Maine Public Broadcasting Network* has been stung by James O'Keefe's fraud.
O'Keefe this week launched his latest dishonest claims of Medicaid fraud, with a truncated and heavily edited video shown at a press conference and accusations that public employees in Maine were helping a criminal hide his income and assets in order to qualify for Medicaid.
The claims cannot withstand the slightest scrutiny. But from the outset, it is clear that MPBN's AJ Higgins is running with O'Keefe's story without having done his homework:
By now the state Health and Human Services worker known only as “Diane” is probably wishing she had taken February 18 as paid time off. That was the day that James O'Keefe, with an undercover camera, walked into her office to apply for welfare benefits.
It is clear Higgins has not done his homework because the video does not show James O'Keefe walking into anyone's office. The video very clearly identifies the undercover reporter who enters a Maine Medicaid office as Sean Murphy. It took three minutes of reviewing the evidence to learn that:
A thorough review of the full video could have fully laid bare O'Keefe's hoax and avoided the kind of he-said/she-said journalism that gives him unwarranted credibility.
On the one hand, Higgins played a clip of Carol Weston, the director of Americans for Prosperity in Maine, saying the video “reveals explosive evidence of potential fraud within Maine's Medicaid system” and that it is a “concrete example of unethical and potentially illegal behavior.” Likewise, Lance Dutson of the Maine Heritage Policy Center told MPBN listeners:
Fraud like we saw here today takes services away from those who really need it. When an offshore drug dealer receives welfare benefits because he's hiding his earnings, a Maine family in real need is deprived of the safety net the taxpayers have sought to provide.
On the other hand, Higgins aired Mary Mayhew, Maine's health commissioner, saying:
This individual went and got a senior eligibility specialist to come back into the room. That senior eligibility specialist said, “Your answers are evasive. You are not providing us with the information we need.” So it's a two-minute video out of a 45-minute interview.
Why isn't MPBN reviewing the full video and reporting what actually happened, rather than treating O'Keefe's claims credulously?
The full video -- which was available for review Wednesday -- fully supports Mayhew's statement. A Medicaid counselor, confronted with a convoluted story about a man who claimed to work for his family business on what he described as a barter arrangement in which he earns no income, eventually turned to a more senior colleague, who aggressively questioned the man for being evasive about his income and told him he would have to report his income and assets.
*Maine Public Broadcasting Network is independently owned and operated, and Higgins' report was not an NPR story, as originally reported. I regret the error.