The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Contact: Steve Rendall,,Tel: 212-633-6700 x13

WaPo's New Rule of Journalism? On Healthcare: Don't Follow The Money


The Washington Post's Shailagh Murray (11/17/09)
wrote a profile of Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D.-Ark.) as one of the
Democratic senators most likely to break with the rest of the party on
healthcare reform. The article seemed to invert the advice Deep Throat
once gave to the Post's Woodward and Bernstein into a new rule: Don't follow the money.

Headlined "A Centrist in Healthcare Debate, Lincoln Hears It From All
Sides," the piece presented Lincoln's stance as something of a puzzle:
"Hundreds of thousands of Lincoln's constituents are low-income and
lack insurance, the very kind of voters expected to benefit under the
Senate bill."

Murray described the senator as facing a dilemma:

low-profile centrist is being pressed by both sides. Democratic
activists are incensed that she has turned against the public option,
an idea she once supported. Republicans are casting her cautious
approach to the healthcare debate in starkly political terms, saying
that she is unwilling to put local interests above those of a president
who lost the state by a resounding 20 percentage points.

She even acknowledged the forces lining up against the politician:

In the process, Lincoln has riled liberal groups including,
which is targeting her with radio ads, direct mail and rallies outside
two of her Arkansas offices. Perhaps more ominously, MoveOn--working
with the liberal group Democracy for America--has amassed $3.5 million
in pledges to fund primary challenges against any Democratic senator
who sides with Republicans to block an up-or-down vote on a bill with a
public option.

That would seem to raise another question: Who's keeping her IN power?
The Center for Responsive Politics has some background on that from the second quarter of this year--information the Post apparently doesn't consider important:

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has brought in the most from the
health sector so far this year at $394,400, followed by Senate Finance
Committee member Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), who collected $324,350, and
former Republican Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.), who brought in $266,100.
All three senators are up for re-election in 2010.

Of all the lawmakers on the five committees debating healthcare reform,
Lincoln has brought in by far the most money from the healthcare
sector--26 percent more than the runner-up, Sen. Charles Schumer
(D.-N.Y.), who took in $257,400. For the 2005-10 election cycle, the
healthcare sector has been Lincoln's most generous source of support,
giving her a total of $763,000 from individuals and political action

The Watergate-era lesson to "follow the money" is supposedly part of
modern journalistic culture--a motto of the savvy journalist who
understands that large amounts of money have the power to influence
people's behavior. But as FAIR's magazine Extra! recently showed (11/09),
coverage of healthcare reform in the corporate media has generally
failed to document the links between industry largesse and the
political maneuvers of "centrist" Democrats like Blanche Lincoln. If
the newspaper that got the message directly from Deep Throat doesn't
follow his advice, who else will?

Ask Washington Post
ombud Andy Alexander why the paper's November 17 profile of Sen.
Blanche Lincoln, which focused on her position on healthcare reform,
neglected to mention Lincoln's financial support from the healthcare

Washington Post
Andy Alexander, Ombud

FAIR, the national media watch group, has been offering well-documented criticism of media bias and censorship since 1986. We work to invigorate the First Amendment by advocating for greater diversity in the press and by scrutinizing media practices that marginalize public interest, minority and dissenting viewpoints.