In Sicko "fact check," CNN's Gupta falsely claimed his source's "only affiliation is with Vanderbilt University"July 11, 2007 8:03 PM EDT ››› MATT GERTZ
On the July 10 edition of CNN's Larry King Live, CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta falsely asserted that the "only affiliation" of Paul Keckley, whom Gupta had quoted criticizing the national health care systems of France, Canada, and Cuba during a July 9 "fact check" of filmmaker Michael Moore's documentary Sicko, was "with Vanderbilt University." Gupta was responding to Moore's claim that Keckley was "a person from a think tank group who is a big Republican contributor." Moore also said that Keckley "has done business with [health insurance provider] Blue Cross, with [pharmaceutical firm] Aventis, with these other groups," and claimed that Keckley was affiliated "with a think tank that's connected to [presidential candidate and former Wisconsin Gov.] Tommy Thompson [R]." In denying Moore's allegations, Gupta asserted: "We checked it, Michael. We checked his conflict of interest. We do ask those questions." In fact, in Gupta's original report -- which King excerpted during his show -- the caption identified Keckley not as affiliated "with Vanderbilt University," but rather as a "Deloitte Healthcare Expert." Indeed, in addition to serving on the faculty of Vanderbilt University, Keckley is the executive director of the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions.
During the July 9 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, Gupta presented a segment billed as a "fact check" of Moore's film, describing how Moore "fudged the facts." During the segment, he played two clips of Keckley, identified in the caption as a "Deloitte Healthcare Expert." During the first clip, following Gupta's statement that "[a] survey of six industrialized nations found that only Canada was worse than the United States when it came to waiting for a doctor's appointment for a medical problem," Keckley asserted: "That's the reality of those systems. There are quotas. There are planned wait times. The concept that care is free in France, in Canada and Cuba, and it's not." Keckley continued: "Those citizens pay for health services out of taxes. And as a proportion of their household income, it's a significant number." During the second clip, which followed Gupta's statement that while citizens of countries with universal health care are subject to higher taxes than in the United States, "even higher taxes don't give all the coverage everyone wants," Keckley said: "Fifteen to 20 percent of the population will purchase services outside the system of care run by the government."
Gupta and Moore then appeared on the July 10 edition of Larry King Live to discuss Gupta's "fact check." After appearing on Larry King Live, Moore put several links on his website to back up his assertions to Gupta.
Contrary to Gupta's assertion on Larry King Live that Keckley's "only affiliation is with Vanderbilt University," Keckley is affiliated with Deloitte & Touche USA LLP, part of a global audit, tax, consulting, and financial advisory services group of firms. Keckley is the executive director of the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions. The Deloitte Center for Health Solutions states on its website that "it delivers research on and develops solutions to some of our nation's most pressing health care and public health related challenges." As Moore noted on Larry King Live, the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions is also "connected" to Tommy Thompson. The center's website lists Thompson as the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions' independent chairman.
Keckley is also a Republican contributor, as Moore claimed. According OpenSecrets.org, Keckley has donated $8,500 to Republican candidates or party committees since 1990, including $1,000 to Sen. Bob Corker (TN), $2,000 to the Republican Party of Tennessee, $2,000 to Sen. Lamar Alexander (TN), and $500 to Rep. Marsha Blackburn (TN). During that period, he has made no donations to Democratic candidates or party committees that have been reported to the Federal Election Commission.
Moore's assertion that Keckley "has done business with Blue Cross, with Aventis, with these other groups," is also accurate. According to Keckley's curriculum vitae, posted on Vanderbilt's website, from 1998 to 2002 Keckley served as chief executive officer of EBM Solutions Inc., which licensed software applications to "32 healthcare organizations in 2002 including Health Net of California, Blue Cross of Tennessee, Aventis and others." Keckley's curriculum vitae also lists him as a member of the Aventis Health Outcomes Measurement Committee. Further, Keckley's biography on the website of the Vanderbilt Center for Evidence-Based Medicine notes that he is "a frequent keynote speaker for national healthcare organizations including the AMA House of Delegates, National Quality Forum, The Medical Group Management Association, Disease Management Association, Blue Cross Association, American Association of Health Plans and others."
From the July 9 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:
GUPTA: A survey of six industrialized nations found that only Canada was worse than the United States when it came to waiting for a doctor's appointment for a medical problem.
KECKLEY: That's the reality of those systems. There are quotas. There are planned wait times. The concept that care is free in France, in Canada and Cuba, and it's not. Those citizens pay for health services out of taxes. And as a proportion of their household income, it's a significant number.
GUPTA: It's true that the French pay higher taxes -- and so does nearly every country ahead of the United States on that list. But even higher taxes don't give all the coverage everyone wants.
KECKLEY: Fifteen to 20 percent of the population will purchase services outside the system of care run by the government.
GUPTA: So there's no perfect system anywhere. But no matter how much Moore fudged the facts -- and he did fudge some facts -- there's one everyone agrees on: The system here should be far better.
From the July 10 edition of CNN's Larry King Live:
KING: Dr. Gupta, we have less than a minute, and we should clear up -- have you ever had an effect by the fact of who the sponsor is on what you report?
GUPTA: No. I, I -- have no -- no contact at all with the sponsors. They've never affected my judgment. We did the story, the Sicko fact check piece -- it was completely just -- just our own editorial pursuits on this.
MOORE: Except --
GUPTA: And --
MOORE: Except -- except, let me say this, the one expert that you had in the piece is a person from a think tank group who is a big Republican contributor. He's done business with Blue Cross, with Aventis, with these other groups.
I mean don't you have a right as a journalist -- or a responsibility, actually, to tell the public when you're using an expert, this person is a Republican, he's with a think tank that's connected to [presidential candidate and former Governor] Tommy Thompson [R-WI] --
KING: OK, we're --
KING: Sanjay, we have 20 seconds.
MOORE: He's with a think tank --
GUPTA: You know, his only affiliation --
KING: Hold it, Michael.
GUPTA: His only affiliation is with Vanderbilt University. We checked it, Michael. We checked his conflict of interest. We do ask those questions.
MOORE: I'll --
GUPTA: Whether or not we disclose it to you on the [inaudible] --
MOORE: I'll put that all up on the site, too.
KING: I'll tell you what, guys --
GUPTA: Please do. You can talk to me directly.