CBS journalists on Thursday morning investigated the latest details of the expanding Veterans Affairs scandal. Yet despite calling the newest revelation "ugly," correspondent Nancy Cordes somehow managed to avoid using Barack Obama's name or to discuss the White House. Instead, she focused on congressional culpability: "But the Inspector General's report points out Congress and the VA have known about similar manipulations and delays for nearly a decade." [MP3 audio here.]
Cordes talked to a GOP House member and pressed: "Florida Republican Jeff Miller is the chair of the House VA committee. If you've known about problems like this for years why are you only now calling on the V.A. Secretary to resign?" NBC skimped on discussing how much this issue could hurt the President personally. At the very end of a Nightly News discussion, Kelly O'Donnell briefly noted, "From the White House, NBC's Kristen Welker reports the President considers Secretary Shinseki to be on probation."
Shinseki is "on probation?" Wouldn't that concept be worth exploring in greater detail?
On Thursday's Today, Matt Lauer and O'Donnell went over the new report:
MATT LAUER: The scandal surrounding treatment delays at Veterans Affairs facilities is now heating up this morning, this after an emotional hearing on Capital Hill last night. And a new report that found at least 1,700 veterans in need of care were never even placed on a wait-list. NBC's Capital Hill correspondent Kelly O’Donnell has the latest on this. Hi Kelly.
KELLY O’DONNELL: Good morning Matt. Those 1,700 veterans at just the Phoenix facility are considered still at risk of being lost in the system according to the Inspector General. And that set the emotional backdrop from a house hearing from the panel in charge of overseeing the V.A. It went into almost midnight as they are looking for answers.
O'Donnell proceeded to feature members of Congress hammering Shinseki. She observed, "...Political pressure means not only Republicans but five Senate Democrats who are up for re-election this fall have also called for the Secretary to step down."
But there was no mention of Obama. In contrast, ABC's Good Morning America at least mentioned the President as a participant in the scandal:
KARL: Democrats are calling for Shinseki's head as well. President Obama promised accountability after meeting with Shinseki last week.
BARACK OBAMA: I have said to Rick [Shinseki], I want to see what the results of the reports are. And there is going to be accountability.
Stephanopoulos insisted that "outrage grew through the night."
CBS This Morning on Thursday should be complimented for balancing Cordes's report with three clips of Republican Congressmen. However, she should of at least mentioned Obama's role in this ever growing scandal.
A transcript of the May 29 CBS This Morning Segment is below:
NORAH O'DONNELL: Good morning, Charlie. This is one heck of a report.
CHARLIE ROSE: We begin this report. A new report on the veterans' hospital scandal paints an ugly picture. The VA's internal watchdog says secret waiting lists for health care are widespread.
O'DONNELL: One list includes 1,700 veterans at the V.A. hospital in Phoenix. Nancy Cordes is on Capitol Hill where lawmakers from both parties are now saying that the V.A. Secretary should go. Nancy, good morning.
NANCY CORDES: Good morning, Norah. And they are angry because it took the VA's office of inspector general almost no time at all to uncover what it calls "systemic manipulation of V.A. data." It is now examining 42 VA facilities and has already discovered some possible cases of civil and criminal violations that it is referring to the Department of Justice.
SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: It's time for Secretary Shinseki to step down.
CORDES: The latest revelations triggered more calls from Capitol Hill for V.A. Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign.
REP. DOUG LAMBORN (R-CO): These violations should not have happened on his watch.
CORDES: Including, for the first time, from some Senate Democrats, a trio who are all in the midst of tough reelection campaigns.
UNIDENTIFIED: We expect answers. That's all we're looking for here.
CORDES: A rare late-night hearing turned contentious as the House Veterans Affairs Committee questioned VA. Officials who did not show up for a hearing last week.
REP. JEFF MILLER (R-FL): Until VA understands that we're deadly serious, you can expect us to be over your shoulder every single day.
CORDES: The harsh inspector general's report focused first on Phoenix, where the scandal surfaced. There, they discovered 1,700 veterans who had requested a primary care appointment but not placed on the electronic waiting list, putting them at risk of being forgotten or lost. Investigators also reviewed the records of 226 veterans whose did get an appointment and found their average wait time was 115 days. Not the 24 days facility officials initially reported. The VA's inspector general says it's examining 42 facilities where scheduling managers may have engaged in manipulation of V.A. data that distort the legitimacy of reported wait times in an attempt to boost their pay and bonuses. But the Inspector General's report points out Congress and the VA have known about similar manipulations and delays for nearly a decade, saying, "Since 2005, the V.A. Office of Inspector General has issued 18 reports that identified deficiencies in scheduling." Florida Republican Jeff Miller is the chair of the House VA committee. If you've known about problems like this for years why are you only now calling on the V.A. Secretary to resign?
MILLER: The issue is much larger than one person. It is a bureaucracy that really lives for itself, and not for the veterans that it is supposed to take care of.
CORDES: The Inspector General's office says it is too soon to determine whether the scheduling schemes led to the deaths of any veterans. They're going to have to comb through patients' records and autopsies to determine that, but the V.A. secretary has already ordered Phoenix officials to triage those 1,700 veterans not on any waiting list at all to make sure they get care right away, Charlie.