"White Coat" Syndrome Hits the Times

The Times plays up "White Coats in Rose Garden," a photo-op of doctors shipped in to support Obama's health care overhaul, but reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg managed to miss the embarrassing image of White House staffers passing out coats to doctors who didn't have one.

"Doctors for America" were summoned to the Rose Garden yesterday to hear brief, boilerplate remarks by the president on health reform and applaud them. In other words, nothing newsworthy happened.


The most likely reason that Sheryl Gay Stolberg's story, "White Coats in Rose Garden" (based on her "Prescriptions" blog post) made Tuesday's print edition was the gimmick of the Obama-supporting doctors wearing white coats while listening to the president, complete with a photo of said doctors.


But where did the coats come from?


In a story whose headline and lead sentence both mentioned "white coats," Stolberg somehow missed theludicrious image, courtesy of the New York Post, ofWhite House staffers passing out white lab coats to those doctors who came without one in order to make a better photo op.


President Obama, seeking to pitch his plan for a health care overhaul as the Senate Finance Committee moves toward a critical vote, invited a group of white-coated doctors to the Rose Garden on Monday, telling them that "nobody has more credibility with the American people on this issue than you do.''


In brief remarks to the doctors - all of whom support Mr. Obama's plan and have vowed to fan out in their home states to advocate for it - the president sought to make the case that reforming the health care system would benefit the medical profession as much as patients.




The 150 doctors, representing all 50 states, were planning to do media interviews with home state newspapers and television stations about their White House visit - a kind of local marketing effort.


The White House said it assembled the group of doctors by working with several medical organizations, including the American Medical Association, which has publicly supported the president's plan for an overhaul, as well as the American Osteopathic Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Many were members of Doctors for America, a new grassroots organization that has advocated a health care overhaul - and is an outgrowth of Doctors for Obama, which worked to help elect the president.


A Monday afternoon update by Stolberg added that Doctors for America "also appears to be working closely with Organizing for America, Mr. Obama's political organization." Yet that important tidbit didn't make the shortened print version of the story.


Stolberg didn't mention the photo-op, highly orchestrated nature of the event or the "Astroturf" nature of the participants, details the Times harped on with far less justification during the enormous "tea party" protests thrown by conservative anti-Obama activists.