CNN Calls Out Clinton's Dismissal of VA Problems: 'Stunned a Lot of People'

On Wednesday's Anderson Cooper 360 on CNN, host Anderson Cooper and Senior Investigative Correspondent Drew Griffin called out Hillary Clinton for claiming that the VA's backlog problems have "not been as widespread as it has been made out to be," as Griffin asserted that her words "stunned a lot of people," and that veterans he spoke to, on both sides of the political divide, "None of them, I should say, Anderson, are happy that she's tried to make this a political issue."

Host Cooper set up the segment by relating that Clinton's recent interview on MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show had "set off a firestorm":

ANDERSON COOPER: Tonight, Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton is under fire for comments she made about the health care scandal, the Veterans Administration, a story we had been reporting on for years. Here's what she said in an interview with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow.

HILLARY CLINTON: It's not been as widespread as it has been made out to be.

COOPER: Those 13 words set off a firestorm. Today, Senator John McCain demanded Clinton apologize, calling her remarks "disgraceful." Rep. Jeff Miller, chair of the House Committee for Veterans Affairs, also blasted her.

After recounting Griffin's past reporting on the VA's outrageous backlog problems which led to the resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, Cooper brought on the CNN correspondent and asked if Clinton's claim "surprised" him. Cooper:

As we mentioned, you've been reporting on this for years. You were really the one to break the scandal into full view. Does it surprise you that Hillary Clinton would make this comment?

Griffin admitted to being surprised and informed viewers that the problem is "not getting better." Griffin:

You know, Anderson, it really does, and here's why: It's a matter of record, and report after report has shown this -- that the delays in care, deaths of veterans waiting for care, and wait lists were and are widespread and systemic. And even two years of this in many places. It's not getting better. In fact, listen to this whistleblower we recently interviewed.

After playing clips of an anonymous whistleblower describing recent VA problems, the CNN correspondent recalled that people are "stunned" at Clinton's comments because they so contradict the facts:

Anderson, this is recent. The VA's deputy secretary told me just a few weeks ago as many as half a million vets still waiting for appointments at least 30 days out. Many places, wait times continue to go in the wrong direction. They are simply the facts, which is why what Secretary Clinton said stunned a lot of people really.

Cooper and Griffin concluded by recalling how veterans have reacted to Clinton's remarks:

ANDERSON COOPER: What are you hearing from veterans? I mean, how are they reacting to Secretary Clinton's comments?

DREW GRIFFIN: They were caught off guard because these problems, as I've said, are facts. What Secretary Clinton said is just not true. So the vets that are sympathetic to her tell me that she must be ill-advised on these issues. And those politically opposed, as you can imagine, say it shows that she just shouldn't be Commander-in-Chief. None of them, I should say, Anderson, are happy that she's tried to make this a political issue, Anderson.

Below is a complete transcript of the segment from the Wednesday, October 28, Anderson Cooper 360 on CNN:

8:49 p.m.
ANDERSON COOPER: Tonight, Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton is under fire for comments she made about the health care scandal, the Veterans Administration, a story we had been reporting on for years. Here's what she said in an interview with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow.

HILLARY CLINTON: It's not been as widespread as it has been made out to be.

COOPER: Those 13 words set off a firestorm. Today, Senator John McCain demanded Clinton apologize, calling her remarks "disgraceful." Rep. Jeff Miller, chair of the House Committee for Veterans Affairs, also blasted her.

"Keeping Them Honest," Senior Investigative Correspondent Drew Griffin has spent many hours documenting the widespread problems at the VA. He's uncovered veterans in need of medical care waiting months to see doctors, sometimes, some of them dying while they waited, while VA employees cooking the books to hide the long delays. Drew's reporting helped spark outrage, investigations, and new leadership. The revelations led to the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. Today, Clinton's press secretary was in damage control mode and said wait times and other mismanagement of care by the VA were indeed systematic and said that Mrs. Clinton will roll out her plan to reform the VA in the next months.

Drew Griffin joins me now. As we mentioned, you've been reporting on this for years. You were really the one to break the scandal into full view. Does it surprise you that Hillary Clinton would make this comment?

DREW GRIFFIN: You know, Anderson, it really does, and here's why: It's a matter of record, and report after report has shown this -- that the delays in care, deaths of veterans waiting for care, and wait lists were and are widespread and systemic. And even two years of this in many places. It's not getting better. In fact, listen to this whistleblower we recently interviewed.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The reality is veterans are waiting months. three, six months at a time, sometimes more, for care at the Phoenix VA.

GRIFFIN: Like most of our sources inside the VA, this whistleblower in Phoenix has asked that we not reveal any identity.

GRIFFIN: And are we talking about critical care? Who are these patients?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: These are patients that are waiting for appointments, everything from colonoscopies to angiograms to procedures to remove tumors. These are specialty appointments that need to be seen immediately by the VA.

GRIFFIN: Anderson, this is recent. The VA's deputy secretary told me just a few weeks ago as many as half a million vets still waiting for appointments at least 30 days out. Many places, wait times continue to go in the wrong direction. They are simply the facts, which is why what Secretary Clinton said stunned a lot of people really.

COOPER: What are you hearing from veterans? I mean, how are they reacting to Secretary Clinton's comments?

GRIFFIN: They were caught off guard because these problems, as I've said, are facts. What Secretary Clinton said is just not true. So the vets that are sympathetic to her tell me that she must be ill-advised on these issues. And those politically opposed, as you can imagine, say it shows that she just shouldn't be Commander-in-Chief. None of them, I should say, Anderson, are happy that she's tried to make this a political issue, Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Drew, thanks very much.

2016 Presidential Health Care Medical Insurance CNN Anderson Cooper 360 MSNBC Rachel Maddow Show Veterans Affairs Anderson Cooper Drew Griffin Rachel Maddow Hillary Clinton


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