MSNBC's Ratigan Shouts Down Conservative Guest, 24 Hours After Lamenting 'Thuggery In Dialogue'

October 6th, 2009 4:32 PM

An interesting, yet little known fact about goldfish:  The average goldfish has a memory of approximately one to three months, depending on the stimuli used to train it.

Dylan Ratigan, former CNBC co-host and current MSNBC desk jockey, has a shorter memory than a goldfish.

As the MRC’s Tim Graham noted just yesterday, it is an odd thing when MSNBC hosts wish for more civility in political dialogue.  A mere 24 hours later, Ratigan provided another example of his insincerity during a live segment on health care.  

Former New York Lt. Governor Betsy McCaughey (R) took the conservative viewpoint, and Ratigan tag-teamed with Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner (N.Y.) in belittling her every statement.  

What follows is a rundown of that uncouth moderating.  My apologies for the epic length of the transcript, but one must see the full brutality of Ratigan’s refusal to allow McCaughey to speak at all.

First, Ratigan asked McCaughey about how to bring down health care costs.  In fairness, McCaughey initially dodged the question, but after Ratigan clarified exactly what answer she should give, she attempted to give an answer to the initial question.  

The exchange begins:
BETSY McCAUGHEY: You are missing the major issue. The major issue is that these bills are a medical assault on seniors. Covering the insured –

DYLAN RATIGAN: I want to talk about that but --

McCAUGHEY: We’re going to run out of time, and seniors need to know what’s going to happen under these bills.

RATIGAN: [Talking over McCAUGHEY] So I want to talk about that, no I want to talk about that, but I – no, I, believe me I've got time.  And I'm going to do that. But first, I want to address [now speaking alone] –  I agree with you but I want to address the cost issue first. How do you reconcile the fact that health insurance companies have antitrust exemption right now? You’ve got 80 or 90% of the market in a lot of states in this country that have only one provider. So there is no competition. You’ve got an effort by Ron Wyden and Olympia Snowe, others, trying to create real choice for all of us to participate in exchanges and the Senate can't even bring that sort of thing to a vote. How do you manage for costs? Forget the public option. You bring in whatever plan you want. I just need cost containment.

McCAUGHEY: Number one, we have to have tort reform.  In New York –

RATIGAN: I disagree with you, because that’s, as a percentage – well –

McCAUGHEY: Let me finish!

RATIGAN: You can finish after I make the point that as a percentage of incremental cost, tort reform is a very minor percentage of the costs –

McCAUGHEY: Not true in New York State! In the Bronx –

RATIGAN: In the country, it is true.

McCAUGHEY: Yes, it is true in some parts of the country.  In the Bronx, for example –

RATIGAN: It just is.

McCAUGHEY:  – it adds 10% to the cost of medical care, 5% in medical liability insurance and 5% defensive –

RATIGAN: Why would you start with tort reform when you have antitrust exemption for health insurance companies and have politicians –

McCAUGHEY: You asked me for a list and I'm not finished! But that's a very important one. That's a very important one.

RATIGAN: But let’s start with the biggest chunk – let’s start with the biggest chunks of meat – it’s not, statistically, it's just not.

McCAUGHEY: You're wrong.

RATIGAN: No, I'm not.
For those of you who have already decided to keep score for yourselves, McCaughey has finished nine sentences, two of which were not defending against Ratigan’s onslaught.  Next, Ratigan deploys the Pee-Wee Herman defense (emphasis mine):
RATIGAN: I make the point to the audience you did not acknowledge or deliver an answer to my question.

McCAUGHEY: You're not a very fair moderator!

RATIGAN: You're not a very fair answerer. So there you go. Okay? Takes one to know one. Let's deal with your issue of seniors. But I do want to make the point you unable to answer the question of restoring competition and choice, and why you wouldn't want choice and competition for health care.

McCAUGHEY: Of course, I want choice and competition. It's state laws prohibited insurance companies from offering a wide variety of choices. In New York –


McCAUGHEY: Anthony, you are ignorant about health insurance in your state.

WEINER: Name calling is your thing.
Ratigan distorted McCaughey ’s viewpoint, and while trying to respond, McCaughey was interrupted by Weiner.  After not allowing McCaughey to finish whatever her point might have been about health care in New York, Weiner accuses McCaughey of unbecoming behavior.  Yes, this interview was that bad.  No, Ratigan did not attempt to allow her to finish the point.

Ratigan then comes back to the issue of cutting costs:
RATIGAN: I tell you what if you answered my question directly, a direct question.

McCAUGHEY: I did answer your question.

RATIGAN: No you didn’t. You answered my question with a string of accusations.

McCAUGHEY: That’s not true.

RATIGAN: Let's talk about your issue with seniors. Okay?


RATIGAN: Seniors at this point currently receive three dollars on insurance rate adjusted, inflation adjusted, cost adjusted basis compared to what they have paid in. I'm not criticizing that, but it’s a mathematical fact. The average senior has put $65,000 into the system and is taking out, on average, $174,000.

McCAUGHEY: And I’m not cutting it.

RATIGAN: Okay, and that's fine. You would like to maintain a 3-1 payout from all taxpayers to seniors. That is an admirable thing. Again, I would like to maintain the 3-1 payout for every child in this country to get a better education but the problem is, the taxpayer, right now, is unable to continue to deliver $3 for every dollar that exists to indulge the emotional satisfaction and understandably so of satisfying our children, our seniors or whatever it is. Without updating the systems of delivery so we don't waste so much money so that we can actually deliver. We have this – It’s the 21st century, you’re dealing with a system that was invented in 1945, and you’re saying you don’t want to update it.

McCAUGHEY: You're not behaving like a moderator. You're behaving like a partisan.

RATIGAN: I'm behaving like somebody not getting an answer to his question.

McCAUGHEY: You haven't given me a chance.

RATIGAN: I'm all ears.

McCAUGHEY: That's right. Now you are all ears. Let me explain that the current bills in Congress –

RATIGAN: You're not answering my question.

McCAUGHEY: I haven't finished one sentence.

RATIGAN: Okay. If you're going to just indict things, then don’t bother.

McCAUGHEY: The current bills in Congress not only reduce funding for future Medicare by over 10% when 30% more people will be enrolled in the program –

RATIGAN: No, you're not answering my question. Betsy, I'm sorry. You say I'm a bad moderator, maybe you’re not used to a moderator who expects an answer to his question.

McCAUGHEY: I am answering your question but I haven't finished one sentence.
First, it should be noted that in Ratigan’s rant on Medicare, there was not a single question – and then he complained that McCaughey was not answering his question.  Nor was there a previous question on Medicare that he asked.  Thus, Ratigan is whining that McCaughey is not answering a question that nobody, including he, asked.  That is why McCaughey told him he was acting like a partisan.  

Ratigan, in that rant, was actively advocating a partisan viewpoint.  Then, Ratigan repeatedly interrupted McCaughey while she was attempting to explain the effect of currently debated legislation on Medicare – the subject of his rant.

Then, Ratigan repeats his numbers on Medicare, which leads into this:
McCAUGHEY: The Congressional Budget Office has proposed a much more intelligent way to put Medicare on a firm footing in the future and that is –

RATIGAN: Why do you want to protect large employers, unions, and health insurance companies at the –

McCAUGHEY: I'm talking about Medicare.  

RATIGAN: – expense of patients and taxpayers? I’m talking about health care.

McCAUGHEY: I’m a patient advocate.  I spend my day in the hospitals.

RATIGAN: If you're a patient advocate, why are you in favor systems that give patients less options – fewer options –

McCAUGHEY: This will go down in the history as one of the most browbeating interviews in television history.

RATIGAN: I hope it does and maybe you'll learn at that point, then, to answer questions as opposed to going on television and cast accusations.

McCAUGHEY: Let me finish.  Let me finish. The Congressional Budget Office has proposed a way to put Medicare on a firm footing without cutting care for current Medicare recipients or the baby boomers soon to be in the program. The CBO proposes inching up the eligibility age one month a year until 2043 when the eligibility age reaches 70.


McCAUGHEY: According to the Congressional Budget Office, that will restore Medicare’s fiscal stability, without harming seniors –
Ratigan asked about Medicare, she began to provide a meaningful, data-based answer, and Ratigan interrupted again.  And again.  And again.

Finally, Weiner senses an opportunity to justify his appearance on the set:
WEINER: Betsy, that was a solid answer to your question. Take away 100% of medicare for people 65 to 70.

McCAUGHEY: No! That is a very distorted –


WEINER: First, it’s a godsend that you actually gave an actual answer to the question. I want to respond. Betsy, permit me to respond to it.
And after repeatedly, time after time, interrupting Betsy McCaughey for the better part of twenty minutes, what does Ratigan say?
RATIGAN: Let him respond, just for the fun of it.
Leadership begins with one’s personal example.  If this is the kind of civility and fairness for which MSNBC aiming, one may very well conclude that their effort is doomed to failure.  Welcome to the "Morning Meeting," Ms. McCaughey – where civility and fairness are as rare as unicorns.