Despite White House claims to the contrary, there is a growing possibility that illegal immigrants will be covered under a health care reform bill. And although the issue was the cause of Rep. Joe Wilson’s “shocking outburst” that generated media buzz for more than a week, the networks have ignored recent events supporting
The outrage began after Wilson, a South Carolina Republican, interrupted the president during his health care address to the joint Congress Sept. 9:
Obama: “… there are also those who claim that our reform efforts would insure illegal immigrants. This, too, is false. The reforms, the reforms I’m proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.”
Obama: “That’s not true.”
Wilson quickly apologized privately to the president, but was reprimanded for his refusal to make a public apology in Congress. Many news outlets reported former President Jimmy Carter’s accusation of racism, and others, including the New York Times Maureen Dowd made the charge themselves.
Time magazine’s Joe Klein said “the voice of the cuckoo is heard in the land” in an NBC appearance, while CBS’s Bob Schieffer called Wilson’s interjection an “ugly sign of mindless meanness.” But ultimately it also forced the media to address Wilson’s claim – that illegal immigrants would be covered by a health care reform bill. Network reports that followed between Sept. 9 and 19 acknowledged the reason for Wilson’s complaint, but in many cases bolstered White House claims that illegals would not be covered.
Vice President Joe Biden appeared on “Good Morning America” Sept. 10 to support the president and was not challenged by ABC. He told viewers, “But the fact is that the assertion the President made is absolutely true. It will not cover undocumented aliens.”
Health and Human Secretary Kathleen Sebelius also defended the president’s statement on “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.” On CBS the administration didn’t even have to defend itself – reporter Nancy Cordes did it for them.
On Sept. 16 and 17, Cordes told viewers the bill being considered by the Senate Finance Committee “establishes a verification program to ensure that illegal immigrants don’t get government health benefits.” Only one of her three reports admitted that there is “no enforcement mechanism to ensure it won’t happen.”
After downplaying those concerns, the networks have been silent regarding recent actions of the Senate Finance Committee and some House Democrats that gave Wilson and others even more reason to fear that illegal immigrants will be covered.
Committee rejects ID proposal
Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee rejected a proposal Sept. 30 to require identification from immigrants who apply for federal health care coverage. Another group of 21 House Democrats pushed to specifically include illegal immigrants in health care coverage. Yet ABC, CBS and NBC have remained silent on the issue altogether since Sept. 20.
The Hill and The Washington Post reported that Sen. Chuck Grassley’s, R-Iowa, amendment, which would require verified names, places of birth and Social Security numbers before receiving health care, was voted down along party lines Sept. 30.
Time magazine columnist Joe Klein would be proud, since he told the “Chris Matthews Show” audience that identification provisions are “crazy” Sept. 13.
Klein admitted that Wilson’s “you lie,” comment had sparked a debate on the issue saying, “it has become a real debate about whether or not you’re going to insert in the bill a provision that people are going to have to prove their citizenship. Now, that is a ridiculous provision because there are all these elderly people who show up at hospitals all the time. They’re going to have to locate their birth certificates that are, you know, were lost 40 years ago? That’s crazy.”
The networks also ignored a call from several Democrats to specifically grant coverage to illegal immigrants. The Washington Times reported on Sept. 28 that Rep. Michael M. Honda, D-Calif., and at least 20 other Democrats were arguing “that any health care bill should extend to all legal immigrants and allow illegal immigrants some access.”
“The Democrats, trying to stiffen their party's spines on the contentious issue, say it's unfair to bar illegal immigrants from paying their own way in a government-sponsored exchange,” the Times said. “Legal immigrants, they say, regardless of how long they've been in the United States, should be able to get government-subsidized health care if they meet the other eligibility requirements.”
If they get their way, that would be a step in the direction radical Hispanic organization National Council of La Raza President Janet Murguia called for Oct. 2. While campaigning for Obama’s health care reforms, Murguia said: “From our perspective there’s a strong case to be made in this country for us to reform health care [and] it ought to include everyone.”
None of those stories made it onto network newscasts which were too busy on Sept. 28 and 30 covering the Obama’s trip to Copenhagen to ply Olympic Committee voters for the 2016 games.
That omission was glaring, particularly given the Wilson coverage just a couple weeks earlier. But it wasn’t all that surprising because the broadcast networks have a history of promoting illegal immigration.
The Media Research Center released a Special Report in 2006 that found the networks celebrating “massive” immigration protests, while ignoring polling data that showed the protesters were a very small minority.
That study also found amnesty and guest-worker program advocates were twice as likely to speak in news stories and the burdens of illegal immigration (particularly on tax dollars) were barely covered.