A Deadly Health Care Rumor

The other day, the New York Times got around to a bit of investigation into the origins of false information about health insurance reform. But just a bit—not nearly enough.

The stubborn yet false rumor that President Obama’s health care proposals would create government-sponsored “death panels” to decide which patients were worthy of living seemed to arise from nowhere in recent weeks. . . . But the rumor — which has come up at Congressional town-hall-style meetings this week in spite of an avalanche of reports laying out why it was false — was not born of anonymous e-mailers, partisan bloggers or stealthy cyberconspiracy theorists. Rather, it has a far more mainstream provenance, openly emanating months ago from many of the same pundits and conservative media outlets that were central in defeating President Bill Clinton’s health care proposals 16 years ago…”

The reporter goes on to cite some of these outlets, for example:

The specter of government-sponsored, forced euthanasia was raised as early as Nov. 23, just weeks after the election and long before any legislation had been drafted, in an outlet with opinion pages decidedly opposed to Mr. Obama, The Washington Times.

This is interesting, but only to a limited extent. The Times could have gotten their information simply by typing “euthanasia” or other keywords into an article database. What would be much more interesting would be to learn the motivations of those putting out the false information, and whether they were acting on their own in bad faith or operating in conjunction with the special interests with so much at stake. Tracking things back to their ultimate source—that’s the kind of digging we need.

Where else do you see journalism of this quality and value?

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