NBC News, Health Thyself

Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

This morning, NBC News' First Read reports that the "rampant misinformation" conservatives have been flooding the zone with is deceiving the American public about the health care reform plans of President Obama and congressional Democrats. Wonder of wonders, they even admit that they are partially at fault, stating that "credible messengers" have been "using the media to get some of this misinformation out there," which they say should "worry… the news media that have been covering the story":

*** Rampant misinformation: One of the reasons why the public appears so wary about Obama's health-care plans is due to all the misinformation out there. Majorities in the poll believe the plans would give health insurance coverage to illegal immigrants (55%), would lead to a government takeover of the health system (54%), and would use taxpayer dollars to pay for women to have abortions (50%) -- all claims that nonpartisan fact-checkers say are untrue about the legislation that has emerged so far from Congress. Additionally, 45% think the reform proposals would allow the government to make decisions about when to stop providing medical care for the elderly, which also isn't true. When you have nearly half of the public believing that the government is willing to pull the plug on grandma, you're in trouble.

*** FOX vs. CNN/MSNBC: Here's another way to look at the misinformation: In our poll, 72% of self-identified FOX News viewers believe the health-care plan will give coverage to illegal immigrants, 79% of them say it will lead to a government takeover, 69% think that it will use taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions, and 75% believe that it will allow the government to make decisions about when to stop providing care for the elderly. But it would be incorrect to suggest that this is ONLY coming from conservative viewers who tune in to FOX. In fact, 41% of CNN/MSNBC viewers believe the misinformation about illegal immigrants, 39% believe the government takeover stuff, 40% believe the abortion misperception, and 30% believe the stuff about pulling the plug on grandma. What's more, a good chunk of folks who get their news from broadcast TV (NBC, ABC, CBS) believe these things, too. This is about credible messengers using the media to get some of this misinformation out there, not as much about the filter itself. These numbers should worry Democratic operatives, as well as the news media that have been covering this story.

Surely, in the wake of these results, NBC News must be redoubling its efforts to ensure that its own airwaves are not conduits for such misinformation, right? And yet, from the same Nightly News broadcast in which those poll results were detailed:

NBC News correspondent Tom Costello falsely reported that the health care income surtax in the House tri-committee bill could mean a surcharge of $7,000 for those "with a taxable income of more than $350,000" and a surcharge of $15,000 for those "earning $500,000." In fact, since the surcharge rates established in the bill would apply only to the portion of a household's income that exceeds $350,000 or $500,000, respectively, families making between $350,000 and $500,000 would not pay more than $1,500, and families making between $500,000 and $1 million would not pay more than $9,000.

Oops. I guess they still aren't "worr[ied]" enough to do some basic fact-checking before they air their stories. Maybe next time?

Posted In
Health Care, Health Care Reform
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