ABC has assured Republicans and the public that its June 24 primetime special from the White House on health care reform won’t be an “infomercial” for the president’s proposals. But the involvement of an unabashed champion of universal health care won’t make ABC’s critics any more comfortable.
Dr. Timothy Johnson is the medical editor for ABC and, while he does offer medical advice, he uses the position to push for policies he supports – particularly universal health care. Johnson was a vocal supporter of “HillaryCare” in the 1990s – going so far as to wonder if the then-first lady’s Republican opponents were “immoral.” Apparently, the network doesn’t see how Johnson’s objectivity on the topic might be rather suspect.
Despite working for a “news” organization, Johnson’s continual promotion of universal healthcare is advocacy, not journalism. It’s even earned him a spot on the
On the ABC Web site Johnson is introduced as, “one of the nation's leading medical communicators of health care information” who “provides on-air medical analysis” and “commentary on medical problems and answers for viewers.” Johnson is well-qualified to do so. He’s on the
But ABC clearly values Johnson’s policy analysis. In a March 2 segment introducing Johnson “Good Morning America’s” Diane Sawyer stated, “And we’re now joined by ABC new medical editor Dr. Tim Johnson, who by the way, is also an expert on health care reform …”
But his expertise seems to be limited to one side. During a 1993 20/20 interview, Johnson said, “I say the
Fifteen years later Johnson has continued his support for universal healthcare. On May 1, he predicted, “There's gonna be a lot of debate because reform means something. To some people it means loss of income or special interests to others. I think there's gonna be an intense partisan debate. But ultimately, David, there is this one fact I wanna let everybody hear. We spend more than twice as much per person on health care in this country as the average of all other industrialized countries, yet, we're the only one that doesn't have universal coverage. That's a national shame. And I think ultimately, that's what's gonna unite Democrats and Republicans.”
After attending President Obama’s health care forum, Johnson stated, “I was blown away by President Obama’s grasp of the subject, how he connected the dots, how he answered the questions without any script.” He also has complained (again), “We spend more than twice as much per person on health care in this country as the average of all other industrialized countries, yet we’re the only one that doesn’t have universal coverage. That’s a national shame.”
As recently as the June 15 “World News Tonight” Johnson was touting President’s Obama health care plan. ABC’s George Stephanopoulos asked, “And Tim, one of the places where the President really got applause today from the doctors is when he said that our health care system should let them be healers, again, instead of bean counters. And he keeps tying that to these studies that show the highest cost areas in the country are where doctors act like businessmen, not caregivers.”
Johnson replied, “It was a very tender moment. I have to say, George, the vast majority of physicians I know and have worked with over the years would much rather be healers than bean counters, or as he put it, paper pushers. And so I think he struck a raw nerve with those words, and he, he got an extended ovation during the words. And I think he was right on target reaching out to the heart of most physicians.”
But Johnson hasn’t always given the best advice. During the H1N1 scare, he agreed with Vice President Joe Biden’s poor advice about how Americans should avoid planes and subways, despite after being denounced by White House officials.