Times Leaves Out Dems Speech Suppression, but Touts Lefty Actor's Parody Ad

The Times' health care priorities revealed: A parody ad by liberal comedian Will Ferrell and left-wing MoveOn.org is considered newsworthy; suppression of free speech by the Obama administration isn't.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky went on the Senate floor Tuesday and called out the Obama administration for using a federal agency to squelch mailings by insurance company Humana that warned clients of proposed Obama-care cuts to the Medicare Advantage program.

A post on the Times' "Prescriptions" blog Tuesday afternoon by David Herszenhorn, "Senate Republican Leader Accuses Democrats of Muzzling Critics," quoted McConnell extensively on this suppression of free speech. Still Herszenhorn couldn't help getting in a political dig:

In a sign of escalating tension on Capitol Hill, the Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, accused Democrats and the Obama administration on Tuesday of trying to muzzle critics of their proposed health care legislation.

Mr. McConnell, known for his composure, rarely loses his cool on the Senate floor. But he was steamed about what he alleged was an attempt by Democrats to silence Humana, the big insurance company, which just happens to have its headquarters in his home state.

"I rise to call my colleagues to a truly disturbing development in the health care debate," Mr. McConnell said on the Senate floor. "A colleague of ours - a colleague of ours has called for an investigation into a major health care company because this company informed its customers of its concerns about health care legislation that this colleague of ours introduced."

He was speaking of Sen. Max Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee:

On Monday, Mr. Baucus issued a news release boasting of what he described as his efforts to keep the health care debate honest. "Baucus-requested investigation nails insurance scare tactics," the news release proclaimed.

In the news release, Mr. Baucus said that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a division of the federal Department of Health and Human Services, had "cracked down on insurance company attempts to mislead and confuse beneficiaries about how they would be affected by health care reform legislation." He accused Humana of sending a letter to beneficiaries that raised the prospect of elderly Americans losing the benefits of Medicare Advantage policies. The legislation, Mr. Baucus insisted, "does not include cuts to Medicare benefits."


Mr. McConnell in his speech angrily asserted that Democrats were seeking to quash legitimate concerns about the legislation.

Good story, huh? Yet the Times failed to run it in the print edition version of "Prescriptions," a near-daily reprint of two to three blog postings from the "Prescriptions" blog. So what "Prescriptions" postings did the Times find more newsworthy than the Obama administration's suppression of dissent?

"Hollywood Reaches Out to Insurers, and Slaps Them" - a Tuesday evening post by reporter Katharine Seelye, highlighting the latest of comedian Will Ferrell's increasingly tedious internet-only political parody ads for FunnyOrDie.com.

Done in association with the left-wing MoveOn.org, the clip shows a series of TV actors pretending to stand up for downtrodden health insurance executives in the name of pitching the "public option." The clip claims that 80% of the American public support the public plan - supporters that have managed to avoid pollsters so far. The print edition headline generously refers to the ad as "Adding Humor to Debate."

Also making it into print ahead of the Humana story: "A Group of One," by David Herszenhorn, about infighting among Democrats, though it was not posted until 4 a.m. Wednesday morning, and "Kaiser Permanente's Chief Optimistic About Health Overhaul Effort," a shrug-worthy Tuesday afternoon post by Reed Abelson.