Blitzer didn't note that "weird" 1994 chart purportedly of Clinton health plan was GOP creation

››› ››› BRIAN LEVY

CNN's Wolf Blitzer said that the health care program proposed by President Bill Clinton in 1993 was "1,000 pages, if you remember, the detail, all the fine print the last time" and claimed that "[e]verybody remembers that weird chart they had trying to explain it," falsely suggesting that the Clinton administration created the chart to explain its health care proposal. In fact, Republican Sen. Arlen Specter's office created the chart, and press reports at the time cited experts or administration officials saying that the chart distorted the Clinton proposal and ignored the greater complexity of Republican proposals and of the existing system.

Discussing Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's (D-NY) recently released health care plan on the September 17 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, host Wolf Blitzer said that the health care program proposed by President Bill Clinton in 1993 was "1,000 pages, if you remember, the detail, all the fine print the last time" and claimed that "[e]verybody remembers that weird chart they had trying to explain it." CNN then aired video of former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-KS) gesturing at the chart as Blitzer added: "There it is. Take a look at that chart. There's Bob Dole." Blitzer's use of the pronoun "they" in the phrase "that weird chart they had trying to explain it" falsely suggests that the Clinton administration created the chart to explain its health care proposal. In fact, the chart was created by Sen. Arlen Specter's (R-PA) office. Moreover, contemporaneous reports -- including those on CNN programming -- cited experts or administration officials saying that the chart distorted the Clinton proposal and that those promoting it ignored the greater complexity of Republican proposals and of the existing system.

When Dole used the chart in his January 25, 1994, response to President Clinton's State of the Union address, he gave credit for the chart to Specter, stating, "My colleague Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania has prepared a chart of what the health care bureaucracy would look like under the President's plan, and I'd like to show you this chart. It's a great, big chart." In a January 27, 1994, Washington Post article, then-Post staff writer Lloyd Grove wrote that Specter's "office created the disturbing display," specifically naming Specter "staffer Sharon Helfant" as the individual who created the chart.

While CNN reports did not examine the accuracy of Specter's chart, they did note that "health-care experts" and the "Clinton administration" both said that a chart of the existing health care system at that time would be even more complicated than the one Specter's office created of the Clinton proposal:

  • On the January 26, 1994, edition of CNN's Inside Politics, CNN's Jeanne Meserve said, "The chart may be accurate, but health care experts say a flow chart of Republican proposals or the present system would be even more complicated."
  • On the January 29, 1994, edition of CNN's Capital Gang, Time magazine White House correspondent Margaret Carlson said, "Dole looked like his sour self in response to Clinton, and I think that's not a winning operation either. Although the chart was an excellent idea, the Clinton administration came out the next day with a chart of the current system, which is even worse than the one that Bob Dole had."

Furthermore, other media outlets reported that the Specter chart was misleading:

  • On the January 26, 1994, edition of National Public Radio's (NPR) All Things Considered, host Robert Siegel said, "Mark Gearan, White House communications chief, told NPR that the chart is a phony. He said it includes different boxes for things like nursing scholarships and education about breast cancer. Gearan says the White House considers the chart inaccurate and a distortion."
  • On January 30, 1994, Robert Enteen, author of Health Insurance: How to Get It, Keep It or Improve What You've Got, wrote in a letter to the editor of The New York Times that Dole's use of the Specter chart was a "misleading, partisan trick[]" because it "[s]uggest[ed] that the current system or Republican plans aren't or won't be as complicated."

After Blitzer referred to the chart, he said, "I assume this one [Sen. Clinton's plan] is a lot simpler to appreciate" than the one President Clinton unveiled in 1993. CNN senior national correspondent John King replied, "It -- it better be, because that chart used by the Republicans back in the first debate during the Clinton administration ... allowed the Republicans to go to the American people in that campaign and say, they lied to you, they are big-government liberals."

The discussion between Blitzer and King aired on the 5 p.m. ET hour of the September 17 edition of The Situation Room and re-aired on the 7 p.m. ET hour that same day.

From the 5 p.m. ET hour of the September 17 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:

KING: And, Wolf, they actually think in her campaign, number one, not only can she get back to the middle a little bit with this plan, but number two, she can be more human by saying, "Yes, you are right, I did do this before and I made a lot of mistakes and I learned from it."

BLITZER: And it was 1,000 pages, if you remember, the detail, all the fine print the last time. Everybody remembers that weird chart they had trying to explain it. There it is. Take a look at that chart. There's Bob Dole.

He was the Republican leader in the Senate at the time. I couldn't understand it. I don't know if you understood it at the time. But I assume this one is a lot simpler to appreciate.

KING: It -- it better be, because that chart used by the Republicans back in the first debate during the Clinton administration, that was it. That was the arrow that just pierced the plan and convinced -- allowed the Republicans to convince -- remember, Bill Clinton ran as a new Democrat. It allowed the Republicans to go to the American people in that campaign and say, they lied to you, they are big-government liberals. They want more government control. It's issue -- it's interesting, though, as the Democrats push this issue, you know, Romney, Giuliani, all the Republicans have health care plans, too. Why? Because the American people do want the government to do more. The question that will be answered in this campaign is, how much more?

BLITZER: John, thanks very much. John King reporting.

Posted In
Health Care, Health Care Reform
Network/Outlet
CNN
Person
Wolf Blitzer
Show/Publication
The Situation Room
Stories/Interests
Hillary Clinton, 2008 Elections
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