On Monday night, the House Veterans Affairs Committee held a highly contentious hearing featuring Allison Hickey, chief of the VA’s benefits division and VA whistleblower Kristen Ruell. Despite the new details in the VA scandal, NBC has yet to acknowledge the hearings’ existence on any of its morning or evening news broadcasts.
The evening of Tuesday, July 15 saw only the CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley cover the VA scandal, with both ABC’s World News with Diane Sawyer and NBC Nightly News ignoring the congressional hearing. During their Tuesday morning newscasts, ABC’s Good Morning America gave the VA hearing a mere 23 seconds whereas NBC’s Today continued the network's tradition of ignoring the testimony.
In fact, CBS has been the only “big three” network to provide substantial coverage of the hearing, providing a full 2 minute and 19 second report on Monday night, followed by 2 minutes and 3 seconds on Tuesday morning. On Tuesday night, CBS had another full report on the VA scandal totaling 2 minutes 27 seconds.
During his report on Tuesday night, CBS’s Wyatt Andrews highlighted:
Distrust and bad blood have been building between the VA and the House Veterans Affairs Committee and last night, it boiled over. The committee chairman, Republican Congressman Jeff Miller produced a memo in which a VA official in Philadelphia tells subordinates to ignore Rory Riley a committee investigator who was visiting the office unannounced. The memo scorns Riley's arrogance and includes a crude personal insult.
Instead of reporting on the VA hearing on both its morning and evening newscasts, NBC has found time to discuss giant African snails posing a risk to agriculture and to discuss the 2014 Home Run Derby that took place on Monday night. Furthermore, after GMA gave only 23 seconds to the VA Tuesday morning, World News with Diane Sawyer ignored the story. Instead, fill-in anchor David Muir spoke to a Nebraska boy who took a selfie with Warren Buffett and Paul McCartney.
See relevant transcript below.
CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley
July 15, 2014
SCOTT PELLEY: Last night, the head of the Veterans Benefits Administration was excoriated by a congressional committee investigating a backlog of hundreds of thousands of vets who are waiting for disability checks. The VA’s credibility was called into question. And here's Wyatt Andrews.
JEFF MILLER: There’s some pretty derogatory comments that are on this.
WYATT ANDREWS: Distrust and bad blood have been building between the VA and the House Veterans Affairs Committee and last night, it boiled over. The committee chairman, Republican Congressman Jeff Miller produced a memo in which a VA official in Philadelphia tells subordinates to ignore Rory Riley a committee investigator who was visiting the office unannounced. The memo scorns Riley's arrogance and includes a crude personal insult.
MILLER: And you're telling me this person is still employed even though she gave a directive to not tell an agent of this committee what was happening at the regional office?
ANDREWS: Allison Hickey, the chief of the VA’s benefits division tried to apologize.
ALLISON HICKEY: Without question, we respect the oversight of every single one of you on this committee.
ANDREWS: Hickey was at this hearing to report the VA’s progress in reducing the backlog of veteran disability claims, a record 1.2 million claims. But just before that, claims processor Kristen Ruell testified that some of the claims reporting had been falsified. Ruell also said she found 96 boxes of documents mailed in by veterans that should have been filed but which were marked to be shredded. Chairman Miller accused the VA of deception.
MILLER: There is not a corner of VBA leadership that will not cut nor a statistic that they will not manipulate to lay claim to a hollow victory.
ANDREWS: This time Hickey pushed back saying her progress report was accurate.
HICKEY: I want every veteran in this country and all of you to believe us when we say we're making good decisions not because of us but because we care so much about those veterans.
ANDREWS: Insiders believe that the VA is making some progress with the claims backlog but another major investigation is looking at how the VA handles its claims data. Scott, when the VA’s Assistant Inspector General was asked last night if she trusted the VA's figures, she said no.
PELLEY: Wyatt Andrews, in our Washington newsroom. Wyatt, thank you.