A surprise to no one who cringed through some of the nasty and personal smears against Michael Moore as "Sicko" was released, reformed health care executive Wendell Potter admitted that there was a systematic plan and campaign to discredit both the filmmaker and documentary.
Yesterday, on the TV and radio show "Democracy Now" hosted by Amy Goodman, the former Vice President of CIGNA, one of the nation's largest health insurance companies, revealed that CIGNA met with the other big health insurers to hatch a plan to "push" yours truly "off a cliff."
The interview contains new revelations about just how frightened the health industry was that "Sicko" might ignite a public wave of support for "socialized medicine." So the large health insurance companies came together over a common cause: Stop the American people from going to see "Sicko" -- and the way to do that was to cause some form of harm to me (either personally, professionally or...physically?).
The insinuation that the campaign could include physical damage just so Americans wouldn't learn that Canadian and UK health care systems aren't nearly as bad as they've been demogogued (and don't get me started on Norway) is more than a little frightening. But certainly, as Moore admits, the campaign worked.
The interview goes on as Potter reveals how his front group was able to get its talking points and smears into stories in the New York Times and CNN. It is a chilling look inside how easy it is to manipulate our mainstream media -- and just how worried the health insurance companies were that the American people might demand a true universal health care system.
In particular, Potter talks about how they may have succeeded in influencing CNN to run a factually untrue story about "Sicko" by its reporter, Sanjay Gupta (which led to my infamous encounter with Wolf Blitzer and later, an apology from CNN for getting their facts wrong).
Potter believes his work to defame "Sicko" succeeded, as the film didn't end up posting "Fahrenheit 9/11" grosses. To be clear, "Sicko" went on to become the 3rd largest grossing documentary of all time at that point. And as the release of "Sicko" in June of 2007 was the first time since the defeat of Hillary Clinton's healthcare bill in 1994 that the issue of health insurance was brought to the forefront of the national media, I believe it helped to reignite the issue during the 2008 election year by exposing millions of Americans to the truth about the health insurance industry. More than one person on Capitol Hill will admit that "Sicko" was a big help in rallying public support for the compromise bill that eventually passed earlier this year. But I agree, their smear campaign was effective and did create the dent they were hoping for -- single payer and the public option never even made it into the real discussion on the floor of Congress.
And forgive me for being a broken record on this, but here is example #3,208,296,209 of how the traditional media not only failed us, but conspired in a disinformation campaign with corporate interests. Pundits like Ted Koppel and Jon Stewart want to talk about how both MSNBC and Fox News are equally toxic to the national dialogue, but they've missed the boat, big time. The media has been failing us for much, much longer and in far more destructive ways than whether Olbermann or Beck show themselves to be hyper-ideological.