ABC, CBS Praise Return and 'Reverse' of Harry & Louise
The fake couple famous for opposing universal health care is back and has changed their tune. The network news media couldnâ€™t be happier.
â€śTheyâ€™re back: Harry and Louise, symbols of opposition to universal heath care,â€ť Harry Smith announced on the CBS â€śEvening Newsâ€ť August 19. â€śNow, theyâ€™ve switched sides.â€ť
Harry and Louise were the stars of 1990s commercials run by the Health Insurance Association of America opposing President Clintonâ€™s proposal for government-run coverage. But now a coalition of groups is bringing back the fictional couple â€“ and the original actors â€“ in a campaign aimed at promoting industry reform.
â€śEvening Newsâ€ť and ABCâ€™s â€śWorld Newsâ€ť praised the idea that Harry and Louise have â€śswitched sides.â€ť
â€śWell, Harry and Louise have switched sides,â€ť George Stephanopoulos reported on â€śWorld Newsâ€ť August 19. â€śNow a coalition of groups who want government action on health care will run ads during the political conventions in which the couple asks the next president to put health care at the top of his agenda.â€ť
Wyatt Andrews said on the â€śEvening Newsâ€ť that â€śsome patient-rights and hospital groups are borrowing Harry and Louise and in this new ad the couple changes sides in support of health care reform.â€ť
But Harry and Louise havenâ€™t really â€śchanged sides.â€ť Theyâ€™re not supporting universal coverage like the plan Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obama has proposed. And theyâ€™re not supporting Republican candidate Sen. John McCainâ€™s proposal to provide tax incentives to help Americansâ€™ buy their own coverage.
After suggesting Harry and Louise had â€śchanged sidesâ€ť in the debate, Andrews acknowledged that â€śthe groups behind this campaign wonâ€™t touch the tough question of which candidate â€“ Obama or McCain â€“ has better ideas for health care. Theyâ€™re trying to generate so much public and industry-backed pressure that health care reform gets done regardless of whoâ€™s president.â€ť
With an actual stance on policy neglected in favor of general support for government intervention, Harry and Louise have earned the support of the networks this time around. But coverage of the duo wasnâ€™t nearly as friendly when they originally appeared to oppose universal coverage.
The media were much more critical of anti-universal health care ads than of pro-reform commercials, according to analysis conducted by the Business & Media Instituteâ€™s parent organization, the
CBS â€śThis Morningâ€ť allowed Families USA chief Ron Pollack to call the old ads â€śunethical to the worst degreeâ€ť on September 22, 1993. The report didnâ€™t mention the ads met all disclosure requirements.