Thursday, July 12, 2007

CNN vs Sicko

In search of the truth?

>CNN vs. SiCKO
>Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) Action Alert
>Filmmaker Michael Moore appeared on CNN's Situation
>Room on July 9 to talk about his new film Sicko--but
>ended up having an animated discussion with host Wolf
>Blitzer about a CNN "fact check" of the film that made
>several embarrassing errors.
>The piece--dubbed a "Reality Check" by senior medical
>correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta--claimed that Moore
>"fudged the facts" when critiquing the U.S. health care
>system (click here to watch the clip
>Gupta starts by acknowledging that the U.S.
>healthcare system placed 37th in the World Health
>Organization's rankings. The fact that Moore contrasts
>this with the Cuban system led Gupta to "catch" him:
>"But hold on. That WHO list puts Cuba's healthcare
>system even lower than the United States, coming in at
>number 39."
>The fact that the U.S.'s healthcare system does about
>as well as a Third World island that's been under
>economic sanctions for the past five decades isn't much
>of a catch to begin with. But Cuba's WHO ranking
>actually appears in Moore's film. (As Moore's website
>pointed out, when CNN aired the relevant clip from his
>film, a CNN logo covered up Cuba on the list.)
>Gupta's next fact check:
>"Moore asserts that the American healthcare system
>spends $7,000 per person on health, whereas Cuba spends
>$25 per person. Not true, but not too far off. The
>United States spends $6,096 a year per person versus
>$229 a year in Cuba."
>Actually, Moore was much closer than Gupta: according
>to the Department of Health & Human Services, U.S. per
>capita healthcare spending was projected to reach
>$7,092 in 2006, and $7,498 for this year.
>On a July 10 debate with Moore on CNN's Larry King
>Live, Gupta tried to claim that these projected numbers
>were somehow invalid, as if the continuously rising
>costs of healthcare should not be taken into account
>when discussing healthcare expenditures. Ironically,
>during the same discussion, Gupta cited Medicare's
>looming insolvency as a reason not to support expanding
>the program--a financial crunch that of course is also
>based on projections of steadily rising healthcare
>What's more--Gupta's "reality check" got the film's
>claims wrong: Moore said Cuba spent $251 per person,
>not $25.
>Gupta went on to claim that Sicko portrays "medical
>utopia elsewhere," when in fact studies show the U.S.
>system is better in some respects:
>"The film is filled with content Canadians and Brits
>sitting in waiting rooms, confident care will come. In
>Canada, you can be waiting for a long time. A survey of
>six industrialized nations found that only Canada was
>worse than the United States when it came to waiting
>for a doctor's appointment for a medical problem."
>This is a grossly misleading characterization of the
>Commonwealth Fund's survey; instead of stressing that
>the study found that the United States did better than
>one country with universal care in terms of waiting
>time, Gupta could more relevantly have focused on the
>fact that four out of five of the universal healthcare
>countries studied (including Britain) outperformed the
>U.S. on the very measure that he singled out to show
>that you don't find "medical utopia elsewhere."
>It's worth noting that the study that Gupta cited
>placed the U.S. as the worst overall of all the
>healthcare system studied, placing it last or next to
>last in all but one of eight criteria, while spending
>almost twice as much per capita as the next most
>expensive system. Gupta's example was a clear case of
>cherry-picking-- selecting only the data that fits your
>argument-- something he accused Moore of doing.
>When Moore confronted CNN's Blitzer about the
>inaccuracies in their "reality check" segment, he
>responded: "Well, if we get that confirmed, obviously,
>we'll correct the record." And CNN did correct one
>thing--Gupta acknowledged his error about Cuba's per
>capita spending ($25 versus $251). On CNN's Newsroom
>(7/10/07), Gupta seemed taken aback by the whole thing,
>saying, "Yesterday there was a lot said by Michael,
>quite frankly, lots of numbers thrown around, and it
>can get admittedly somewhat confusing."
>He did not apologize for criticizing Moore for using
>current healthcare figures rather than outdated ones,
>or for implying that Moore concealed Cuba's healthcare
>ranking, or for misleading viewers about the findings
>of the survey on waiting times. "We're comfortable with
>what we presented," Gupta said, aside from
>misrepresenting what Moore reported about Cuban
>healthcare costs by a factor of 10, which Gupta
>attributed to "an error of transcribing the number down
>"As a journalist and a doctor the facts are extremely
>important to me," Gupta claimed. That priority is not
>at all evident from his report on Sicko, which instead
>suggested that his chief goal was discrediting Moore's
>film. In pursuit of that mission he ended up making
>more serious factual errors than any he actually found
>in Moore's film. Gupta's failure to retract the other
>falsehoods, beyond his "transcribing" error, suggests
>that facts are actually of little importance to him
>compared to maintaining the pretense that he is an
>expert and that activist/journalists like Moore are not
>to be trusted.
>The tendency for mainstream journalists to resist
>criticism is not surprising. Gupta's CNN colleague Kyra
>Phillips perhaps said it best when she referred to the
>second part of Moore's interview with Blitzer: "You can
>tune in to the Situation Room at 4:00 Eastern for a
>little more unedited Moore interview, if you can
>stomach it."
>The implication couldn't be clearer: If we make false
>claims about your work, it's downright rude of you to
>say something about it.
>ACTION: Contact CNN's Situation Room and demand that
>they correct the other mistakes in Gupta's "fact check"
>on Michael Moore's film.
>Situation Room
>Comment page:
>CNN President Jonathan Klein Phone: (212) 275-7800
>For more background, go to: