In another example of censoring a Barack Obama scandal, NBC has ignored the brewing controversy impacting American veterans and a shocking lack of access to hospital care. Though the news of up to 40 patients dying in Arizona has been going on for months, ABC finally covered the story on Tuesday's Good Morning America, offering a scant 29 seconds. Reporter Amy Robach informed that the President is "standing by his Secretary of Veterans Affairs," despite a call by the American Legion on Monday for his ouster. CBS This Morning gave it 18 seconds.
Robach explained that the nation's largest veterans group has accused "Secretary Eric Shinseki and his top aides of, quote, 'poor oversight and failed leadership,' after reports that as many as 40 patients in Phoenix may have died because of delays in care and allegations that hospitals have tried to cover up other delays." Despite the controversy, this was the first time Shinseki's name has been uttered on ABC since his nomination on December 6, 2008. Fox News and CNN have both covered the scandal, but NBC has avoided it. [MP3 audio here.]
On the May 1st AC 360, Anderson Cooper explained that Sharon Helman, the woman who ran the Phoenix Veterans Hospital, was placed on administrative leave after allegations revealed "a secret list of veterans, each of whom had been waiting up 21 months just to see a doctor." (Three officials were ultimately put on leave.)
While talking to reporter Drew Griffin, Helman denied any knowledge:
SHARON HELMAN (PHOENIX VA DIRECTOR): Those were the allegations that we've asked the Office of Inspector General to review.
DREW GRIFFIN: But those are the allegations I assume that you two would know direct knowledge of.
HELMAN: Again, those allegations are ones that the Office of Inspector General are reviewing right now. When we heard about this during the Health of Veterans Affairs Committee, it's the first time we have heard about those allegations and that is why we've asked the Office of Inspector General to come in and do a thorough and impartial review.
On May 1st, after Helman and others were put on leave, Shinseki put out a statement. An incredulous Cooper asked his reporter, "Drew, this news today is really the first indication we've had that Secretary Shinseki was showing any interest in this?"
Unlike the networks, which have shown little to no interest, Cooper expressed outrage:
ANDERSON COOPER: These are public officials. That their job is to be transparent. Their job is to present information to the American public. I mean, the fact that they're like dodging and weaving and squealing off in their cars running away from you. That the head of the VA won't do an interview with you, in all the months you've been investigating this, it just boggles my mind.
Griffin explained the details of the veterans' deaths:
GRIFFIN: The lack of response is becoming a bit of a sick joke. We know at least 23 veterans died because there was delayed care at veteran's hospitals. That is what the VA has admitted to, 23. We know several veterans died in Pittsburgh because of the bacteria that was running through the water system in the VA hospital and the VA officials there tried to hide that fact from patients and even staff. And now it is alleged 40 veterans died in Phoenix waiting for care.
In the very brief report on ABC, Robach managed to note: "President Obama says he has full confidence in the VA's leadership."
On CBS This Morning, Charlie Rose reassured, "The White House says its confident Shinseki will take appropriate action."
Although GMA's hosts allowed 29 seconds to this scandal, they managed to devote four minutes and 40 seconds to rehashing Beverly Hills 90210, a program that left the airwaves 14 years ago. For four minutes and 20 seconds, NBC's Today informed viewers on "five things you didn't know about" actor Bryan Greenberg.
CBS This Morning donated three minutes and 30 seconds to the deeply irrelevant subject of a costume gala at the Metropolitan Opera.
NBC last mentioned Shinseki's name on December 6, 2008. CBS mentioned him on April 17, 2006.
Clearly, the networks have other priorities and a scandal involving the Obama administration and taking care of veterans doesn't measure up.
Transcripts of the May 6 ABC and CBS news briefs are below:
AMY ROBACH: President Obama standing by his Secretary of Veteran Affairs this morning after a vigorous call for his resignation. The American Legion, the nation's largest Veterans group, accuses Secretary Eric Shinseki and his top aides of, quote, poor oversight and failed leadership, after reports that as many as 40 patients in Phoenix may have died because of delays in care and allegations that hospitals have tried to cover up other delays in care. President Obama says he has full confidence in the VA's leadership.
CHARLIE ROSE: USA Today says the American Legion is calling for the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. The nation's largest veterans service group cites reports of patient deaths and delayed medical care at VA hospitals across the country. The White House says its confident Shinseki will take appropriate action.