ABC Under Fire for Hosting Obama Healthcare “Infomercial”
By Kathleen Gilbert
WASHINGTON, D.C., June 17, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Republican and conservative leaders are up in arms after it was revealed that ABC News would host a primetime special on the Obama administration's sweeping healthcare overhaul, while the network refused requests from both the GOP and paid advertisers to offer a separate viewpoint.
All of ABC's June 24 programs are slated to be broadcast at the White House, including "Good Morning America" from the South Lawn and "World News" from the Blue Room.
The primetime special, "Questions for the President: Prescription for America," will be moderated by Charles Gibson and Diane Sawyer. The program will feature President Obama discussing his controversial public healthcare plan and answering questions from audience members pre-selected by the network.
However, no airtime was granted to the Republican National Committee, who requested an opportunity to provide an opposing viewpoint on a plan that conservatives widely decry as irresponsible spending and a threat to quality healthcare.
"As the national debate on health care reform intensifies, I am deeply concerned and disappointed with ABC's astonishing decision to exclude opposing voices on this critical issue on June 24, 2009," Republican National Committee Chief of Staff Ken McKay wrote Monday to ABC President David Westin.
"I believe that the President should have the ability to speak directly to the America people. However, I find it outrageous that ABC would prohibit our Party's opposing thoughts and ideas from this national debate, which affects millions of ABC viewers."
McKay aired concerns that "in the absence of opposition" the event would amount to "a glorified infomercial to promote the Democrat agenda."
"If that is the case, this primetime infomercial should be paid for out of the DNC coffers," he said. "President Obama does not hold a monopoly on health care reform ideas or on free airtime. The President has stated time and time again that he wants a bipartisan debate. Therefore, the Republican Party should be included in this primetime event, or the DNC should pay for your airtime."
Kerry Smith, ABC's Senior Vice President, responded on Tuesday by responding to what he called the "false premises" raised in McKay's letter.
"I hope we can all agree that a robust debate of health care issues and potential policies is in order," said Smith. "To that end, ABC News announced plans to broadcast a primetime hour from the White House devoted to exploring and probing the President's position and giving voice to questions and criticisms of that position.
"We hope that any American concerned about health care will find our efforts to be informative, fair and civil."
Smith said the network "prides itself on covering all sides of important issues and asking direct questions of all newsmakers" from across the political spectrum.
"In the end, no one watching, listening to, or reading ABC News will lack for an understanding of all sides of these important questions," he said.
According to a Drudge report late Wednesday, ABC is also refusing paid advertisements presenting an alternate opinion to the Obama healthcare programming.
The network has reportedly turned down a request by Conservatives for Patients Rights for the rates of a 60-second advertising slot immediately preceding the primetime broadcast.
"It is unfortunate - and unusual - that ABC is refusing to accept paid advertising that would present an alternative viewpoint for the White House health care event," stated Rick Scott, chairman of Conservatives for Patients Rights.
"Health care is an issue that touches every American and all potential pieces of legislation have carried a pricetag in excess of $1 trillion of taxpayers' money. The American people deserve a healthy, robust debate on this issue and ABC's decision - as of now - to exclude even paid advertisements that present an alternative view does a disservice to the public.
"Our organization is more than willing to purchase ad time on ABC to present an alternative viewpoint and our hope is that ABC will reconsider having such viewpoints be part of this crucial debate for the American people."