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Mike Huckabee and Vince “Johnny Sack” Curatola: Two Big Fat Liars

Reported by Alex - August 28, 2009 -

Smug, lying christofascist fatcat Mike Huckabee’s guest last weekend was an equally smug, lying fatcat by the name of Vince Curatola – better known to many as “Johnny Sack” from the HBO drama The Sopranos, and as the ominous stranger in the Clinton campaign Sopranos spoof. What is less well known about Curatola, according to Huckabee, is that he is “on the board of Hackensack (N.J.) University Medical Center”, a factoid brought up by Mike Huckabee as if to lend weight to Curatola’s incredibly stupid and uninformed remarks about the health care reform bill – including, once again, the well-worn (and worn out) “death panels” lie. But it turns out that the healthcare bill wasn’t the only thing the boys were lying about. Looks like Curatola might have some ‘splainin’ to do. With video.

Huckabee started off by chatting about Curatola’s Sopranos character, Johnny Sack, who died of cancer partway through the series. This was the set-up for the big bash-the-bill cue: “Well, at least you weren’t subject to one of the death panels!” Har-de-har. What a knee-slapper.

Curatola looked alarmed. “You know, this is really…this reminds me of the Sopranos...this talking about a death order…what is that? That’s very scary!” No, Vince, what’s scary is that you, along with 45% of Fox News watchers are dumb enough or brainwashed enough to believe the “death panels” lie, and so incurious or lazy that you can’t be bothered becoming better informed.

Huckabee: “I think a lot of people have been concerned about what they don’t know about this bill.” Perhaps, Huckster, that’s partly because you and your Fox Noise cohorts have been working overtime to keep them in the dark by lying, and making sarcastic remarks about how unreadable the bill is.

Huckabee continued: “The President keeps saying, ‘Trust us, trust us’…when are we ever gonna trust the government!?” Funny about that, Huck. You were singing from a different hymn sheet when you wanted to run for President in 2008, and “some say” you want to try for the Republican nomination again in 2012. Now, if you should be elected, why should anyone trust YOU? Oh, silly me, I forgot – you get your instructions from Jesus every morning over your cornflakes and prunes.

And so it went. Blah blah blah, guffaw, har har har. Huckabee threw out the bait and Vinny ran with it: The government is going to tell you how and when to die. You won’t get the treatment you need. You’ll be told to take a pill for the pain and wait for death. We’re turning into a Socialist country. The Eastern Bloc countries tried this and are over it and now we’re “wading into the same ridiculous pool”. Single payer by the back door... Mao…Stalin…be afraid, be very afraid…and “Oh by the way, what shade of gray would you like your Mao suit to be?” Ha ha, Vince, you’re so funny.

Why should anyone take what actor Vince Curatola has to say about the healthcare bill more seriously than the opinion of, say, Jane Fonda? Why didn’t Huckabee bring on a representative from the Screen Actors Guild to explain why they support the bill, or from Artists United for Health Care for a reasoned debate?

Well, it turns out that not only is Vince Curatola an actor - he sits on the board of the Hackensack University Medical Center (HUMC) in his home state of New Jersey. Or so they say. You can hear this for yourself starting at 2:28 on the video clip:

Huckabee : “Vince, one thing that I don’t think a lot of people know – this is not some issue that you’re just interested in as an actor and an entertainer; you’re on the Board of one of the East Coast's most premier medical facilities, the … Hacken…ahh…”

Curatola: “Hackensack University Medical Center. As a matter of fact, we’ve been in the top fifty hospitals in the United States the last three years in a row.”

Huckabee: "So you're seeing this from the perspective of a university hospital board member looking at health care reform. What does need to happen?"

Wow! Vince Curatola sits on the Board of a prestigious Medical Center!?? Who knew!?

Well, the nice PR people at HUMC didn't, for starters.

My initial phone call enquiring about whether Curatola sits on the Medical Center board, and, if so, whether his remarks on Huckabee’s show reflect the opinion of the board, was met with courtesy but apparent unease. I was asked to put my questions in writing and send them to the manager of the PR department. The email I received in return said this:

Vince Curatola is a member of the Hackensack University Medical Center Foundation Board of Trustees. He was not representing the hospital during the interview. (Emphasis mine.)

Ahem: The HUMC Foundation is the fundraising arm of the Medical Center. Different board, different function. You don’t have to be a doctor to sit on that board. You don’t have to have a medical background at all. But as a matter of fact, it appears that you might be more than welcome on both the medical and the fundraising boards of HUMC if you’re a contractor, lawyer, politician, or other state or local bigshot who can grease the wheels for the hospital to rake in a few million bucks more in preferential grants or overcome local objections to expansion.

Not to say that Vince Curatola is involved in any of that. But it might have been far more instructive if Huckabee had encouraged him to expand on his remarks about the outrageous fees charged to hospitals by the pharmaceutical companies, or if indeed Huckster had asked him about the recent scandal at HUMC involving Former NJ State Sen. Joseph Coniglio, who is due to be sentenced on September 1st after his April conviction for mail fraud and extortion. Coniglio used his political position to steer millions of dollars of state grants to HUMC in exchange for $103,900 in “consulting fees”, and the tentacles of the fraud reached right into both boardrooms. I imagine Curatola might have been a teensy bit better informed about that particular issue.

If Vince Curatola is as concerned with cutting the cost medical care as he claims, he might have preferred to discuss the consumer fraud and profiteering that have come to characterize many “not-for-profit” medical centers.

Or the Huckster might have asked Vinny why he is so against health care reform now when he said, in 2007, that he might support Hillary Clinton for president if he saw her platform "leaning more and more" towards a national health care plan.

Or, given Huckabee’s interest in “death panels”, he could have asked Curatola about the “death panel” clause that appears in United Health Care’s “Members Rights And Responsibilities” document: “You have the right to choose an Advance Directive to designate the kind of care you wish to receive should you become unable to express your wishes.” Uh oh, it says it right there in black-and-white: UHC, the same private insurance group that have instructed their employees to get out there and pimp anti-reform propaganda, want to unplug Grandma. (H/T Paige).

That would have made much more interesting viewing. It also might have exposed Curatola’s self-aggrandizing exaggeration, as well as the lies of the pastor who would be President. But why ruin a good, knee-slappin, put-the-fear-o'-god-into-'em smear session with the truth?

Note to Vinny: Next time, stick to charity work. Or acting.

Update: Oops: Maybe not acting.