There was bias by omission in Nicholas Kristof's Thursday column, "Health Care Fit For Animals," a profile of Wendell Potter, a former health insurance executive at CIGNA who hasnow joined the good guys fighting for universal health care, while excoriating his former colleagues.
But Kristof left out the fact that Potter is not just a former insurance company insider pottering around doing penance in the name of big government, but is working for the avowedly left-wing Center for Media and Democracy.
Opponents suggest that a "government takeover" of health care will be a milestone on the road to "socialized medicine," and when he hears those terms, Wendell Potter cringes. He's embarrassed that opponents are using a playbook that he helped devise.
"Over the years I helped craft this messaging and deliver it," he noted.
Mr. Potter was an executive in the health insurance industry for nearly 20 years before his conscience got the better of him. He served as head of corporate communications for Humana and then for Cigna.
He flew in corporate jets to industry meetings to plan how to block health reform, he says. He rode in limousines to confabs to concoct messaging to scare the public about reform. But in his heart, he began to have doubts as the business model for insurance evolved in recent years from spreading risk to dumping the risky.
Then in 2007 Mr. Potter attended a premiere of "Sicko," Michael Moore's excoriating film about the American health care system. Mr. Potter was taking notes so that he could prepare a propaganda counterblast - but he found himself agreeing with a great deal of the film.
A month later, Mr. Potter was back home in Tennessee, visiting his parents, and dropped in on a three-day charity program at a county fairgrounds to provide medical care for patients who could not afford doctors. Long lines of people were waiting in the rain, and patients were being examined and treated in public in stalls intended for livestock.
"It was a life-changing event to witness that," he remembered. Increasingly, he found himself despising himself for helping block health reforms. "It sounds hokey, but I would look in the mirror and think, how did I get into this?"
Kristof failed to bring up Potter's ties to the left-wing Center for Media and Democracy, publishers of the corporate-bashing PR Watch, even though a hyperlink in his column (which I've included above) points to Wendell's page on PR Watch. The group touts itself as "informing and assisting grassroots citizen activism that promotes public health, economic justice, ecological sustainability and human rights."
MRC's Matthew Balan revealed two weeks ago that Potter has worked for the group as the senior fellow on health care since May.