Media Falsehoods Surround Clinton Healthcare Proposal

In light of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's announced plan for universal health-care coverage, Media Matters for America thought it might be helpful to provide you with more information concerning several themes that have emerged in coverage of the plan since the senator's announcement this week. Major emerging themes include:

  • Despite polling to the contrary, some in the media have claimed that Clinton's plan represents a "general election" problem.

  • Media have repeatedly aired Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's criticism of Clinton's plan but failed to note that, as Massachusetts governor, Romney signed into law a health care bill with similar provisions.

  • The assertion that the "debacle in 1993" undermines Clinton's credibility on health care, ignoring polling that indicates Americans believe Clinton's past experience with health care would help her in reforming the system if elected.

  • False claims about what Clinton has said about her plan, including that it will require proof of insurance for people to work, that it would be funded through the repeal of all of Bush's tax cuts, and that it will require small businesses to pay for health care for their employees.

  • Media reviving the myth that Clinton is a top recipient of money from the "health care industry."

More detailed descriptions of Media Matters' top items on these themes and links to full text are included below:

Sen. Clinton's Plan a "General Election" Problem
  • Despite polling, Mitchell saw "general election" problem for Clinton on health care
    While reporting on Sen. Hillary Clinton's recently unveiled universal health-care proposal during the September 18 edition of NBC's Today, NBC chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell said that "the real problem for Clinton" may be "selling the plan in the general election campaign." As evidence, Mitchell pointed to attacks on Clinton by Republican presidential candidates Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney over her health-care proposal. But, Mitchell did not note that, in fact, public opinion polling shows that the majority of Americans support a national health insurance program.
    Romney on Clinton's Health-Care Plan
  • Media air Romney attacks on Clinton health care plan without noting he signed a bill with similar requirements
    In articles on Sen. Hillary Clinton's health care proposal, several media outlets reported Mitt Romney's attack on the plan without mentioning that, as governor of Massachusetts, he signed into law a health care bill that requires every state resident to obtain health insurance -- one of the central tenets of Clinton's plan.
  • uncritically quoted Romney's attack on Clinton health plan
    An article quoted Mitt Romney attacking Sen. Hillary Clinton's health care policy, but did not note that Romney was attacking a plan that he had not yet seen, nor that as governor of Massachusetts, Romney endorsed a law requiring residents to purchase health insurance.
  • CNN aired Romney attack on Clinton health care plan without noting his reversal
    During a report on Sen. Hillary Clinton's health care proposal, CNN's Betty Nguyen aired Mitt Romney's attack on the plan, but claimed that, "like Clinton, he'd mandate health insurance." But in announcing his national health reform plan in August, Romney declined to support mandates in what was reportedly a "significant[]" departure "from the universal health care measure that he helped forge as governor of Massachusetts."
    Proof of Health Care Required for Work
  • Drudge's false headline on Clinton health care plan: "HEALTH INSURANCE PROOF REQUIRED FOR WORK"
    On September 18, the Drudge Report, the website of Internet gossip Matt Drudge, featured the lead headline "HEALTH INSURANCE PROOF REQUIRED FOR WORK" under a picture of Sen. Hillary Clinton. However, the Associated Press article to which the headline linked did not report that Clinton's recently proposed health care plan would require people to show proof of health insurance "for work." Rather, it reported that, in an interview with the AP, Clinton said: "At this point, we don't have anything punitive that we have proposed" for people who do not purchase health insurance as required by her plan. According to the article, Clinton also said, "We're providing incentives and tax credits which we think will be very attractive to the vast majority of Americans." The AP article also stated that Clinton "said she could envision a day when 'you have to show proof to your employer that you're insured as a part of the job interview -- like when your kid goes to school and has to show proof of vaccination,' but said such details would be worked out through negotiations with Congress."
    Small Businesses and Bush Tax Cuts Pay for Plan
  • Special Report correspondent claimed Clinton would pay for health care plan by "repealing the Bush tax cuts"
    Fox News' Steve Brown claimed that Sen. Hillary Clinton would pay for her health care plan by "repealing the Bush tax cuts." Brown's report was accompanied by on-screen text that claimed "paying the price tag" for Clinton's health care plan would include "End[ing] Bush Tax Cuts." In fact, according to Clinton's plan, she would "discontinue portions of the Bush tax cuts for those making over $250,000."
  • On Beck, Cato's Tanner falsely claimed Clinton's health plan would force small businesses to pay into health fund
    On CNN Headline News' Glenn Beck, the Cato Institute's Michael Tanner falsely asserted that under Sen. Hillary Clinton's health care proposal, small business owners would have to provide health insurance to their employees, "or else pay an additional tax into a fund … that the government will use to pay for that health insurance." In fact, Clinton's plan would provide tax credits to ensure that many small businesses offer health coverage to their employees.
    Ignoring Polls, Misrepresenting the 1990s to Attack Clinton's Plan
  • Blitzer didn't note that "weird" 1994 chart purportedly of Clinton health plan was GOP creation
    CNN's Wolf Blitzer said that the health care program proposed by President Bill Clinton in 1993 was "1,000 pages, if you remember, the detail, all the fine print the last time" and claimed that "[e]verybody remembers that weird chart they had trying to explain it," falsely suggesting that the Clinton administration created the chart to explain its health care proposal. In fact, Republican Sen. Arlen Specter's office created the chart, and press reports at the time cited experts or administration officials saying that the chart distorted the Clinton proposal and ignored the greater complexity of Republican proposals and of the existing system.
  • CNN's Borger asserted Clinton has "a bit of a credibility problem" on health care, despite contrary poll
    CNN's Gloria Borger claimed that Sen. Hillary Clinton "has a bit of a credibility problem when it comes to health care because … she had the debacle in 1993." But polling shows that, if Clinton were to be elected president, most voters believe her past experience during the Clinton administration would help her in reforming health care.

    Myth that Sen. Clinton is Top Recipient of "Health Care Industry" Money
  • Newsday repeated misleading claim from 2006 NY Times article about Clinton's contributions from "health care industry"
    A Newsday article on Sen. Hillary Clinton's health care reform proposal repeated an assertion made in a 2006 New York Times article that the health care "industry contributed more than $850,000 to her re-election campaign, the second highest level of contributions to any senator." But Newsday did not note that the number includes donations from individual health care professionals, such as nurses and doctors, and neither newspaper reported that if only health care PAC donations were considered -- that is, donations from the actual health care "industry" -- Clinton drops off the list of top 25 congressional recipients of health care industry money entirely.
    For more information on media coverage of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and her campaign, visit Media Matters' website:

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