The Consequences Of Misinformation: Conservative Smear Machine Scares Americans With Disabilities

Last Thursday, Mike Sola, whose son has cerebral palsy, disrupted a town hall meeting with Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) by wheeling his son up to Dingell and verbally attacking the Congressman for supporting a bill that would give “no care whatsoever” to Americans with “cerebral palsy.” This morning on Fox News Channel’s America’s Newsroom, Sola suggested that he became concerned about how health care reform would affect his son after reading a New York Post article by Betsy McCaughey — a fiction writer with a knack for passing up her work as truth:

This is a free country. I’m a parent of a handicapped American citizen and the reason I”m so concerned is this. Every American should pull this up on their computer. It’s the New York Post. July 24th edition. ‘Dangerous Doctors’ every American needs to read this and you’ll understand that this ground swell of America’s people has occurred…What you are doing is sentencing our families to death. We lose the right to life. The old people are discarded. Those who cannot fend for themselves are discarded. There is no liberty under you plan, and that’s the problem. The people have seen it, the people know it, you can’t hind it from the American people anymore.

Watch it:

McCaughey’s article argues that health care reform would empower political appointees to deny care to “a grandmother with Parkinson’s or a child with cerebral palsy.” And while anchor Megyn Kelly tried to claim that many of McCaughey’s predictions have “come true,” this latest claim is as false as the rest of McCaughey’s charges.

In reality, rather than empowering political appointees with the ability to make medical decisions, all of the health bills improve care for Americans with disabilities. The legislation in the House, expands Medicaid — the government program designed to meet the unique health care needs of Americans with disabilities — creates an insurance program for long-term care, provides affordability credits to help all Americans purchase health insurance coverage, outlaws the common insurance practice of denying coverage to Americans with chronic conditions and caps the amount Americans have to spend on care. During mark-up of the bill in House Energy and Commerce, the Committee also added provisions to prohibit the secretary of Health and Human Services from reducing adult day care funding and funded a pilot program for home health care specifically for individuals with chronic conditions.

Sola’s use of McCaughey’s article, however, suggests that fact checks do little to blunt the emotional impact of sensationalistic charges. Corporate funded groups like Freedomworks and Americans for Prosperity, along with Betsy McCaughey, Sally Pipes, Rick Scott, Sarah Palin, and Newt Gingrich distort and lie about reform in order to manufacture outrage among Americans. That effort is scaring some and stymieing legitimate efforts for constituents to have real conversations about how best to reform the health care system.