Nov
19
2009

NYT Charts the Choices of Selfless Politicians

The remarkable ability to engage in in-depth discussion of lawmakers' opposition to healthcare reform efforts without ever mentioning the massive contributions such lawmakers tend to receive from the healthcare industry is not confined to the Washington Post–as Dan Ward noted in his Extra! piece (11/09). Another recent example of the phenomenon was provided by the New York Times, which ran a piece (11/18/09) on three Democratic senators –Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas–who may help filibuster the reform bill to death.

The piece, by Carl Hulse, informs us that the three "have all been skeptical of a public health insurance option," and that all "represent states won handily last year by Sen. John McCain." An accompanying chart provides more data: when they each were first elected and when they're next up for re-election; their margin of victory in their last race and their state's presidential results in 2004 and 2008; the population and median income of their states; and what percentage of their constituents are enrolled in Medicare, Medicaid or are uninsured.

The implication is that these figures might help readers better understand these senators' stances on healthcare reform. But one obvious potential influence goes unmentioned: the money these politicians get from healthcare interests. For Nelson, the figure $664,000 in the 2005-10 election cycle; for Landrieu, it's $615,000; and for Lincoln, $763,000.

By providing readers with information about state residents' income and health insurance status, and leaving out the sums contributed by health interests, the Times is suggesting that the politicians take their voters' interests into account and ignore their own. If that sounds like the kind of politicians you're familiar with, then you're likely to find the Times' coverage of the politics of healthcare reform highly informative.

About Jim Naureckas

Extra! Magazine Editor Since 1990, Jim Naureckas has been the editor of Extra!, FAIR's monthly journal of media criticism. He is the co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error, and co-editor of The FAIR Reader: An Extra! Review of Press and Politics in the '90s. He is also the co-manager of FAIR's website. He has worked as an investigative reporter for the newspaper In These Times, where he covered the Iran-Contra scandal, and was managing editor of the Washington Report on the Hemisphere, a newsletter on Latin America. Jim was born in Libertyville, Illinois, in 1964, and graduated from Stanford University in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in political science. Since 1997 he has been married to Janine Jackson, FAIR's program director. You can follow Jim on Twitter at @JNaureckas.