Healthcare reform has agitated right-wing extremists and moneyed interests in the United States for some time — during the presidencies of FDR and Truman
as well as Clinton and Obama, most recently — but where do the objections originate from, and particularly those which are known to be based on complete untruths? Some of these lies start with or are repeated by well-known right-wing media personalities
, but there are other people who get the ball rolling, who are perhaps less well-known. Elizabeth "Betsy" McCaughey
originated one of the current myths more commonly known as "death panels"
, but despite her attempts to market herself as a folksy voice fighting for the well-being of senior citizens, she has been an effective advocate for the interests of private health insurance companies since the early 1990s.
In The Atlantic
's fascinating overview Triumph of Misinformation
, award-winning journalist James Fallows
follows the Clinton administration's failed attempt to pass healthcare reform, during which McCaughey spread a false claim about the Clinton proposal actively preventing patients from going outside the government system for treatment.
Her fictitious story was quickly picked up and amplified by the mainstream media, with devastating effect. Her own version was entitled No Exit: What The Clinton Plan Will Do For You
and was printed in The New Republic
. Despite its publication, it contained so many inaccuracies that the magazine's former editors have all since disowned the piece (though Andrew Sullivan still lauded it
up until two years ago).
In an essay published on Bloomberg.com
in February (and in several essays and letters since
), she attempted to promulgate another lie in which hospitals and doctors under an Obama-led plan would be penalized for failing to contribute patient data to a federal health database, eliminating patient privacy and enforcing uniformity in treatment. This falsehood did not appear to gain as much traction as her subsequent "death panel" myth.
After scrutiny following a critical two-part interview
(full, extended version part 1
and part 2
) (Flash req'd) with Jon Stewart this past Thursday, McCaughey resigned today
from a vaguely described position with Cantel Medical, a private heathcare product corporation.