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Father Jonathan Morris Promotes Stimulus Bill Falsehoods While Complaining That The Democratic Authors Are Untrustworthy

Reported by Ellen - February 11, 2009 -

Add FOX News contributor Father John Morris to the list of right-wing pundits who are promoting the false talking points that the economic stimulus bill contains a provision that allows the government to dictate to physicians which medical procedures are permissible. In fact, the bill does not contain such a provision. Father Morris also falsely alleged that the bill contains money “to support Planned Parenthood” (a provision that was dropped from the House Bill in January). Then Morris made an obvious attempt to “religionize” opposition to the bill. He complained that because of those two “issues,” he could not trust the legislators who put the bill together. But it was Morris who was the untrustworthy one. Updated to note that FNC's Mike Huckabee also called the bill 'anti-religious" under false pretenses. With video.

It was a bizarre “Great American Panel” on last night's (2/10/09) Hannity. The panelists included Morris, ignorant hate-monger Andrea Tantaros and former Senate candidate Ned Lamont. With the stimulus bill as the topic, one can't help but think that the FOX News producers placed Father Morris there deliberately to suggest that the bill was somehow sacrilege.

Morris said, “We have to have trust in the people who are making this legislation and the people that they're listening to. And the problem with this bill that I have is that I cannot put trust in the people because specifically of what they've done inside this bill. And that is this: Imagine Pelosi going on and saying, $850 million (the actual amount was $200 million) to support Planned Parenthood in order to stimulate our economy. What about just now, what's happening right now with the bill that says the government needs to be telling our doctors what type of health care procedures should be permissible or not? In other words, I have lost trust in the people who are making this bill and so I can't trust it.”

Lamont had a great comeback. He said, “But Father, I can't judge the Catholic church by what some individual priests do. I don't judge this bill by what some individual items are. You have to say, 'Is this bill in the good interests of the United States of America? (the ever-obnoxious Tantaros kept trying to interrupt but Lamont wisely did not let her.) Will it help jump start the economy again? Will it help balance out our financial system which is going under?'”

Morris conceded, “I'm not an economist, so I don't know. But I can say that the people who are putting this thing together are not trustworthy.”

And I'm not Catholic but I do know enough not to go on television and condemn an entire religion based on my (faulty) judgment about some rogue priests.

In reality, the bill does not allow the government to dictate to doctors what health care procedures are appropriate. As Think Progress reported in a post (that includes video with plenty of FOX News footage) about this latest right-wing smear campaign against the stimulus package:

The National Coordinator of Health Information Technology, for instance, which (conservatives and) Fox News described as a “new bureaucracy,” already exists.

Established by President George W. Bush in 2004, the Office “provides counsel to the Secretary of HHS and Departmental leadership for the development and nationwide implementation” of “health information technology.”

Far from empowering the Office to “monitor doctors” or requiring private physicians to abide by treatment protocols, the new language tasks the National Coordinator with “providing appropriate information to help guide medical decisions.” This provision is intended move the country towards adopting money-saving health technology (like electronic medical records), reduce costly duplicate services and medical errors, and create jobs.

The Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research is also far less ominous than McCaughey lets on. Since most of the information doctors receive about medications comes from drug representatives and not independent scientists, comparative effectiveness research would help doctors and patients understand which therapies work.

The stimulus bill establishes a Council to coordinate the government’s research into the effectiveness of drugs and treatments, ensuring that America’s health care dollars are used wisely. The Council cannot require doctors to adopt its recommendations, however. On the contrary, it seeks to provide additional medical research that will save billions of dollars in wasteful spending and educate physicians on the latest medical developments and practices.

If FOX News is so concerned about people dictating to doctors about what medical procedures are appropriate, maybe they could report on the ways that medical insurers have been doing so for years.

UPDATE: Think Progress reports that former Republican presidential candidate and current FOX News contributor Mike Huckabee sent an email to supporters yesterday which makes the baseless claim that the bill is "anti-religious." Huckabee is objecting to a provision disallowing federal stimulus funds being used for primarily religious purposes. But Steve Benen notes that Huckabee is "bearing false witness" as this kind of language "has been part of education spending bills for 46 years. It’s just the law, and it’s never been controversial."