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GOP Healthcare Operative Frank Luntz Presented As Neutral Pollster On Fox News

Reported by Ellen - July 2, 2009 -

As Huffington Post has reported, conservative communications guru (and mostly-GOP pollster) Frank Luntz has written the playbook for GOP opposition to the Obama administration's health care proposal. Yet he refuses to identify who is funding his work. Nevertheless, Luntz was presented as merely a neutral pollster on Fox News’ Hannity program last night (7/1/09). Even after Luntz slipped and revealed he's on the side of opposition, Hannity gave the bias a complete pass.

Misinformer of 2008 Sean Hannity opened the segment with a falsehood, proclaiming that President Barack Obama was on a “PR offensive... (predicting) a Doomsday scenario if the Congress doesn’t bow to his demands and implement socialized medicine.” As Hannity must surely know or surely ought to know, Obama is not proposing socialized medicine.

“We’re joined now by the president of The Word Doctors, pollster Frank Luntz.” Hannity said. “forgetting” to mention that Luntz’ recommendations have already popped up in statements from top congressional Republicans and on Fox News, before any Democratic legislation has been proposed. Fox News producers similarly helped to keep their viewers in the dark about Luntz’ bias by identifying him only as “pollster” on the screen.

Sure enough, Luntz dodged Hannity’s opening question, whether or not Obama was using the same “doom and gloom” tactics as he supposedly did to “sell” the Stimulus bill, and went straight for the GOP talking points. The reason Obama is doing what he’s doing, Luntz said, is because Americans are “starting to look at his proposals and while they do want health care reform, what they don’t want is the price tag that’s attached to it.” (Luntz Rule #2, of his 10 “rules of stopping the ‘Washington takeover” of healthcare:” Acknowledge the “crisis” or suffer the consequences; followed by item #4 of Luntz’ memo, “It’s about $$$: cost and profit. Your solution HAS to address the financial component of healthcare.”)

Luntz went on to demonstrate viewer reactions to three healthcare reform ads: two that seemed to side with Obama, but whose organizations were not identified, that Luntz claimed tested poorly; and one that told the “tragic stories” of several patients denied care under “government run health care” elsewhere. (Thus highlighting Luntz’ Rules #1, “Humanize your approach,” and #6, Healthcare quality = “getting the treatment you need, when you need it.”) That last ad not only tested well, it was the only one to include the identity and a promo for the organization behind it, “CPRights.org.”

As The Washington Post reported, Conservatives for Patients’ Rights is the organization that multimillionaire and controversial former hospital chief executive Rick Scott founded to build resistance to any government-run health care plan. The Post also noted that Scott’s campaign is being coordinated by CRC Public Relations, the group that masterminded the "Swift boat" attacks against 2004 Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. Are one of those groups funding Luntz’ work? If not, who is? The bias and affiliations of any expert would be relevant, especially when he is the sole guest for a big, important subject like health care reform, and most especially if he’s appearing on a network that constantly brags, “we report, you decide” while touting their supposedly “fair and balanced” coverage.

Hannity didn’t even ask Luntz about his affiliation(s). Instead, he pushed the propaganda further by asking “what can we glean” from “the ad wars?”

Luntz again put forth his GOP talking points. After noting that what we can glean is that the public is paying very close attention, Luntz seemed to forget that he was supposedly just a neutral pollster. “We really do want to address the issue of lack of coverage for millions of Americans,” he said. Who’s “we?” The GOP? Conservatives for Patients’ Rights? CRC Public Relations? Don’t tell me he meant the polling industry.

Hannity, of course, did not take note.