Yahoo's Headline Implies GOP Debate Audience Wanted Uninsured to Die

Rachel Rose Hartman's Tuesday item for Yahoo! News's "The Ticket" blog carried a misleading headline ("Audience at tea party debate cheers leaving uninsured to die") implying that the majority, if not all, of the audience at Monday's GOP presidential debate thought that the critically injured who are uninsured should be left to die. In reality, only a handful cheered and/or laughed in response to Wolf Blitzer's question.

Despite this headline, Hartman did acknowledge in her lede that "if you're uninsured and on the brink of death, that's apparently a laughing matter to some audience members at last night's tea party [sic] Republican presidential debate." She then recounted how Blitzer, who moderated the joint debate with the Tea Party Express organization, turned to Rep. Ron Paul and "asked a hypothetical question...about how society should respond if a healthy 30-year-old man who decided against buying health insurance suddenly goes into a coma and requires intensive care for six months."

The writer failed to point out that the CNN host actually hounded Rep. Paul over his hypothetical. Both her account and the video included with her post left out the part of their exchange before the Texas congressman's "freedom" answer:

BLITZER: You're a physician, Ron Paul. So, you're a doctor. You know something about this subject. Let me ask you this hypothetical question: a healthy, 30-year-old young man has a good job, makes a good living, but decides, you know what? I'm not going to spend 200 or $300 a month for health insurance, because I'm healthy. I don't need it. But you know, something terrible happens. All of a sudden, he needs it. Who's going to pay for it? If he goes into a coma, for example, who pays for that?

REP. RON PAUL: Well, in a society that you accept welfarism and socialism, he expects the government to take care of him.

BLITZER: Well, what do you want?

PAUL: But what he should do is whatever he wants to do, and assume responsibility for himself. My advice to him would have a major medical policy, but not before-

BLITZER: But he doesn't have that. He doesn't have it and he's- and he needs intensive care for six months. Who pays?

PAUL: That's what freedom is all about: taking your own risks. (audience cheers and applauds) This whole idea that you have to prepare and take care of everybody- (audience cheers and applauds)

BLITZER: But Congressman, are you saying that society should just let him die?

Hartman later noted how "the audience got involved" and that "several loud cheers of 'yeah!' followed by laughter could be heard in the Expo Hall at the Florida State Fairgrounds in response to Blitzer's question." So, despite twice acknowledging that it was only "several" members of the audience, the Yahoo! News headline made it seem like it was a lot more people involved.

Towards the end of her article, the Yahoo! News writer somehow thought it appropriate to turn to a pseudo-conservative, Andrew Sullivan, instead of a mainstream center-right figure for commentary on the exchange from the debate. Despite his endorsement of same-sex "marriage" and his equating of Sarah Palin with Hitler, Hartman still labeled Sullivan a "conservative":

Conservative Andrew Sullivan writing for The Daily Beast's The Dish Tuesday noted that the United States obligates society to save someone in an emergency room. "America, moreover, has a law on the books that makes it a crime not to treat and try to save a human being who walks into an emergency room. So we have already made that collective decision and if the GOP wants to revisit it, they can," Sullivan wrote.

Sullivan also decried the audience reaction, writing: "Maybe a tragedy like the death of a feckless twentysomething is inevitable if we are to restrain healthcare costs. But it is still a tragedy. It is not something a decent person cheers."

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan was a news analyst at Media Research Center