CBS Reports On Town Hall Mobs, Ignores Corporate Sponsors

09/03/2009 03:53 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

CBS News aired a brief segment Monday night documenting the uptick in publicly demonstrated opposition to health care reform, which has been recently seen manifesting itself through angry protesters at town hall meetings.

Reporter Wyatt Andrews described the protest movement thusly: "The crowds are partly the result of conservative websites asking for turnouts at town halls." And screenshots of such websites were shown on the screen, most notably the website of FreedomWorks, whose spokesman, Max Pappas, is provided a forum in this report. There's no denying that organizations like FreedomWorks have been successful lately at organizing people to come out against health care reform. But it seems weird not to mention the underlying interests at the heart of this protest movement. Back in April, Think Progress' Lee Fang documented the extent to which FreedomWorks "Orchestrates 'Grassroots' Movements To Serve Dick Armey's Corporate Clients":

FreedomWork's Adam Brandon responded to the criticism that its efforts to organize these anti-Obama protests are 'astroturf,' saying that the organization's work in coordinating and planning the events would be akin to "MoveOn's model." However, MoveOn is not run by corporate lobbyists and is funded by actual grassroots activists. On the other hand, the leader of FreedomWorks, Dick Armey, who is ranked as one of DC's top "hired guns," is a corporate lobbyist with a history of directing FreedomWorks to support the goals of his lobbying clients. For example:

--Armey's FreedomWorks is actively organizing against health care reform. Indeed, Armey's lobbying firm represents pharmaceutical companies, such as Bristol-Myers Squibb, that oppose comparative effectiveness research in the health reform plan because such a program may cut into revenue for branded drugs.

--Armey's lobbying firm represents the trade group for the life insurance industry. Indeed, FreedomWorks mobilizes its members for deregulated life insurance reform.

The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder shows up toward the end to wager that the "calls flooding in" to lawmakers' offices are "negative." At the moment, that might be true. But what seems to have been lost is that there has also been substantial public support for health care reform and demonstrators who have passionately attempted to sway lawmakers in the pro-reform direction. You can even look these up, in these things called "newspapers."

While senators haggled over the intricacies of policy, thousands of people held a rally in a park nearby demanding "health care reform now." The crowd included doctors, nurses, labor union leaders and people without insurance. Many urged Congress to create a public health insurance plan, as a possible alternative to private insurance.

Thousands of their constituents rallied outside the Capitol to show their support for change, and the Obama administration called for action.


In a lively rally in a park one block from the Capitol, unions, community groups and liberal organizations rallied behind the White House effort.


Whether members of Congress were hearing the 2,000 people outside chanting, "We want, we want health care," to the tune of Queen's "We Will Rock You" was unclear.

And of course, there has always been strong public support for the "public option," a data point which seems to be something that the teevee news hasn't quite been able to fathom.


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