A world in which "journalists have continually stacked the deck in favor of a big government takeover of health care"

Blog ››› ››› BEN DIMIERO

Today, in a post titled "Media Reality Check: A Year of Spin for Liberal ObamaCare," Newsbusters' Rich Noyes details what he calls liberals' "huge advantage" throughout the health care reform process thanks to journalists purportedly "stack[ing] the deck in favor of a big government takeover of health care." Predictably, it's a train wreck.

Here's his lead-off of "the worst spin":

On March 1, 2009, previewing Obama's first White House meeting on health care, ABC's Dr. Tim Johnson championed the liberal side. "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," Johnson announced on World News.

You may notice something missing -- namely, any explanation whatsoever for how this is inaccurate or "spin." Both points Johnson makes are accurate: Americans do spend twice as much per person on health care compared to other industrialized countries and we are the only industrialized country without universal coverage. I guess Noyes disagrees that this is a "shame?" Uh, OK. What would have been a less liberal bias-y way to frame these facts? "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 source of great national pride."

Noyes also takes issue with this comment from Keith Olbermann:

MSNBC's Keith Olbermann was the most extreme, equating ObamaCare foes to suicide bombers: "When Hamas does it or Hezbollah does it, it is called terrorism. Why should Republican lawmakers and the AstroTurf groups organizing on behalf of the health care industry be viewed any differently -- especially now that far too many Tea Party protesters are comparing President Obama and health care reform to Hitler and the Holocaust?"

I'm not going to defend Olbermann's comment, but if Noyes wants to list comparisons of political opponents to suicide bombers in his roundup of "worst spin," he should be sure to include Rush Limbaugh (at least three times,) Erick Erickson, Fox News' Gretchen Carlson, The Washington Times, Breitbart's Big Journalism, and Investors Business Daily.

Noyes challenges Chris Cuomo and Matt Lauer for asking if Republican opposition to health care reform was politically-motivated:

As opposition to ObamaCare began to take hold, journalists led a counterattack. On the July 22 Good Morning America, ABC's Chris Cuomo indignantly asked California Govenor [sic] Arnold Schwarzenegger: "Do you believe that the Republicans are playing politics here, at the risk of people's health care?...Is this getting to be a little bit of a reckless situation?" On NBC's Today, Matt Lauer accused Senator Jim DeMint: "Are you rallying conservatives to the cause of health care reform? Or are you rallying conservatives to the cause of breaking a President?"

Gee, I wonder where Lauer could have gotten that idea? The interview in question was less than a week after DeMint told the group Conservatives for Patients Rights, "If we're able to stop Obama on this it will be his Waterloo. It will break him."

Clearly, Noyes is including this example to suggest the media have unfairly portrayed conservatives' surely principled opposition to reform as politically motivated. However, since the exchange in question, conservatives have constantly moved the goal posts for reform, criticized Democrats for using procedures they previously employed, and attacked President Obama's embrace of GOP health care ideas as a "gimmick."

I'll spare you the tedium of going through all of Noyes' examples, because it isn't the main point I want to make. More importantly, what Noyes includes in his "worst spin" isn't nearly as important as what he leaves out. Noyes turns a blind eye to the year-long campaign of blatant lies, distortions, and misinformation emanating from conservative opponents of health care reform -- lies that were often forwarded by the "liberal" media.

I'm aware Newsbusters doesn't search for conservative misinformation in the same way Media Matters doesn't focus on correcting liberal misinformation, but, for comparison's sake, below are some examples that don't exactly fit in with Noyes' view that reform efforts were given a "huge advantage" thanks to the "liberal" media.

"Death panels"

Last August, media outlets repeatedly forwarded the insane suggestion (started by Betsy McCaughey and popularized by Sarah Palin via her Facebook policy paper,) that voluntary end-of-life counseling included in the reform bill amounted to "death panels" that would "pull the plug on grandma." Think about that for a second. Now look back to Noyes listing in his examples of "worst spin" Time's Mark Halperin saying it is "immoral" that America is the only industrialized democracy not to insure every person.

One of these things is not like the other.

"Nuclear option"

One of the main complaints about political coverage that both sides can agree on is the media's obsessive focus on horse race and process instead of focusing on policy details. This has been just as true for the health care debate, with embarrassing results.

In a display of cynical, self-serving dishonesty that deserves to be put in a time capsule if only for its audacity, conservative media figures have attempted to redefine a word in order to attack Democrats for their supposed "hypocrisy." I'm getting tired of typing this, but just for old time's sake: Reconciliation is not the nuclear option. And conservatives weren't so upset about the use of reconciliation when they used it repeatedly.

Not only has Fox News engaged in a concerted effort to misinform its viewers about the term, but "nuclear option" has made the leap to more legitimate outlets.

Reform and deficits

Tapping into populist rage over government spending, conservatives have engaged in a concerted effort to portray this reform bill as massive government spending that will increase deficits. Or, as John McCain stated with no pushback from Fox News' Major Garrett: "2.5 trillion in debt on future generations." In fact, as we've noted repeatedly, the CBO has estimated that the reform bill will reduce the deficit over the next decade and beyond.

The fact that this is false of course hasn't stopped media outlets from repeating it. And hey, when all else fails, just claim the CBO is lying.

And just for safe keeping, here are some other examples of the media stacking the deck for "Obamacare": Inventing the "Death Book for Veterans," repeatedly mocking the uninsured, repeatedly misinforming about reform "raising premiums," repeatedly misinforming about federal funding for abortion, adopting the term "ObamaCare," asking if Obama's health care plan is "scarier than cancer," falsely claiming benefits don't kick in for several years, adopting the GOP's "ram it through" characterization of the health care vote, directing viewers to contact Congress to oppose reform, and telling people they are going to jail if they don't purchase insurance.

And that's just a partial list -- we've got a couple hundred other examples, if you care to sort through the archives.

But hey, that liberal Tim Johnson thinks it is a "shame" that our country pays more money for less coverage than other industrial nations. Bias!

If this is what a "huge advantage" for liberal reform efforts looks like, I'd hate to see a disadvantage.

Posted In
Health Care, Health Care Reform
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