Friday, August 21, 2009


I get the live teevee is difficult and even the best most well-informed host can't always succeed in correcting a full of shit guest, but that's entirely different from making the argument that it isn't even her job.

I sent a couple of those viewer e-mails to Winslow seeking a response. Those e-mails, some of which are printed below, focused especially on two things that Armey said: "If you're over 65 years old in America today, you have no choice but to be in Medicare. Even if you want out of Medicare, you have to forfeit your Social Security to get out of it . . . That's pretty heavy-handed, and people fear that."

Those who wrote said Armey was not speaking the truth, and frankly I thought it sounded strange as well and so I sent them along to Winslow seeking a response. Because The NewsHour presents a full hour of news five nights a week it, naturally, provokes a lot of commentary from viewers. In my experience, Winslow has always been a solid responder — candid and tough-minded. But this time she sent only a terse note, along with a link to the transcript that readers can check:

"Here's the transcript of last night's discussion. Seems to me the guests were asked to rebut one another. Judy was the moderator, not the judge. Check out"

Woodruff did, indeed, turn to her other guest and ask, "What about this charge?" But Kirsch responded in a way that didn't answer those specific assertions raised by Armey and the discussion moved on to other points. So Armey's points about Medicare and Social Security benefits were left hanging out there, viewers wrote to challenge them and The NewsHour wasn't going to clear the air. Armey made much the same charge on NBC's Meet the Press program last Sunday and it also went largely unchallenged.

In a perfect world the host of the NewsHour would see that her job is to make sure, as much as possible, viewers have accurate information. In an imperfect world I get that it isn't always going to happen that way, though with clearly false statements as opposed to subtler ones you would hope that it would be a priority.

To address the actual factual issue: Yes, it isn't entirely simple to withdraw from Medicare A even though you can, but more to the point almost no one would consider doing so because for most people it is absolutely free and being enrolled doesn't stop you from having supplemental insurance.