A CONSERVATIVE LIE CASE STUDY…. To paraphrase Twain, a right-wing talking point can travel the media world, while the truth is still getting its pants on. We’ve seen a classic example over the last 48 hours.
On Monday, Bloomberg ran an opinion piece from Betsy McCaughey, a staffer at a conservative think tank who also used to be a Republican Lt. Gov. of New York, attacking the economic stimulus plan. Specifically, McCaughey insisted that the policy would create a “new bureaucracy” called the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology, which will “monitor treatments to make sure your doctor is doing what the federal government deems appropriate and cost effective.” McCaughey said the federal government would then “‘guide’ your doctor’s decisions,” adding, “Keeping doctors informed of the newest medical findings is important, but enforcing uniformity goes too far.”
The claim, not surprisingly, isn’t true. The National Coordinator for Health Information Technology isn’t “new”; it was created by George W. Bush five years ago. More importantly, the measure is about medical records, not limiting physicians’ treatments.
In fact, the language in the House bill that McCaughey … referenced does not establish authority to “monitor treatments” or restrict what “your doctor is doing” with regard to patient care, but rather addresses establishing an electronic records system such that doctors would have complete, accurate information about their patients “to help guide medical decisions at the time and place of care.”
So, the opinion piece Bloomberg ran was wrong. Ordinarily, that’s hardly worth getting excited about; news outlets run misleading opinion pieces every day. But what’s interesting about this particular story is they way in which it spread.
Step One: Rush Limbaugh told his
minions audience on Monday about McCaughey’s piece, insisting that a “national coordinator of health information technology will monitor treatments that your doctor gives you to make sure your doctor is doing what the federal government deems appropriate and cost-effective.”
Step Two: By late Monday, Drudge was trumpeting McCaughey’s mistake with this headline: “‘National Coordinator of Health Information Technology’ Slipped in to Stimulus…”
Step Three: Fox News and members of the Wall Street Journal editorial board got in on the act on Tuesday morning, arguing that the government will “essentially dictate treatments,” thanks to the “secret” provisions in the stimulus bill. FNC’s Megan Kelly said the non-existent language “sounds dangerously like socialized medicine,” while FNC’s Bill Hemmer said the recovery plan includes “new rules guiding decisions your doctor can make about your health care.” All of this, of course, is patently and demonstrably false.
Step Four: Limbaugh took a bow yesterday, taking credit for the misinformation campaign, and telling listeners that his show “uncovered” all of this. “I found it,” Limbaugh said. “I detailed it for you, and now it’s all over mainstream media.”
Remember, McCaughey got it wrong. Limbaugh and Drudge took the wrong information and exaggerated it further. Then Fox News took Limbaugh’s lies, and stretched them even further still. That none of this is grounded in reality in any way was of no importance to any of these clowns. Untold thousands of Americans, who don’t know better, get their “news” from these people, and have no idea they’ve been lied to.
DDay added, “This is how the conventional wisdom often gets set in Washington — an article that ‘the right people’ read builds among the chattering class and then is distilled out to the people, no matter its veracity. While zombies like McCaughey are still churning out the lies, there’s a whole new set — Rush, Drudge, Fox — of opinion leaders that get to set the agenda on these matters.”