ABC Ignores 'Scathing' New Report on V.A. Scandal; CBS and NBC Cover
Friday's World News on ABC glossed over the release of Deputy White House Chief of Staff Rob Nabors's report on the scandal at the Veterans Administration. President Obama had sent Nabors to look into the long wait times at veterans hospitals nationwide. Instead, the evening newscast set aside almost two minutes of air time to a woman, who is eight months pregnant, competing in a track and field competition.
On CBS Evening News, Scott Pelley led the broadcast with the "bleak picture" detailed in the new report. Correspondent Wyatt Andrews spotlighted how Nabors "combined scathing criticism with ideas on moving the V.A. forward." Brian Williams used the same label as Andrews during his 24-second news brief about the story on NBC Nightly News: [MP3 audio available here; video below]
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Late word tonight from the White House: a new report prepared for the President about the scandal at the V.A., and it's scathing. It says the entire veterans health care system needs to be restructured. An earlier audit found the agency manipulated records to falsify patient wait times at its hospitals. Today's report says the agency scheduling system is arbitrary, and a corrosive culture pervades the entire V.A.
Pelley also used the "scathing" term, as he teased the two minutes, 11 second report from Andrews: "Tonight, late-breaking news: in a scathing report, the White House finds V.A. hospitals are beset by poor management, poor communication, and a culture that retaliates against employees." The correspondent spent the entire segment summarizing Nabors's findings:
SCOTT PELLEY: The results of the White House investigation of V.A. health care were released late this evening, and they paint a bleak picture. It says that V.A. leadership is not prepared to deliver effective, day-to-day management, and is marked by an inherent lack of responsiveness. The President ordered this investigation, after reports that some V.A. managers lied about how long veterans waited for health care – hiding the fact that many couldn't get appointments for months.
Wyatt Andrews is joining us now with the story. Wyatt?
WYATT ANDREWS: Scott, President Obama sent his deputy White House chief of staff, Rob Nabors, to be his eyes and ears at the V.A., and his report today combined scathing criticism with ideas on moving the V.A. forward.
ANDREWS (voice-over): Nabors began his six-week study with a personal visit to the Phoenix V.A., where 18 veterans died waiting for care, but his conclusions apply nationwide. Nabors describes a 'corrosive culture' marked by 'poor management;' distrust between some V.A. employees and management; a history of retaliation toward employees; and a lack of accountability.
His recommendations include several changes. He would scrap the stated goal of making appointments within 14 days – an unrealistic goal, he says – that encouraged false reports and hidden wait times. He would update the V.A. software program for scheduling called Vista, a program first used in 1985. Nabors also calls for the V.A. to hire more doctors and nurses, and build more physical space that will be needed for veterans in the future.
During Nabors's time at the V.A., there's been an executive shake-up. Secretary Eric Shinseki, two of the department's top health officials, and the V.A.'s chief lawyer have all been asked to resign.
ANDREWS (on-camera): Perhaps, most important to veterans right now is that the V.A. is also reporting an unprecedented number of new appointments – 182,000 since the scandal began. Scott, that's a sign of a new, serious effort to get veterans into care, but it's also a sign of just how backlogged the medical system had become.
Just over two weeks earlier, ABC also ignored the FBI opening a criminal investigation into the scandal at the V.A. CBS Evening News was the only Big Three evening newscast on June 11, 2014 to cover this development. Instead, both World News and NBC Nightly News set aside air time to the 20th anniversary of O.J. Simpson's infamous slow-speed run from the police.
— Matthew Balan is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Matthew Balan on Twitter.