Democracy Soup

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John Stossel agrees to ‘moderate’ right-wing health care town hall to earn the Media Putz

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Originally published on MediaPutz.com on August 20, 2009

John Stossel


The role of the moderator is to be impartial, neutral, central Switzerland. The moderator is not supposed to be on one side or the other. They are also supposed to be boring in a Jim Lehrer, Gwen Ifill, Tom Brokaw, and Bob Schieffer (think last fall’s presidential and vice presidential debates) kind of way.

Then we have John Stossel, who has been hired by the conservative group Americans for Prosperity to moderate three town-hall-esque “health care meetings.” As MSM journalists go, Stossel is not milquetoast and not without bias. His “libertarian masquerade” is a phony excuse to lash out at anything that is liberal or anything else that disrupts the status quo.

As conservative as the MSM is, most would stay away from groups such as Americans for Prosperity, already known for its tea-party sponsorship, but not John Stossel.

AFP is run by Tim Phillips, someone who ThinkProgress.org has devoted a lot of time to covering:

With nearly 70 Republican operatives and former oil industry spokesmen working behind the scenes of AFP’s various fronts and disclosures that point to ever increasing oil and corporate donations to the group, one must wonder, who is guiding this massive front group factory? The answer is Tim Phillips, the President of AFP who has built a long career of inventing fake grassroots causes. In Phillips’ official biography, there appears to be over a 10 year gap — but that period was when Phillips developed his very first astroturf groups to do everything from smearing his opponents with anti-Semitic attacks to laundering money for criminal lobbyists.

Americans for Prosperity is also behind Patients United Now, an astroturf group designed to disrupt town halls to stop health care reform. Its most famous TV ad involved the uber-deceptive “Shona Holmes” health care ad, claiming she got a runaround for brain tumor surgery in Canada and was forced to come to the U.S. for treatment.

Clearly, this is an organization with a heavy, heavy bias. And yet Stossel is going to pretend to be a neutral observer.

But it’s not like Stossel doesn’t know what he is getting himself into with AFP. After all, Stossel already has a connection with the right-wing group. Stossel has spoken at its Defending the American Dream Summit, and his picture is placed prominently in the list of past speakers.

Given where Stossel has been on health care, it’s not a shocker to see Americans for Prosperity interested in his services. From July 31, 2009’s “20/20”:

STOSSEL: Some in Congress say they’re moving closer to a plan that will make health care cheaper and better. Sounds great. But when government takes charge, it can also mean innovation stops, and you may not get the breakthroughs and care that you need to save your life.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Affordable health care for every single American. That’s what we’re called upon to do.

STOSSEL: Care for everyone for less money. Critics say that just isn’t possible.

That isn’t reporting; that’s editorializing. That isn’t objectivity; that’s bias.

John Stossel sold out a long, long time ago, but unlike his true brethren — Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, et al — Stossel has this need, almost as if it’s a second cheesy porn-style mustache, to seem legitimate. And ABC News eagerly gives him that credibility. The network gives him hour-long specials and allows him to co-anchor “20/20.”

At these fake, pseudo town halls, no one expects Stossel to be a fair and unbiased moderator. No one expects that a function sponsored by AFP will be fair and unbiased. But what we really need is for the MSM to stop giving Stossel any legitimacy and credibility.

For selling out in such an egregious manner on a vitally important issue such as health care, for betraying your roots as an actual journalist (from many years ago), and for pretending to be legitimate, John Stossel wins the Media Putz of the week award.

graphic from Defending the American Dream’s Web site
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Written by democracysoup

August 20, 2009 at 6:00 am

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