Wealthy conservative media figures deny crisis in health care

››› ››› JULIE MILLICAN & CHRISTINE SCHWEN

Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Sean Hannity -- who each reportedly make more than $20 million per year -- have downplayed the struggles of those lacking adequate health care, asserted that "there isn't a health care crisis," or characterized the United States as having "the best health care system in the world."

In recent months, conservative hosts Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Sean Hannity -- who each reportedly make more than $20 million per year and presumably have good health care coverage -- have downplayed the struggles of those lacking adequate health care, asserted that "there isn't a health care crisis," or characterized the United States as having "the best health care system in the world."

Rush Limbaugh

Limbaugh, the highest paid talk radio host in the country, reportedly signed an eight-year, $400 million contract with Clear Channel Communications and its syndication subsidiary, Premiere Radio Networks, in July 2008. According to The New York Times, Limbaugh's "$50 million a year paycheck represents a raise of about $14.4 million a year over his current contract, which was paying him $285 million over eight years and was set to expire in 2009."

On the July 22 broadcast of his radio show, Limbaugh stated: "there isn't global warming and there isn't a health care crisis, but [President] Obama says he's gotta raise taxes and take over the private sector to fix both those things."

On the June 18 edition of his radio show, Limbaugh asserted:

There really isn't a crisis in health care in this country. The crisis in health care that -- if you wanna say, that does exist -- is the fear that a major illness or catastrophe could wipe you out, which isn't gonna change. In fact, the odds of you being wiped out by a catastrophe or accident once the government gets started running this stuff is greater than if the private sector -- but day-to-day, there's no health care crisis in this country. You can get it. So, it isn't about health care, per se. This is just about gaining control, taking money, and controlling people's lives, and wiping out Republicans -- a nice cherry on top.

On the June 16 edition of his show, Limbaugh stated: "The crisis in health care is like the crisis in everything else -- manufactured."

Glenn Beck

Beck reportedly makes $23 million per year. According to Forbes, Beck's revenue sources include "a TV show ($2 million), a radio show ($10 million), books ($5 million), speeches (half a million), appearances ($2.5 million) and a Web site ($3 million)." Indeed, in 2007, Beck reportedly signed a contract with Premiere Radio Networks "valued at $50 million over five years, through a combination of salary and profit-sharing from syndication," making Beck "the third highest-paid talk radio host." And according to The New York Observer, in 2008, Beck signed "a huge new two-book deal with Simon & Schuster imprint Threshold Editions" worth "approximately $3 million."

On the July 23 edition of his radio show, Beck questioned Obama's story about a woman whose insurance claim for her cancer treatment was denied, saying, "I just think we need a little more details other than, 'big insurance company bad, woman almost die.' " Then, after airing a clip of Obama mentioning a "middle class college graduate ... whose health insurance expired when he changed jobs and woke up from the emergency surgery that he required with $10,000 worth of debt," Beck criticized the man for failing to "go on COBRA," adding that "he was either stupid" or "didn't want to spend the money."

On the July 15 edition of his radio show, Beck mocked a caller's statement that "we've got people out there that are really sick that do need health care," and then stated sarcastically: "You're right, I read in the story all the time of the people who are dying in the streets because they can't go to a hospital and get health care. You are exactly right. We are letting people die left and right in this country."

Sean Hannity

Hannity reportedly makes around $20 million per year for his talk radio show alone. The Wall Street Journal reported in July 2008 regarding Hannity's most recent radio contract with ABC Networks and Premiere Radio Networks: "[A] person familiar with the matter says Mr. Hannity was offered in the region of $100 million over five years." Moreover, the New York Daily News reported in October 2008 that Hannity had signed a "new multiyear, multimillion-dollar contract" to continue his Fox News program through 2012.

On the March 10 edition of his radio show, after Fox News contributor Bob Beckel said that one problem with the health care system is that in the past "businesses insured their employees, and very few of them are doing it anymore," Hannity responded that "that's not true, Bob." A couple of minutes later, Hannity stated to Beckel, "I just don't understand the logic, why you believe that the government can do what the free market had successfully accomplished, which was a health care system that was the envy of the world." Beckel responded, in part, that "the free market system has not worked that way if 46 million are not insured and cannot get medical coverage."

On the July 16 edition of Fox News' The Live Desk, Hannity similarly referred to the current U.S. system as "the best health care system in the world."

From the July 22 broadcast of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:

LIMBAUGH : The National Weather Service temperature station showed 58 degrees at 5:30 a.m. yesterday. Wiped out the previous low of 60 degrees, set in 1877. In Al Gore's -- well, it's where Al Gore lives -- Gore's town breaks cold record. There isn't global warming and there isn't a health care crisis, but Obama says he's gotta raise taxes and take over the private sector to fix both these things.

From the June 18 edition of The Rush Limbaugh Show:

LIMBAUGH: The one thing you're really right about is, it isn't about health care. That's just -- that's just the diving board, if you will, the springboard to get into your heart. It's not about health care at all; it's about control. It's about grabbing two and a half trillion dollars from the private economy and bringing it into government Obama control. It's -- cause -- somebody called here the other day and made a good point. There really isn't a crisis in health care in this country. The crisis in health care that -- if you wanna say, that does exist -- is the fear that a major illness or catastrophe could wipe you out, which isn't gonna change. In fact, the odds of you being wiped out by a catastrophe or accident once the government gets started running this stuff is greater than if the private sector -- but day-to-day, there's no health care crisis in this country. You can get it. So, it isn't about health care, per se. This is just about gaining control, taking money, and controlling people's lives, and wiping out Republicans -- a nice cherry on top.

From the June 16 edition of The Rush Limbaugh Show:

LIMBAUGH: The crisis in health care is like the crisis in everything else -- manufactured.

[...]

LIMBAUGH: There is no crisis. The crisis in health care's in the U.K. The crisis in health care is in Canada. The crisis in health care is in Cuba. The crisis in health care is in the -- with the ChiComs. The crisis in health care is with -- a lot of other places. The crisis in health care here has been manufactured.

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