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By John Williams | June 28, 2013 | 11:50
NPR health policy correspondent Julie Rovner has a bad habit of stacking the deck in her stories, frequently giving the liberal side several times as much time as conservatives. During NPR’s June 21 Morning Edition, Rovner appeared to be aiming for a personal record in tipping the scales for a piece about the group Enroll America. Rovner gave almost 15 times as much time for the group’s case than against it.
Enroll America is a liberal organization working to get as many people sign up for ObamaCare as possible. Its founding chairman is Ron Pollack, head of the liberal (even according to The New York Times) advocacy group Families USA. That group pushed hard for both major Democrat health care bills (Hillarycare & ObamaCare). Enroll America’s president is Anne Filipic, a former Democratic political operative. Rovner conveniently left out the ideological and party labels and the background for Ron Pollack, Families USA, Anne Filipic and Enroll America, instead portraying them as impartial experts: “of…Families USA,” “consumer group,” “president of Enroll America,” and “a private nonprofit group” respectively.
Despite Rovner’s aversion to labeling Pollack, Families USA, Filipic and Enroll America, she made sure that listeners of her piece knew the political party of her lone Enroll America critic, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) She also highlighted that his critical comments were made on Fox News. Alexander’s remarks, the only thing in the piece not promoting Enroll America, played for a grand total of 12 seconds (as opposed to almost 3 minutes for the opposing side’s case). She then gave Ron Pollack three times as much time to refute Alexander. At no point were there any rebuttals allowed for Enroll America’s many contentions.
Tax-subsidized NPR is required by federal law to be balanced and yet reporters like Rovner (pictured at right via her NPR profile) frequently flaunt that requirement. Worse yet, those who review Rovner’s work before airing it see nothing amiss.
NPR transcript excerpt (emphasis mine):
RENEE MONTAGNE, Host: Come this weekend, it will be exactly 100 days until people can begin signing up for health insurance coverage under the new federal health law. It also will mark the launch of an enormous public relations effort to find people eligible for new coverage and urge them to sign up when the time comes. Still, like everything else about the health law even this seemingly innocuous effort has been touched by controversy. Here’s NPR’s health policy correspondent Julie Rovner.
ROVNER: Filipic is president of Enroll America. It’s a private nonprofit group whose goal is to help educate the public about the health law’s insurance opportunities and how they can take advantage of them.
ROVNER: So far, Enroll America has raised tens of millions of dollars. A lot of that money has come from health industry backers that don’t necessary love the Affordable Care Act. But, says Ron Pollack of the consumer group Families USA, those groups do have a financial interest in getting more people health insurance.
This was Republican Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee on Fox News.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV NEWS BROADCAST)
Sen. LAMAR ALEXANDER (R-Tenn.): Congress has said, we refuse to give you more money to implement Obamacare, and she’s saying, well, then if you won’t do it, I’ll go outside and I will raise private money, use a private organization, and do it anyway.
ROVNER: But Pollack, who chairs Enroll America’s board, says Sebelius’ actions were hardly scandalous.
POLLACK: This is astounding that this is a controversy. If you look through all the different precedents of what has occurred in the past, you’ll see that this is a common thing.
ROVNER: In particular, he cites the Bush administration’s 2005 implementation of Medicare’s prescription drug benefit, which was and is run by private insurers.
POLLACK: It was a public-private partnership that involved the Department of Health and Human Services. The secretary played a very active role – Republican secretary, of course – and the pharmaceutical industry.
ROVNER: And starting this weekend, you can expect to hear not just the ongoing debate about the health law, but if Enroll America has its way, a lot more about how it’s all going to work. Julie Rovner, NPR News, Washington.