Democracy Soup

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Charles Gibson uses precious prime-time coverage to defend status quo on health care to win the Media Putz

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Originally published on on July 2, 2009

Charles Gibson

For all the grief that FOX “News” gave ABC — in advance, mind you — over the one-day infiltration of the White House over the health care debate, after watching the actual broadcast, the FOX people must have been doing cartwheels.

For those who wanted a national TV broadcast of genuine dialogue on the health care woes, the sad excuse for news offered by ABC was a huge wasted opportunity. Though many at ABC News can take full responsibility, on camera, the clear culprit was World News Tonight anchor Charles Gibson.

Diane Sawyer was there, mostly acting as a microphone holder for those with questions. And ABC News selected who would be in the audience, and which questions those pre-selected audience members would ask.

The right-wing critics, especially the folks at FOX, who thought Gibson and ABC were in the tank for Obama should note the tone of Gibson’s questioning and his amazing gift of being cluelessly elitist emanating throughout the evening.

After listening to Gibson throughout the coverage, you learned that “a lot of people” meant a minority of Americans, and most likely, himself. Gibson has learned much from his fellow nightly news anchor, Katie Couric, in that he makes his journalistic questions about himself. To be fair to Gibson, he does a much better job of hiding his contempt for the rest of humanity’s problems to focus on his own.

About the public option: “A lot of people are very uncomfortable with that idea.”

We could cite several polls about amazing support for the public option, including the NBC/Wall Street Journal that says 76% of Americans support such an option. But in a recent poll from The New York Times, 50% of Republicans wanted such an option, and only 39% of Republicans disagreed with the idea.

About the need for a public option: “There’s very controversial subject [sic] of whether there needs to be a public option, whether there needs to be government run insurance.”

The poll numbers would sharply disagree with Gibson, but the Republican politicians — “Your critics on the Republican side of the Senate Finance Committee” — he defends in that comment are concerned.

About how to pay for a plan: “A lot of people are concerned that it’s going to be so expensive, their taxes are going to go up.”

Given that every plan Obama and the Congressional Democrats have pitched involved taxes going up for the miniscule 2-3% of those who make $250,000 or more, which includes Charles Gibson, there literally aren’t that many people who are worried.

About the impact of a public option on private insurance companies: “There is [sic] a lot of doubts about this as to whether it’s a level playing field.” (This was a question where Gibson tried to interrupt Obama’s previous answer twice because he was so desperate to ask this question.)

Those doubts aren’t coming from the people, the actual health care recipients. Besides the fact that they love the idea, Gibson followed up immediately with a study from the Lewin Group that 2/3 of people would go with a public option if they had that choice. Private health insurance companies might be worried, but that shouldn’t be Gibson’s responsibility to protect them.

But if you wanted to hear something good about the public option, you might literally have fallen asleep before that happened, and if you blinked, you might have missed it entirely.

The network set up an hour in prime time (10 p.m. EDT) and extended the discussion in the Nightline time slot (11:35 p.m. EDT on most ABC stations). But it wasn’t until about midnight when “public option” became part of the dialogue. If you tried to watch all the coverage and drifted off before then, you missed the smattering of minutes devoted to the topic.

The merits of the public option couldn’t get prime-time exposure, but this inane question got through from Christopher Bean of the HR Department of Allint Tech Systems, who says he “has good health insurance and worries about government interference.”

“In light of this proposed health care reform and national health care system, I have many concerns. One of them is the “Big Brother” fear: How far is government going to go in reference to my personal life and health care treatments? And then secondly, how and who will pay for the national health care system?”

Bean may not have technically been a GOP plant, but he served as one better than an actual plant would have done.

Most of the prime-time hour got lost in a mind-numbing conversation about how we would have to make huge sacrifices in care if we changed one minutia of our current health-care system. If you literally only took in the hour in prime time, you would likely be more confused at 11 p.m. EDT than at 10 p.m. EDT.

The term “single-payer” was only spoken by the president, and that was in the penultimate question, which dealt with the idea that “other industrialized nations provide coverage for all of their residents, they have higher-quality care, and they do so spending about less than half of what we spend on health care now.”

The final question was from someone who didn’t have health insurance, though he was self-employed and from Massachusetts, where he said he didn’t qualify for the state universal program.

There are about 50 million uninsured Americans (represented sort of by one person at midnight), countless millions underinsured (no representation), and as The New York Times reported, “an estimated three-quarters of people who are pushed into personal bankruptcy by medical problems actually had insurance when they got sick or were injured.” (no representation).

President Obama told of stories he has heard across the country of horrible health care living nightmares, but ABC News couldn’t find a single story to put into 90 minutes of airtime.

A simple search might have turned up a question, such as the woman in this YouTube video who is an American living in Canada and can’t return to the States because of her son’s pre-existing medical condition.

ABC clearly treated the broadcast time as a way to defend the status quo, private health insurance companies, and Republican politicians. And even worse, the network gets to strut as if it made a difference in the discussion. ABC would have been better off putting on another hour of the show that ran just before the prime-time special, “I Survived a Japanese Game Show.”

For an inane excuse for news on a vitally important topic such as health care, Charles Gibson, on behalf of ABC News, wins this week’s Media Putz of the week award.

Charles Gibson shared the Media Putz with George Stephanopoulos on April 24, 2008.


Written by democracysoup

July 2, 2009 at 6:00 am

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