ABC, CBS Flock to SEIU-Stacked Anti-Health Insurance Protests

Advice for Tea Partiers: If you want to get the broadcast networks to cover your rallies, protest against Big Insurance, not Big Government. Because, while the networks had to be dragged kicking and screaming to last year’s Tea Party rallies just to generate the briefest mention, “CBS Evening News” and ABC’s “World News with Diane Sawyer” certainly didn’t skimp in reporting on yesterday’s pro-reform rally.

On their respective March 9 broadcasts, both CBS and ABC covered a protest in front of the Washington, D.C. Ritz-Carlton that occurred earlier that day against a “powerful” insurance group – the America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), as “Evening News” anchor Katie Couric explained.

“Now to the battle over health care reform and the push for a House vote by the end of next week,” Couric said. “Emotions are running high on both sides of the debate, and in Washington today, angry protesters targeted the insurance industry.”

While speculation was rife – and unfounded – about the possibility of the Tea Parties being “Astroturf,” the networks didn’t seem interested that the March 9 protests were thronged with activists from groups such as the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), not to mention the likes of former DNC Chairman and health care reform shill Howard Dean. And although the SEIU doesn’t exactly have the best record when it comes to civil protests, neither network mentioned it.

“Supporters of health care reform descended not on the Capitol or the White House today but Washington’s Ritz-Carlton hotel, where executives from the nation’s largest insurance companies were holding an annual conference,” CBS correspondent Nancy Cordes said.

ABC’s “World News” anchor Diane Sawyer reported that the protesters were outraged over “excess profits.”

“And now we go to Washington,” Sawyer said. “The battle over health care reform reaching a heated fever pitch today. Taking their cue from President Obama, protesters took their complaints about insurance company premiums and excess profits to the insurance industry and the streets. And the industry fought right back.”

ABC correspondent Jonathan Karl gave viewers an honest assessment of what was going on at the protests, but he never gave viewers a sense there was any threat to public safety, which has been a talking point by left-leaning pundits against the Tea Party movement.

However, Karl’s assessment included some very tough examples. “The attacks are pretty harsh. They are accusing the insurance company CEOs of bribery, money laundering and manslaughter.”

But the insurance companies aren’t raking in the cash when it is compared to other areas of the private sector as the ABC correspondent explained. It’s just that what they charge had gone up, suggesting there’s something else at play and not necessarily the health insurance companies playing the role of bribers, money launders and those guilty of manslaughter.

“For all the White House focus on insurance profits, the top insurance companies actually have a relatively low profit margin,” Karl said. “About 4 percent last year, compared to 20 percent for drug companies and 29 percent for biotech firms. And consider this -- while the top five insurance companies raked in $14.7 billion in profit last year – that represents just about half of one percent of total health care costs.”


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