Monday, September 28, 2009

Betsy McCaughey: Big Tobacco Flack

Last month I wrote this about critics of health care reform:

But thanks to lying liars like Krauthammer and McCaughey, progress on this front has probably been set back a good ten or twenty years, all because defeating health care reform justifies any lie, no matter how pernicious or no matter the effect it has on actual, real people. I'm not a Christian, and even if I was I doubt I'd believe in Hell. But if there is one, it is my most sincere and fondest wish that there is a special circle reserved for the likes of Krauthammer and McCaughey, and all those who lie without regard to the impact their lies have on the lives and deaths of real people.

But if this is at all true, one hack in particular is guilty of so much worset:

I have deliberately laid off the Betsy McCaughey theme for the past month-plus. I had my say; she continues to have hers; people can make up their minds.

But revelations late last week by Tim Dickinson, of Rolling Stone, are at face value so important that they deserve to be underscored. It's worth reading Dickinson's whole dispatch and studying the on-line scans of the documents he has found. But to me the real news is the evidence that tobacco lobbyists secretly worked with McCaughey to prepare her infamous 1994 New Republic article "No Exit."

In case that's blurry, here is what Dickinson says:

"What has not been reported until now is that McCaughey's writing was influenced by Philip Morris, the world's largest tobacco company, as part of a secret campaign to scuttle Clinton's health care reform. (The measure would have been funded by a huge increase in tobacco taxes.) In an internal company memo from March 1994, the tobacco giant detailed its strategy to derail Hillarycare through an alliance with conservative think tanks, front groups and media outlets. Integral to the company's strategy, the memo observed, was an effort to "work on the development of favorable pieces" with "friendly contacts in the media." The memo, prepared by a Philip Morris executive, mentions only one author by name:

' "Worked off-the-record with Manhattan and writer Betsy McCaughey as part of the input to the three-part exposé in The New Republic on what the Clinton plan means to you. The first part detailed specifics of the plan." '

"McCaughey did not respond to Rolling Stone's request for an interview."

Maybe there is another side to this story, but if unrebutted it is damning.

Oh, if only those words could become literally true. One would think that upon this revelation, Betsy McCaughey would be utterly disgraced, and too ashamed to show her face in the media. But that would imply that McCaughey has any decency or grace to be dispossessed of. Since it is not presently illegal to sell your soul to companies who profit off of the deaths of people, we shall have to merely wait and hope that divine justice is presented to her most directly upon her death.

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