Willie Geist | Media Matters for America

Willie Geist

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  • How GOP leaders are using TV to misinform the public about the potential health care repeal

    Interviews with Graham-Cassidy supporters spread misinformation, devolve into misleading deflection

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Republican senators took to the airwaves this week to shore up support for the so-called “Graham-Cassidy” health care bill, the latest GOP proposal that aims to dismantle much of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) with a series of proposals adopted from previously failed legislation. The often contentious interviews frequently devolved into stonewalling and deflection when reporters pressed lawmakers for answers about the ways the legislation would affect tens of millions of Americans who rely on programs such as Medicaid, live with pre-existing medical conditions, or have gained coverage under the ACA.

    Republican lawmakers have attempted to build support for the latest attempt to repeal and replace the ACA, which is in jeopardy of collapse amid reports that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is opposed to the bill, by once again recycling worn-out myths about the Obama-era health care reform law and spreading falsehoods about the proposed legislation. With Republicans set to appear on the Sunday morning political shows this weekend to build support for the bill, which many lawmakers seem to know little about, their refusal to engage in a factual debate about the legislation should be a red flag for the journalists conducting those interviews.

    Sen. Bill Cassidy

    During September 20 appearances on CNN’s New Day and MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) spread several falsehoods about the health care repeal legislation that bears his name. (He spread much of the same misinformation from the friendly confines of Fox News, where he was allowed to push his talking points completely unchallenged.) During his CNN and MSNBC appearances, Cassidy falsely claimed the proposal would result in more people getting health insurance coverage and asserted that the new bill protects the tens of millions of Americans living with pre-existing medical conditions. When CNN’s Chris Cuomo pressed Cassidy to provide proof of his claims, Cassidy pivoted to attack the ACA’s individual insurance mandate. And when MSNBC contributor Mike Barnicle confronted him about coverage cuts for “low-income seniors, children, and people with disabilities,” Cassidy evaded the question while claiming that his bill would simply reroute money currently allocated to those groups through the existing Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP):

    In reality, the Center for American Progress, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), and The Commonwealth Fund each reported that, according to previous estimates from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the Graham-Cassidy proposal to end private market health insurance tax credits, along with its severe cuts to Medicaid and rollback of the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, would result in 32 million people losing health insurance over the next decade. And as Larry Levitt of the Kaiser Family Foundation explained to Axios, though the Graham-Cassidy bill would not repeal the ACA's rules about pre-existing conditions, "they might end up only existing on paper." That's because, as PolitiFact has also noted, the bill removes ACA protections against charging higher premiums to customers with existing medical problems and the language about pre-existing conditions "is vague and subject to broad interpretation.”

    Sen. Lindsey Graham

    During a September 20 appearance on Fox News’ Fox & Friends, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) emphasized the supposed need to pass his health care agenda because “Obamacare is collapsing around us.” Graham also asserted that under the ACA, “access to health care is going down” nationwide:

    Graham’s claim that the ACA “is collapsing” echoes years of conservative smears about the law, which exaggerate any hiccup in the implementation of ACA reforms as proof of an impendingdeath spiral.” In reality, the insurance marketplaces established by the law have stabilized considerably over the past year, and lingering issues are largely the result of Republican sabotage, not a failure of the ACA. Graham’s additional claim that the newest GOP bill is a solution to reduced health care access could not be further from the truth: The number of uninsured Americans reached an all-time low in 2016 before the Trump administration launched its efforts to dismantle the ACA and, as previously noted, Graham’s bill would strip insurance from millions of Americans.

    Sen. Ron Johnson

    During a September 19 interview on CNN’s New Day, bill co-sponsor Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) bemoaned health care reforms instituted by the ACA, which he called “Washington, D.C.’s one-size-fits-all model” for health care coverage. Johnson reiterated his support for the proposal in the Graham-Cassidy bill to convert ACA revenue into block grants to states, which he claimed would be “far more responsive to their citizens than Washington, D.C., will.” Co-host Alisyn Camerota largely let Johnson push his talking points unchecked, and she seemed more interested in Johnson’s plan to recruit additional Republican supporters than with the ways the legislation would affect millions of Americans:

    Johnson approached his September 21 interview on MSNBC’s Morning Joe with a similar strategy, stressing that Graham-Cassidy would help states be more responsive to their citizens and deflecting questions about concerns from several Republican governors that the bill’s Medicaid cuts will devastate low-income communities. When co-host Willie Geist pressed Johnson about whether some Medicaid recipients would be “denied coverage they have now” by Graham-Cassidy’s rollback of the program, Johnson again deflected those concerns and suggested the problem could be avoided if governors “manage their programs properly”:

    In fact, according to CBPP, any proposal to convert federal Medicaid funding into a block grant system would inevitably lead to major funding cuts and program restrictions. CBPP estimated that millions of Americans would lose Medicaid coverage from the block grant system proposed by Graham-Cassidy, a concern shared by the bipartisan group of governors opposed to the bill.

    Sen. John Barrasso

    On the September 19 edition of MSNBC’s MTP Daily, Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) falsely claimed that Medicaid had “failed” as a result of ACA reforms and argued that the program insuring low-income Americans is unpopular with patients. (Host Katy Tur, however, correctly noted that Medicaid is extremely popular.) Barrasso also asserted that “this bill protects everyone with a pre-existing condition” and smeared ACA patient protections requiring insurance plans to cover essential health benefits (EHBs), which protect consumers from inadequate plans. When Tur pressed him to provide support for his claims, Barrasso simply talked over her repeated inquiries while reiterating the same talking points:

    On the September 20 edition of CNN Newsroom, Barrasso had a less contentious interview with co-hosts John Berman and Poppy Harlow, during which he spread even more misinformation about the Graham-Cassidy plan. Barrasso bizarrely claimed that Graham-Cassidy would not kick millions of people off their plans, but would instead empower millions to drop coverage with “the free choice they have as Americans.” He also falsely claimed the Graham-Cassidy bill would result in states “get[ting] more money to deal with” the health care needs of their own residents. A September 20 report from Avalere Health, however, has revealed that the bill would actually “reduce federal funding to states by $215 billion” through 2026, by $489 billion through 2027 when block grants for Medicaid run out, and by a staggering $4 trillion through 2036. In the end, Graham-Cassidy would redistribute billions of dollars from states that enacted ACA provisions to those (like Wyoming) that refused to do so:

    Media Matters research coordinator Julie Alderman contributed to this research

  • Parroting Trump, Right-Wing Media Figures Misrepresent Clapper’s Statements About Trump-Russia Collusion

    ››› ››› NINA MAST

    President Donald Trump and right-wing media obfuscated comments that former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper made during his May 8 congressional testimony about possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. Clapper said he was not aware of evidence of such collusion, and Trump and commentators cast that comment as indication that there was no collusion. However, as others noted, just because Clapper wasn’t privy to any such evidence does not mean it doesn’t exist. 

  • On MSNBC, Bill Press Calls Out Rep. Scalise For Lying About Americans Not Losing Health Care Under Republican Bill

    Radio Host Bill Press: Scalise’s Claim Is “Absolutely False. … The CBO For The First Bill Scored 24 Million Americans -- 24 Million Americans -- Would Lose Their Health Care”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    While appearing as a guest the April 5 edition of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, radio host Bill Press called out Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) for lying that under the new Republican health care bill, Americans with pre-existing conditions who already have a plan would be “protected forever.”

    As Press pointed out, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that the previous Republican bill would cause 24 million Americans to lose their health care. The version of the bill that passed in the House of Representatives on May 4 has yet to be scored by the CBO.”

    MIKA BRZEZINSKI (CO-HOST): So Bill Press, are they participating in a ruse in the Rose Garden or did they actually think that the Senate is going to seriously read this 1,800 page bill and think it's great for America?

    BILL PRESS: Rick [Tyler] says that John McCain doesn’t know what’s in the bill. Those people in the Rose Garden don't know what's in the bill. They voted for something that they hadn't read, they hadn't seen, the CBO hadn't scored. And here’s what gives me --

    BRZEZINSKI: Steve Scalise on our show said no one will lose their health care. Not one person.

    PRESS: That is absolutely false. That is fake news. The CBO for the first bill scored that 24 million Americans -- 24 million Americans -- would lose their health care. That’s when pre-existing conditions were still in it.

    However, an hour earlier, Scalise shamelessly guaranteed repeatedly that no one with pre-existing conditions would lose their coverage and that health care would remain affordable:

    WILLIE GEIST (CO-HOST):  So Congressman, are you able to look into the camera this morning and say to everybody in your district and everybody in this country who currently enjoys coverage who has a pre-existing condition that they will continue to enjoy that coverage under your bill?

    REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA):  If you have continuing -- if you have a plan today and you have a pre-existing condition, under our bill you'll be protected forever, as long as you want. You can again -- you can move around from one plan to another. In Obamacare, you really don't have choices. As we saw in Iowa just two days ago, in 94 out of 99 counties, you won't have anybody that will sell you insurance in Obamacare. That's how bad this law is. We need to change it. We need to give people real choices and lower premiums. And in our bill, we have multiple layers of protection for people with pre-existing conditions.

    GEIST: So everyone with a pre-existing condition right now who is covered under Obamacare will continue to have coverage?

    SCALISE: Absolutely.

    GEIST: Everyone?

    BRZEZINSKI: Oh.

    SCALISE: Everyone.

    GEIST: And their rates will remain affordable even though there's now more flexibility for insurance companies state by state?

    SCALISE: Their rates will remain affordable. If somebody just drops out of the insurance market altogether and then wants to come back and get in, we put extra money in place. In fact, the last amendment that was added just a few days ago -- and maybe a lot of people didn't get a chance to look at it, our members did, because it was an eight-page amendment -- that put an extra $8 billion in the bill to help specifically people with pre-existing conditions, who just chose on their own to stop having insurance coverage so now they can even get back in the insurance market and actually get coverage that's affordable for them.

  • You’ll Never Guess Which Morning Show Ignored Trump’s White House Invitation To An Authoritarian Leader (You Will)

    ››› ››› JARED HOLT

    Almost all cable and broadcast news morning shows reported on President Donald Trump inviting the abusive authoritarian president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, to visit the White House, mentioning Duterte’s record of human rights abuses. The only morning show of a major network to not cover the story was Fox & Friends, which made no mention of Trump’s invitation or Duterte’s human rights abuses.

  • Supporters Of Rex Tillerson, Trump's Pick For State, Have Exxon Ties Of Their Own

    Mainstream Outlets Tout Support Of Gates, Rice, And Baker, But Ignore Their Stakes In Exxon

    ››› ››› NINA MAST

    After President-elect Donald Trump announced ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as his pick for secretary of state, morning news shows and newspapers noted that prominent figures including James Baker III, Robert M. Gates, and Condoleezza Rice have expressed support for Tillerson, with some mentioning that such support adds credibility to the pick. But those outlets failed to disclose that all three figures have considerable financial ties through their businesses to Tillerson, ExxonMobil, and the oil company’s Russian business ventures.

  • The Guide To Donald Trump's War On The Press (So Far)

    ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has an extensive history of attacking the media, and his campaign and supporters have joined in the fight throughout the election. The nominee, his surrogates, and his supporters have called media outlets and reporters across the spectrum “dishonest,” “neurotic,” “dumb,” and a “waste of time,” and until recently, the campaign had a media blacklist of outlets that weren’t allowed into campaign events.

  • The Bar Gets Lower: Media Reinforce Double Standard For Trump Ahead Of First Debate

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    As the first presidential debate approaches, media figures across the political spectrum are actively lowering the bar for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, both by setting lower standards themselves and by pushing the lower-standard narrative. Yet at the same time, many media figures are acknowledging that the press is employing a double standard in its treatment of Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

  • Even The Media Is Getting Sick Of The Trump “Pivot” Narrative

    ››› ››› CHRISTOPHER LEWIS

    Following Donald Trump’s heavily anticipated immigration speech, media figures have finally concluded that there will be no so-called “pivot” from the Republican presidential nominee. They are urging people to never “speak of Donald Trump pivoting ever, ever again” and claiming that talk of a Trump pivot needs to “be put in a lockbox.”