SEIU: CPR Airing False "Documentary"

May 29, 2009 11:51 am ET — Melinda Warner

The Service Employees International Union has asked NBC to prevent a thirty minute Conservatives for Patients Rights "documentary" (more appropriately, infomercial) from airing Sunday May 31st.

SEIU is "telling NBC that if Scott's fake 'documentary' contains any falsehoods (which is likely, given his track record), they could face an FCC violation and big fines." They are "also warning Meet the Press that they're being used by Rick Scott, and will be tarnished by his swift-boating."

Rick Scott and CPR's "track record" of producing faulty products include misrepresenting a pro-universal health care doctor as against American health care reform, misleading viewers on the planned use and regulation of comparative effectiveness research, and accusing advocates of health care reform of promoting socialism.

As if all that weren't enough, on May 14, 2009, CPR blatantly lied on its website that the Comcast cable company pulled an anti-CPR ad off the air...when, in fact, the ad went off the air because the airing contract had expired.  No amount of hair splitting or spinning can change the fact that CPR lied and used that lie as a fundraising tool

As the SEIU letter points out, other groups have noticed the fallacies in CPR's version of the truth:

"SEIU is not the only organization that has raised serious questions about Rick Scott and CPR's credibility.  The highly-respected website, run by the non-partisan Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, has labeled CPR's prior advertisement as 'very misleading.'"

Regarding the specific legal issues at hand for NBC airing the so-called documentary, SEIU asserts:

"...unlike federal candidates, political organizations do not have a 'right to command the use of broadcast facilities.' See CBS v. DNC, 412 U.S. 94, 113 (1973).  Because you have no legal obligation to air the advertisement, your station bears responsibility for its content when you do grant access.  See Felix v. Westinghouse Radio Stations, 186 F.2d 1, 6 (3d Cir.).  As a broadcast licensee, you 'must assume responsibility for all material which is broadcast through [your] facilities' and therefore have a duty to 'protect the public from false, misleading or deceptive advertising.'"

In response,

"Keith Appell, a spokesman for CPR, said the infomercial was produced by Gene Randall, an award-winning former CNN anchor, and already has run on two cable channels.  'It's no surprise that they would try to block the public from seeing any information about the dangers of government-run health care,' Appell said. 'This program is full of compelling first person accounts that every American should hear.'"

Continuing with the smoke and mirrors theme CPR is so fond of, the "first person accounts" included in the documentary/infomercial are actually clients of a Canadian medical broker who not only appears in CPR videos discussing how bad heath care reform will be for America but who also profits from the American health care system by arranging for Canadians to come to the States to receive care, saying: "So if the U. S. were to adopt our dysfunctional system, where would I send my Canadian patients who are dying?"

Scott, who feels "very good" about his accomplishments at Columbia/HCA (defrauding Medicare by raising compensation amounts by "knowingly inflating the numbers reported to the Government in the cost report[s]," and as a result causing the company to have to pay a "total of more than $1.7 billion in civil and criminal penalties"), is apparently unconcerned with the fact that health care reform advocates are not pushing for Canadian-style health care but are dedicated to ensuring that all Americans can afford basic care for their families.  He also doesn't acknowledge that while Canada's system (like all health care systems) has problems, the current incarnation of health care delivery in the United States is faulty at best and inhuman at worst.  Evidently, his own personal interests benefit from the struggle many Americans have with receiving adequate health care.

Joined by HCAN, SEIU rightly suspects the documentary/infomercial of containing "demonstrably false" and misleading information and encourages Americans to contact NBC in an effort to keep the lies off the air until an open, two-sided, and - most importantly - factual debate can occur.  If Rick Scott and Conservatives for Patients Rights really want to help improve health care in the United States, they need to stop thinking about themselves, present some real solutions, and start thinking about the millions of American citizens who are desperate for proper health care.