A government report claiming that there was no conclusive proof that long wait times led to deaths at Veterans Affairs hospitals was altered. Yet, for the second day in a row, NBC ignored this revelation. ABC's Good Morning America on Thursday allowed a scant 21 seconds, despite news reader Amy Robach hyping the "stunning admission."
On Wednesday, September 17, the House is scheduled to hold a hearing on the latest surrounding the scandal plagued Veterans Administration, specifically questions about the inspector general’s recent report on patient deaths at VA facilities. Despite the new revelations from a VA whistleblower that the VA changed its final report to downplay any connection between patient deaths and long wait times, CBS This Morning was the only network morning show to cover the story on its Wednesday morning broadcast. ABC’s Good Morning America and NBC’s Today ignored the story altogether.
As reported on Tuesday night, two of the three major broadcast networks covered a new report from the Office of the Inspector General at the Department of Veterans Affairs on the scandal-ridden agency and its Phoenix VA hospital that led to a nationwide investigation of delayed wait times and secret waiting lists.
While the coverage was mixed with ABC’s World News with Diane Sawyer completely omitting the story, the coverage in print and online sources such as Politico, the Associated Press, and The Washington Post completely missed the boat.
Wednesday's morning shows on ABC and NBC ignored the latest details of the growing scandal engulfing the Veterans Affairs department. Only CBS bothered to report on the story, allowing a scant 20 seconds. This Morning co-anchor Gayle King revealed, "USA Today says the VA scandal now includes obstruction of justice allegations. Ninety three health care facilities are being investigated by the VA's inspector general." [See video below. MP3 audio here.]
She added that the "Justice Department and FBI are joining this probe." USA Today reporter Gregg Zoroya wrote, "The report by the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General said 93 VA health care sites across the country are being investigated in connection with falsifying scheduling records to hide delays in veterans' health care and 'attempting to obstruct OIG (Office of Inspector General) and other investigative efforts.'"
On Tuesday evening, NBC Nightly News offered a soft news brief on the scandal-ridden Veterans Affairs (VA) Administration by promoting President Barack Obama’s calls that the VA’s many issues will be fixed on his watch. In addition, substitute anchor Lestor Holt made quick mention of an inspector general’s report that the actions of the agency in delays in veterans waiting for care did not result in any veteran’s death.
What NBC Nightly News failed to mention in their one-sided report was that skepticism surrounding the VA remains as both widows of veterans who died awaiting care and one of the whistle-blowers who brought the problems at the VA to light are publically raising doubts about the report’s findings. [MP3 audio here; Video below]
Over the weekend, leaders from the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees reached an agreement on legislation to reform the troubled Department of Veterans Affairs with the full details unveiled during a press conference Monday afternoon. When it came to the major broadcast networks covering this breakthrough in their Monday morning news shows, NBC’s Today decided not to inform their viewers of the story. Maybe it was because NBC was too concerned telling them how Congress wasn't working to notice.
Between the two networks that did cover the latest in the VA scandal, ABC and CBS, ABC’s Good Morning America clocked in with the lowest amount of air time (no surprises here) with only a 16 second news brief during the 7:00 a.m. hour. Meanwhile, CBS This Morning had a report from CBS News congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes on the bipartisan negotiations and included numerous details of the plan. [MP3 audio here; Video below]
On Tuesday, July 22, Robert McDonald, President Obama’s nominee to take over as Secretary for the embattled Department of Veterans Affairs, appeared before the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, yet his testimony received a minuscule 24 seconds on ABC, CBS, and NBC.
In fact, the only “big three” coverage of McDonald’s testimony came on Tuesday morning, before the actual hearing occurred, courtesy of NBC’s Today. None of the network newscasts covered the actual nomination proceedings on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning.
ABC’s Good Morning America and CBS This Morning both ignored the news Tuesday morning that President Obama’s nominee to become the next Secretary of the scandal-ridden Department of Veterans Affairs will testify today on Capitol Hill in his confirmation hearing.
NBC’s Today did cover the news, but only in the form of a 24 second news brief during the 7:00 a.m. hour from news reader Natalie Morales. Morales reported that: “VA Secretary nominee Robert McDonald will be in the spotlight today when he goes before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee for a nomination hearing. The former Proctor and Gamble Chairman, President, and CEO was nominated by President Obama last month as the permanent replacement for Eric Shinseki. Shinseki resigned in May in the scandal for long waits of appointments and secret waiting lists at VA medical centers.” [MP3 audio here; Video below]
The network disinterest in the Veterans Affairs scandal intensified on Wednesday. NBC and ABC ignored the story of a man whose treatment was approved – two years after death. CBS This Morning allowed a scant 22 seconds on the topic.
Co-anchor Gayle King related, "Douglas Chase of Rutland, Vermont was diagnosed with cancer back in 2011. The drive to a Boston hospital became too much. His family wanted to move his treatment to a nearby V.A. facility." She added, "Last month, the request was approved, 22 months after Douglas Chase passed away." Considering that coverage of the scandal engulfing Barack Obama's VA dropped 84 percent in June, the scant attention for this story shouldn't be shocking. [See video below. MP3 audio here.]
In May, Americans were horrified by the scandal enveloping the Veterans Affairs and the media seemed to agree. World News anchor Diane Sawyer denounced the secret lists and substandard care as a "national outrage." But as the story grew and evolved in June, ABC, CBS and NBC seem to have already moved past the "outrage." In June, the networks allowed a scant 30 minutes, compared to 180 minutes in May. This is a drop of 84 percent.
According an analysis by the Media Research Center, ABC devoted 28 minutes in May to the VA controversy, but only five in June. CBS offered 78 minutes in May, but only 15 the following month. NBC's coverage dropped off a cliff in June, falling from 73 minutes to just ten. Journalists lost interest in the story even as big developments kept occurring. Among the examples:
Friday's World News on ABC glossed over the release of Deputy White House Chief of Staff Rob Nabors's report on the scandal at the Veterans Administration. President Obama had sent Nabors to look into the long wait times at veterans hospitals nationwide. Instead, the evening newscast set aside almost two minutes of air time to a woman, who is eight months pregnant, competing in a track and field competition.
On CBS Evening News, Scott Pelley led the broadcast with the "bleak picture" detailed in the new report. Correspondent Wyatt Andrews spotlighted how Nabors "combined scathing criticism with ideas on moving the V.A. forward." Brian Williams used the same label as Andrews during his 24-second news brief about the story on NBC Nightly News: [MP3 audio available here; video below the jump]
While this week’s coverage of the Obama administration’s exchange of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five senior Taliban officials has been generally critical, the broadcast networks have helped Team Obama out on another front — since Monday, coverage of the Veterans Affairs waiting list scandal has been virtually nonexistent.
Despite the continuously unfolding developments on the scandal, the major news networks of ABC, CBS, and NBC devoted barely two minutes this week to the story. Altogether, the morning and evening shows had a combined 46 hours of air time from Monday through Friday morning, yet offered up a mere 2 minutes and 16 seconds of coverage. Not a single VA story this week amounted to more than 30 seconds in length [MP3 audio here; video below].