Biographer of Obama's Mother Won't Discuss Debunking of His Health Insurance Falsehood

July 18th, 2011 4:29 PM

For having made a shocking revelation that deeply undermined one the most repeated stories of Obama's 2008 campaign and 2009 health care debate, Janny Scott is staying extremely quiet. Scott's new book, 'A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama's Mother,' proved false Obama's claim that his mother was fighting with insurance companies from her death bed, one of Obama's favorite lines to use when campaigning and appealing for the passage of Obamacare.

Yesterday, the Washington Examiner's Byron York wrote of being turned down twice after trying to reach Scott for an interview, even though the New York Times landed an interview with her in between York's two requests. It seems likely that Scott, whose liberal bias has been exposed here at NewsBusters and at our sister site TimesWatch, is not thrilled that conservatives have used her book as a way of exposing the liberal president.

Scott has previously written glowing accolades of the president and contributed to series on racial experiences and social classes in America. One of her racially-centered pieces, published during Obama's 2008 campaign, was written partially as a critique of the way conservative politicians use rhetoric to hide their supposedly racist beliefs. As NewsBusters' Clay Waters explained, Scott used the liberal rationale that Republican success in presidential elections, particularly in the case of Ronald Reagan, can be attributed to their hidden bigotry. From Scott's article,

Race did not disappear entirely from presidential campaigns; it went under cover. It lay buried in code phrases like "crime in the streets," "states' rights," and "welfare mothers."

Michael Klarman, a professor at the University of Virginia Law School who specializes in the constitutional history of race, said, "Nixon talks about ‘law and order,' which is a code term for the urban race riots and rising crime rates. He talks about appointing strict conservatives to the Supreme Court, which is a code term for justices who won't insist on mandatory busing. And he talks explicitly about how we ought to have ‘local control of schools.' Without explicitly using the language of race, he is saying whites shouldn't have to go to school with blacks."

In 1980, Ronald Reagan, campaigning on a platform that included "states' rights," opened his general election campaign in Philadelphia, Miss. -- a decision criticized because it was where three civil rights workers had been murdered in 1964.

Since leaving the Times, Scott had been working on her recently published 'Singular Woman' biography as a thorough look at the relatively unknown life of Obama's mother. In a very small fraction of her 384-page biography, she debunked Obama's health insurance tale, but that gem of information has quickly become the most talked about fact garnered from her work. As York previously reported,

[...] "Ann's compensation for her job in Jakarta had included health insurance, which covered most of the costs of her medical treatment," Scott writes. "Once she was back in Hawaii, the hospital billed her insurance company directly, leaving Ann to pay only the deductible and any uncovered expenses, which, she said, came to several hundred dollars a month."

Scott writes that Dunham, who wanted to be compensated for those costs as well as for her living expenses, "filed a separate claim under her employer's disability insurance policy." It was that claim, with the insurance company CIGNA, that was denied in August 1995 because, CIGNA investigators said, Dunham's condition was known before she was covered by the policy.

This is markedly different than Obama's frequently recounted story of his mother fighting with insurance companies from her death bed in the days leading up to her dying. As Michelle Malkin explained,

The tall-tale-teller-in-chief cited mom Stanley Ann Dunham's deathbed fight with her insurer several times over the years to support his successful push to ban pre-existing condition exclusions by insurers. In a typical recounting, Obama shared his personalized trauma during a 2008 debate: "For my mother to die of cancer at the age of 53 and have to spend the last months of her life in the hospital room arguing with insurance companies because they're saying that this may be a pre-existing condition and they don't have to pay her treatment, there's something fundamentally wrong about that."

In fact, Obama even ran an entire campaign ad based on the apparent insurance struggles.

Last month, before the insurance revelation had come to the attention of conservative journalists, Scott sat down with Stephen Colbert on 'The Colbert Report' to discuss the new book. During her interview, she praised Obama's mother as "thoroughly unconventional," a woman who "over and over made remarkable choices that would be hard to make even now." Scott went on to say "her story really sheds a lot of light...on the president, a person who I don't think many Americans fully understand."

After coming across the pointed contradiction between what Obama told Americans and what Scott's book says, York tried to contact Scott for an interview to press her for further information. York was turned down by Scott's publicist at at Penguin Group, with a note saying "Janny has let us know that she has made all the key points known regarding this issue and she doesn't have anything new to add to the story."

Even without Scott's interview, York went ahead with his column, but only a few days later, the New York Times published its own account of the story. This time, Scott did grant an interview, although she did not add any new details. As York pointed out yesterday, the Times article made no direct quotes and only two references to the interview.

Ms. Scott said in an interview that her reporting relied on copies of letters from Ms. Dunham to Cigna that were made available by friends….

Ms. Scott said in the interview that she did not turn up documents to suggest that Ms. Dunham had a similar dispute with her health insurer, which she did not name. She said she could not determine from the documents she viewed whether Mr. Obama, then a lawyer in Chicago, had in fact petitioned Cigna on his mother's behalf.

Following the Times story, York again contacted Scott's Penguin Group publicist to see if Scott would divulge any details not included in the book. For example, one piece of information York wanted to know was the name of Dunham's health insurer. Again, York was turned down with an even simpler note. "Thank you for contacting us again regarding Janny Scott...The author does not have any new information to add to the story."

In a case of bias by omission, Scott seems far more willing to give interviews to her friends in liberal media over their conservative counterparts. She knows outlets like the New York Times and media pundits like Stephen Colbert won't press her on the issue of Dunham's insurance coverage myth, whereas conservative journalists would.

With nearly 400 pages written about Dunham, though, it is likely that Scott knows more than she's revealing. Having knowledge of "the whole history of [Dunham's] medical crisis in the last year of her life," it's quite possible that there is more information that she is refusing to spill, and it can be expected that the mainstream media won't demand it from her to prevent exposing Obama as a liar.