Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Man at Dingell Meeting Fueled by Conservative Lobbyist Betsy McCaughey's Lies

Glad to see that someone followed up on this story - kudos go out to Bill McGraw at the Freep, who took the time to learn more about the man who screamed at John Dingell over health care reform at the Congressman's town hall meeting last week, a scene which spawned the video that has been picked up and played on news outlets nationwide.

For those who think this is a "grassroots" anger that is being displayed across the country, here is yet more proof that the anger may very well be organic in some cases, but that anger is being created and fueled by deliberate misinformation and flat-out lies that are being repeated and amplified by Republicans and the right wing media.

Who set this gentleman off? None other than Betsy McCaughey, and her now debunked op-ed in the NY Post.

Sola said he became concerned about the legislation after reading a July 24 article in the New York Post. Written by Betsy McCaughey, the former Republic lieutenant governor of New York, the story warns the Democrats' bill would put decisions about care into the hands of bureaucrats and force doctors to follow computerized care guidelines. Sola worries what would happen to his son.

The Freep story does not explain who Betsy McCaughey is, unfortunately. McCaughey is a Republican former Lt. Gov. of New York, a fellow at the free market conservative think tank called the Hudson Institute, on the Board of Directors at Cantel Medical Corp - and she is the person who is credited with spreading misinformation about the Clinton health plan back in the 90s, so much so that it sunk the idea. By the time her lies were exposed, the plan was dead.

In McCaughey's case, the equivalent of weapons of mass destruction was the original Clinton Health Reform plan. In 1994 she wrote a cover story in the New Republic "revealing" a number of hidden dangers in the Clinton plan that less careful analysts had somehow missed. Unfortunately for McCaughey, most of what she wrote was false. Unfortunately for the Clintons, most of what she claimed was echoed uncritically and became part of the conventional wisdom of why the bill couldn't pass.

After the jump, a passage from my 1995 Atlantic article "A Triumph of Misinformation" about McCaughey's article and its effects. More on this topic in my 1996 book Breaking the News -- and especially about why sloppy press coverage did as much to thwart health-care reform under the Clintons as it did to bring on the Iraq war under Cheney and Bush.

And now, she's at it again. Her information this time around is also proving to be false - but do you think that the Republicans or the right wing media pundits are going to take the time to correct this misinformation for the "angry" public? Let's take the "euthanasia for seniors" claim that is making the right wing talking points for one example.

In no way would these sessions be designed to encourage patients to end their lives, said Jim Dau, national spokeman for AARP, a group that represents people over 50 that has lobbied in support of the advanced planning provision.

McCaughey's comments are "not just wrong, they are cruel," said Dau. "We want to make sure people are making the right decision. If some one wants to take every life-saving measure, that's their call. Others will decide it's not worth going through this trauma just for themselves and their families, and that's their decision, too."

Both Keyserling and Dau were particularly troubled that McCaughey insisted — three times, to be exact — that the sessions would be mandatory, which they are not.

For his part, Keyserling said he and outside counsel read the language carefully to make sure that was not the case.

This woman has been debunked time and time again on her numerous health care "errors", but that will not stop those who seek to kill health care reform from giving her the microphone and promoting her lies as fact, and make no mistake - it's all designed to drive fear and anger in the public.

It's too bad that the Freep doesn't tell you the rest of the story, that this man has been deliberately mislead by those with a right wing agenda, and those lies caused him to scream at a respected Congressman and disrupt the conversation for all involved.

When will THAT be the story?