this country as the average of all other industrialized countries, yet we’re the only one that doesn’t have universal coverage. That’s a national shame.” A few days later, Johnson participated in Obama’s health care forum, then expressed awe: “I was blown away by President Obama’s grasp of the subject, how he connected the dots, how he answered the questions without any script.” More in the MRC BiasAlert by Rich Noyes, “ABC Picks Universal Health Care Fan for Obama Health Care Special.”
ABC News announced on Monday that Dr. Tim Johnson, a longtime advocate for government-run health care, will be participating in a primetime special on the subject, airing on June 24 and being broadcast from the White House. The doctor, who has aggressively lobbied in support of universal health care for over 15 years, will also appear on that day's Good Morning America, a show that will feature Diane Sawyer's interview with Barack Obama.
This is the same Johnson, who, on July 19, 1994, talked to then-First Lady Hillary Clinton about a similar health care plan. He gushed, "So at least from the physicians represented here, you get a 100 percent vote, including mine, for universal coverage." On October 19, 2007, he spoke to Clinton again and noted that she considered the issue a moral one. "Do you think the Republicans who are against it are immoral," he wondered. A selection of some of Johnson's more biased health care-related comments can be found below:
President Obama's health care summit at the White House played into receptive television news hands Thursday night as NBC displayed “Fixing Health Care” on screen before reporter Chuck Todd appropriated the coach who inspired “win one for the Gipper” by touting how “the President's drive to pass health care got a Knute Rockne-like boost with a surprise appearance” by Senator Ted Kennedy, while ABC's Dr. Tim Johnson, who on Sunday had decried as a “national shame” America's lack of universal health care, effused: “I was blown away by President Obama's grasp of the subject, how he connected the dots, how he answered the questions without any script.”
CBS's Chip Reid corroborated Obama's point about soaring costs by citing a business where “in 2005, it cost $75,000 to cover about 25 employees. In 2008, it cost $148,000,” as if more government involvement to expand the number of people covered will lower costs. Reid also hailed Obama's fresh approach: “Instead of doing battle with insurance companies, drug companies, hospitals, and doctors, this time all those groups are in the room, most agreeing that now is the time for shared sacrifice.”