Last week, CNN accused Michael Moore of fudging the facts and cherry-picking numbers from different academic studies to make his arguments stronger. On CNN’s “The Situation Room,” Wolf Blitzer (video) aired Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s senior health correspondent, “fact check” report that attempted to verify the facts Michael Moore’s 2007 film ‘SiCKO.’
Moore was furious over Gupta’s report, the interview ended up becoming a heated debate, which forced Wolf Blitzer again (video) to continue his interview the next day. However, the war of words between CNN and Moore did not end there, the debate continued on “Larry King Live” (VIDEOS: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3). complex citations for each of the assertions made in his movie,
During that week, Moore used his website to addressed each assertion made by Gutpa by posting citing the sources he used to make his movie, plus a line-by-line rebuttal of each of the “corrections” made by CNN, adding links to original source material.
CNN was forced to admit that they did indeed “fudge” at least two of the facts in their coverage of my film and have apologized for it. These are the two facts that CNN used to try to discredit Moore.
Misinformation #1: Gupta states that in the movie Sicko, Cuba spends $25 per health care capita.
“Moore asserts that the American health care system spends $7,000 per person on health. Cuba spends $25 dollars per person. Not true. But not too far off. The United States spends $6,096 per person, versus $229 per person in Cuba.” (Video Time Frame: 1:44)
I mention the video time frame because Gupta admits it was an error, however, he also blames it on a “transcription” error for its mistake on Larry King Live.
GUPTA: — Yes, we made a mistake, Larry, with regards to the per capita spending for Cubans. Michael correctly — he said $251 in the movie. We said $5, misquoting him $25 per capita in the piece. And that was a mistake of ours. It was an error of transcription and it’s — we want to get these facts and figures right, as a doctor and a journalist, so we corrected that. But we wanted to make sure we just made that very transparent. (Video time frame: 0:28)
Even though Gupta apologizes to Moore on his blog “Paging Dr Gupta,” the day after the big “Gupta-Moore fight” on Larry King Live, Gupta continue distorts the facts.
He cited an unsourced BBC report when talking about per capita Cuban spending. That same report also talked about US per capita health spending, but he apparently didn’t like that number, so instead he used a projected number from a different study. I worry that comparing apples and oranges purposely, and perhaps needlessly, muddy the argument. To be clear, I got a number wrong in my original report, substituting the number 25, instead of 251. It was not deliberate, but an error of transcription. I felt awful it happened. I did correct it and apologize.
As for Cuba â€“ Dr. Gupta and CNN need to watch ‘SiCKO’ first before commenting on it. ‘SiCKO’ says Cuba spends $251 per person on health care, not $25, as Gupta reports. And the BBC reports that Cuba’s per capita health expenditure isâ€¦ $251! (Keeping Cuba Healthy, BBC, Aug. 1 2006.) This is confirmed by the United Nations Human Development Report, 2006. Yup, Cuba spends $251 per person on health care. As Gupta points out, the World Health Organization does calculate Cuba’s per capita health expenditure at $229 per person. We chose to use the UN numbers, a minor difference – and $229 is a lot closer to $251 than $25.
The fact is, CNN attempted to mislead the public by not citing Moore correctly to create confusion. However, when CNN was caught, they tried to blame it on a transcription error. This is not the first time a news media tried to place blame else where for their mistakes. Back in April during the Virgina Tech shooting, Michael Sneed of the Chicago Tribune falsely reported that the shooter was not only a Chinese immigrant but also a possible terrorist. Sneed later blamed it on a faulty report that are usually made available to law enforcement agencies.
Misinformation #2: CNN’s second attempt to discredit ‘SiCKO’ by using a biased expert to discredit the film. Gupta had tried to fool their public by innocently trying to pass off Paul Keckley, as a seemingly unbiased “health expert.” Moore busted CNN by revealing CNN’s “healthcare expert” Keckley was not unbiased, but happens to be “a person from a think tank group who is a big Republican contributor.” When caught, Gupta lied on national television and claimed Keckley’s “only affiliation” was with Vanderbilt University.
What Gupta tried to hide was that Keckley left Vanderbilt in October 2006 to work for the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, a think tank headed by former Bush Administration official Tommy Thompson. The center advocates private, for-profit enterprise in the health care arena and the “consumer-driven” solutions advocated by the Bush Administration. In addition, Keckley founded and ran a business whose customers included Blue Cross of Tennessee and Aventis Pharmaceuticals.
After realizing they were caught they finally did come clean and admit Moore was correct – “Moore is correct. Paul Keckley left Vanderbilt in late 2006. That is the affiliation Gupta referenced on ‘Larry King Live.’”
The attack on Moore is not a surprise, given the corporation’s complete dependence on advertising dollars from other corporations that know how to use the power of that money to shape news. And it’s no secret that our primary perceptions of the world are filtered through the cloudy lenses of international entertainment and appliance industries. What is interesting is how we quickly forget that CNN is owned by Times-Warner, ABC television network by Walt Disney Company, NBC by General Electric, CBS by National Amusements, and Fox News by Fox Entertainment Group and News Corporation when we are actually watching the news.
But in a world of concentrated wealth and major conflicts of class interest, the role of the mass media is to “amuse, entertain, and inform, and to inculcate individuals with the values, beliefs, and codes of behavior that will integrate them into the institutional structures of the larger society.” As we are constantly being bombarded with obvious corporate messages — in advertisements, commercials, and the like – we as Americans are going a transformation in the way we perceive society and, thus, perceive our own lives.
Because as Wolf Blizter put it – “we have commercials [CNN] is a business, obviously.”.