Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Dr. Sanjay Gupta: credibility for Surgeon General is different from TV credibility

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Originally published on on Wed, 01/07/2009 – 2:44pm

Have we reached the point where the TV helps pick out a president’s advisers?

Dr. Sanjay Gupta has been the trusted medical expert on “the most trusted name in news.” And he is apparently Obama’s pick for Surgeon General.

Yes, Dr. Gupta is a neurosurgeon and has a lot of experience being on television. Is that enough to be Surgeon General?

The two most famous SGs are C. Everett Koop and Jocelyn Elders. Koop still makes his mark, ironically on television, hawking Life Alerts. And we remember Elders more for masturbation than anything else.

It’s just that public health is in crisis mode on multiple levels, and the Surgeon General is actually important. Of course, it’s been important for the last few years, but the various appointees under George W. Bush (three of the four have been acting SGs, including the current officeholder) haven’t contributed anything positive to the discussion.

Obesity, Type 2 diabetes, a scrupulous pharmaceutical industry, immunity to antibiotics, food safety, crystal meth, teens signing abstinence pledges having sex and getting diseases — these are a sample of the current health issues affecting our country.

Has Dr. Gupta been on the forefront of these issues with his CNN reports? Or has he been frustrated that he wants to talk about these topics, and CNN won’t let him?

We think we know Sanjay Gupta from CNN. But Surgeon General credibility is a different beast. Credibility in the corporate media requires sucking up to the same interests you need to fight as Surgeon General.

Despite the fact that we “know” Dr. Gupta from being on television, we don’t really know much about what he thinks outside his role as a “medical journalist.”

And his most memorable moment on television, his fact-finding crusade against Michael Moore and his movie, “Sicko” (see above), isn’t a reason to jump up and down for his nomination.

In re-watching the tape last night, I notice that Gupta seems more concerned with catching Moore in a lie, even if his logic to get there doesn’t actually explore whether Moore is lying. Gupta seems more concerned with what statistics Moore uses than in proving whether they are actually true.

Gupta criticizes Moore for not using numbers from an unsourced BBC report; Moore responds that he used numbers from Bush’s HHS. Gupta criticizes Moore for using projections, but the numbers Gupta wants Moore to use are clearly too old to be relevant.

Perhaps the fault lies with CNN for trying to “fact-check” a movie with a doctor/journalist instead of a journalist, or that CNN was so fascinated with checking Michael Moore’s numbers but not Ann Coulter’s libelous tirades.

But Gupta put his reputation on the line in doing the piece, and he fell flat on his face, and came across really bad in the process. Gupta has to admit early on that he made an obvious error, and it got worse from there.

His appeal, his reason for the nomination is his believability on television. Obama may supply the words for him, and perhaps there is no one better to sell those words. But Dr. Gupta has some catching up to do to show he is on the side of those who want a better health care system and approach.


Written by democracysoup

January 7, 2009 at 2:44 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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