NY Times John Harwood Channels Jayson Blair

We’re all used to advocacy journalism from the NY Times and others in the media. But in a  recent example, it appears John Harwood was not happy to simply spin his story as usual, he took it a step further and simply lied about a series of objective facts..  If you read the story it is obviously Harwood’s attempt to defend Obamacare.  In a story ostensibly about the challenges of implementing Obamacare,  Hardwood instead falls into the lazy rut of listing the problems Obamacare is causing and then giving the Democrat spin on it. Two quick examples to illustrate that point:

The law poses some modest potential headaches for the overall economy. [Really? No opinion here eh? – ED]

It requires, for example, that businesses with 50 or more full-time workers either offer insurance coverage or pay a penalty. Mr. Goolsbee said he would be watching whether companies around that threshold either defer hiring or shift some full-time workers to part-time jobs.

But the number of such companies is small.

No discussions about the dozens (hundreds?) of companies that have already said they will cut employees’ hours.  Hardwood -in a straight- news story- simply states as fact that the potential headaches  are ‘modest.” Does anyone really believe that? Certainly the Democrats who wrote it don’t.  Here’s another example of Hardwood listing a problem then -not exploring the problem- only reciting the Whitehouse spin.

Some younger health care customers will face a significant increase in their insurance premiums,…

Yet those increases may be offset by subsidies available to lower-income customers and, for women, by rules barring insurers from charging women more.

Most significant is that those increases apply only to the small fraction of Americans who buy health insurance individually.

He made no  attempt to quantify the number of people faced with the increase or what the increase will be, he just recites the spin that the impact will be minimal. That is the template he used for most of the story, but he took it a step further when he apparently invented facts to counter truths he found inconvenient. From the lede: (emphasis mine)

WASHINGTON –This month, a political organization aligned with House Republicans sent an e-mail to reporters attacking President Obama’s health care law.

“Young adults on parents’ plan pay more,” said the organization, the YG Network, citing a new employee benefits study. The e-mail’s subject line read “So Much for Popularity.”

Actually, the study did not show those young adults were paying more. It showed insurance companies were, because they had begun providing health coverage to those young adults, as called for under the law.

The missive, inaccurate though it was, illustrates the immense challenge facing the Obama administration as it puts in place the most significant parts of the 2010 law.

I ‘knew’ instantly when I read the lede it was a fabrication. (As any editor should have.)  It knew it was wrong for two reasons. First, insurance companies don’t pay for healthcare, premium holders do.  No study worth the paper it is printed on would say otherwise. Harwood, implies that insurance companies just pass out money thanks to Obamacare. Second, why wold someone lie about the contents of a study? You can find a study to say anything today, why not just find one that proved your point? ‘Knowing’ it was a lie, (as his professional editor should have) it didn’t take long to run down the proof. Let’s start with the so-called ‘inaccurate’ email. I will quote it in its entirety.

So Much For Popularity

Happy Friday folks,

An important lesson today: What’s popular isn’t necessarily good. Clear evidence of this point is the Chicago Cubs franchise.

But this idea applies to Obamacare as well. The most popular provision of the bill is letting children stay on their parents’ health insurance until age 26. However, research suggests that this move is not a best-case scenario. Per The Wall Street Journal, the Employee Benefits Research Institute found that “newly enrolled young adults incurred $2,866 in health costs, on average, or around $2 million in all. A comparison group of 13,000 young adults who had their own coverage through the company used an average $2,472 of health services each — 15% less.” [remember that quote kids – ED]

Obamacare in all facets is simply too expensive and has too many unintended consequences. While the 26 and under law isn’t a terrible idea, this research shows that the President should be out touting the benefits of employer-based coverage. No wonder Secretary Sebelius did not see how difficult implementing the law would be.

The phrase Hardwood has a problem with YG Network using,  “Young adults on parents’ plan pay more”, with didn’t even appear in their email. He made that up. Full Stop.

The reason he attributed it to some relatively unknown group is because the real source was considerably more credible,  a headline from the Wall Street Journal.

Young Adults on Parents’ Health Plans Cost More

Young adults who stayed on their parents’ insurance plans under a popular provision in the federal health law incurred slightly higher health costs than young adults who had their own coverage, largely because they used more care for mental health, substance abuse and pregnancy, new research suggests. …

“newly enrolled young adults incurred $2,866 in health costs, on average, or around $2 million in all. A comparison group of 13,000 young adults who had their own coverage through the company used an average $2,472 of health services each — 15% less.” [That’s the quote ED]

Harwood smeared YG Netowrk when all they did was accurately quote the Journal. — Also notice, the WSJ linked the study. [pdf]  Not only does the correct quote appear in the study (on page 6) but the conclusion goes further and supports the WSJ story.  (from page 12)

However, the implementation of the adult dependent mandate (ADM) provision of the law does not come without costs.While under PPACA, employers are not allowed to directly charge higher premiums for the cost of adult-dependent coverage, employers and workers will share the higher cost of health care services associated with the mandate provision through claims payments, cost sharing, and worker premiums

Workers paid for some of that spending through cost sharing and their share of the premium, and employers paid for the remainder.

Nowhere does it say insurance companies ate the cost increase as Hardwood told his readers. He made that up. Full Stop.

If you’ve lost track at home, by my count in four sentences, Hardwood:

1) Lied about what YG Network’s email said.

2) Lied about YG Network’s cite in their mail,

3) Lied about who paid for the cost increases.

4)  Smeared YG for being “inaccurate.” (Irony alert)

5) He spread the smear to House Republicans who had nothing to do with any of this…. claiming (by inference) that House Republicans where lying about Obamacare and…

6) He claimed (by very convenient inference)  that Hose Republicans were “attacking” President Obama.

This story begs many question. The most obvious of which is, why did Hardwood feel obligated to open the story with a fable?

How did this story hit the paper? If I knew the instant I read it the story had problems, why didn’t his highly respected professional editor? [insert your own joke about layers and layers of fact checkers and editors here]

What will the Times do with this information? This story has serious problems and Hardwood owes both the YG Network and House Republicans multiple apologies.

We’ve reached out to the Times Public Editor to ask for comment. We’ll let you know how that turns out. Also I will be reviewing (as his editors should) some of his past work to see if this is a pattern. (à la Jayson Blair)

Harwood’s missive inaccurate though it was, illustrates the immense challenge facing the people who actually tell the truth have dealing with the media today.  Much of the media will simply lie to support their agenda.

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