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Editor, The Konformist
CNN vs. SiCKO
Filmmaker Michael Moore appeared on CNN's Situation Room on July 9
to talk about his new film Sickobut ended up having an animated
discussion with host Wolf Blitzer about a CNN "fact check" of the
film that made several embarrassing errors.
The piece--dubbed a "Reality Check" by senior medical correspondent
Dr. Sanjay Gupta--claimed that Moore "fudged the facts" when
critiquing the U.S. health care system (click here to watch the
clip). Gupta starts by acknowledging that the U.S. healthcare system
placed 37th in the World Health Organization's rankings. The fact
that Moore contrasts this with the Cuban system led Gupta to "catch"
him: "But hold on. That WHO list puts Cuba's healthcare system even
lower than the United States, coming in at number 39."
The fact that the U.S.'s healthcare system does about as well as a
Third World island that's been under economic sanctions for the past
five decades isn't much of a catch to begin with. But Cuba's WHO
ranking actually appears in Moore's film. (As Moore's website
pointed out, when CNN aired the relevant clip from his film, a CNN
logo covered up Cuba on the list.)
Gupta's next fact check:
"Moore asserts that the American healthcare system spends $7,000 per
person on health, whereas Cuba spends $25 per person. Not true, but
not too far off. The United States spends $6,096 a year per person
versus $229 a year in Cuba."
Actually, Moore was much closer than Gupta: according to the
Department of Health & Human Services, U.S. per capita healthcare
spending was projected to reach $7,092 in 2006, and $7,498 for this
On a July 10 debate with Moore on CNN's Larry King Live, Gupta tried
to claim that these projected numbers were somehow invalid, as if
the continuously rising costs of healthcare should not be taken into
account when discussing healthcare expenditures. Ironically, during
the same discussion, Gupta cited Medicare's looming insolvency as a
reason not to support expanding the program--a financial crunch that
of course is also based on projections of steadily rising healthcare
What's moreGupta's "reality check" got the film's claims wrong:
Moore said Cuba spent $251 per person, not $25.
Gupta went on to claim that Sicko portrays "medical utopia
elsewhere," when in fact studies show the U.S. system is better in
"The film is filled with content Canadians and Brits sitting in
waiting rooms, confident care will come. In Canada, you can be
waiting for a long time. A survey of six industrialized nations
found that only Canada was worse than the United States when it came
to waiting for a doctor's appointment for a medical problem."
This is a grossly misleading characterization of the Commonwealth
Fund's survey; instead of stressing that the study found that the
United States did better than one country with universal care in
terms of waiting time, Gupta could more relevantly have focused on
the fact that four out of five of the universal healthcare countries
studied (including Britain) outperformed the U.S. on the very
measure that he singled out to show that you don't find "medical
It's worth noting that the study that Gupta cited placed the U.S. as
the worst overall of all the healthcare system studied, placing it
last or next to last in all but one of eight criteria, while
spending almost twice as much per capita as the next most expensive
system. Gupta's example was a clear case of cherry-picking--
selecting only the data that fits your argument--something he
accused Moore of doing.
When Moore confronted CNN's Blitzer about the inaccuracies in
their "reality check" segment, he responded: "Well, if we get that
confirmed, obviously, we'll correct the record." And CNN did correct
one thing Gupta acknowledged his error about Cuba's per capita
spending ($25 versus $251). On CNN's Newsroom (7/10/07), Gupta
seemed taken aback by the whole thing, saying, "Yesterday there was
a lot said by Michael, quite frankly, lots of numbers thrown around,
and it can get admittedly somewhat confusing."
He did not apologize for criticizing Moore for using current
healthcare figures rather than outdated ones, or for implying that
Moore concealed Cuba's healthcare ranking, or for misleading viewers
about the findings of the survey on waiting times. "We're
comfortable with what we presented," Gupta said, aside from
misrepresenting what Moore reported about Cuban healthcare costs by
a factor of 10, which Gupta attributed to "an error of transcribing
the number down incorrectly."
"As a journalist and a doctor the facts are extremely important to
me," Gupta claimed. That priority is not at all evident from his
report on Sicko, which instead suggested that his chief goal was
discrediting Moore's film. In pursuit of that mission he ended up
making more serious factual errors than any he actually found in
Moore's film. Gupta's failure to retract the other falsehoods,
beyond his "transcribing" error, suggests that facts are actually of
little importance to him compared to maintaining the pretense that
he is an expert and that activist/journalists like Moore are not to
The tendency for mainstream journalists to resist criticism is not
surprising. Gupta's CNN colleague Kyra Phillips perhaps said it best
when she referred to the second part of Moore's interview with
Blitzer: "You can tune in to the Situation Room at 4:00 Eastern for
a little more unedited Moore interview, if you can stomach it."
The implication couldn't be clearer: If we make false claims about
your work, it's downright rude of you to say something about it.
ACTION: Contact CNN's Situation Room and demand that they correct
the other mistakes in Gupta's "fact check" on Michael Moore's film.
Phone: (212) 275-7800
For more background, go to:
July 10th, 2007
'SiCKO' Truth Squad Sets CNN Straight
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN: "(Moore says) the United States slipped to
number 37 in the world's health care systems. It's true. ... Moore
brings a group of patients, including 9/11 workers, to Cuba and
marvels at their free treatment and quality of care. But hold on -
that WHO list puts Cuba's health care system even lower than the
United States, coming in at #39."
"But hold on?" 'SiCKO' clearly shows the WHO list, with the United
States at number #37, and Cuba at #39. Right up on the screen in big
five-foot letters. It's even in the trailer! CNN should have its
reporter see his eye doctor. The movie isn't hiding from this fact.
Just the opposite:
CNN hides the facts on Cuba
But 'SiCKO' has the facts right up front
The fact that the healthcare system in an impoverished nation
crippled by our decades-old blockade (including medical supplies and
drugs) ranks so closely to ours is more an indictment of the
American system than the Cuban system.
Although Cuba ranks lower overall than the United States, it still
has a lower infant mortality rate and longer life span.
And unlike the United States, Cuba offers healthcare to absolutely
everyone. In an independent Gallup poll conducted in Cuba, "a near
unanimous 96 percent of respondents say that health care in Cuba is
accessible to everyone." ("Cubans Show Little Satisfaction with
Opportunities and Individual Freedom Rare Independent Survey Finds
Large Majorities Are Still Proud of Island's Health Care and
Education," January 10,2007.
CNN: "Moore asserts that the American health care system spends
$7,000 per person on health. Cuba spends $25 dollars per person. Not
true. But not too far off. The United States spends $6,096 per
person, versus $229 per person in Cuba."
According to our own government the Department of Health and Human
Services' National Health Expenditures Projections the United
States will spend $7,092 per capita on health in 2006 and $7,498 in
2007. (Department of Health and Human Services Center for Medicare
and Medicaid Expenditures, National Health Expenditures Projections
As for Cuba Dr. Gupta and CNN need to watch 'SiCKO' first before
commenting on it. 'SiCKO' says Cuba spends $251 per person on health
care, not $25, as Gupta reports. And the BBC reports that Cuba's per
capita health expenditure is
$251! (Keeping Cuba Healthy, BBC, Aug.
is confirmed by the United Nations Human Development Report, 2006.
Yup, Cuba spends $251 per person on health care.
points out, the World Health Organization does calculate Cuba's per
capita health expenditure at $229 per person. We chose to use the UN
numbers, a minor difference - and $229 is a lot closer to $251 than
CNN: In fact, Americans live just a little bit longer than Cubans on
Just the opposite. The 2006 United Nations Human Development
Report's human development index states the life expectancy in the
United States is 77.5 years. It is 77.6 years in Cuba. (Human
Development Report 2006, United Nations Development Programme, 2006
at 283. http://hdr.undp.org/hdr2006/pdfs/report/HDR06-complete.pdf)
CNN: The United States ranks highest in patient satisfaction.
True, but even when the WHO took patient satisfaction into account
in its comprehensive review of the world's health systems, we still
came in at #37. ("World Health Organization Assesses The World's
Health Systems," Press Release, WHO/44, June 21, 2000.
Patients may be satisfied in America, but not everyone gets to be a
patient. 47 million are uninsured and are rarely patients - until
it's too late. In the rest of the Western world, everyone and anyone
can be a patient because everyone is covered. (And don't face
exclusions for pre-existing conditions, co-pays, deductibles, and
costly monthly premiums).
It's not that other countries are unhappy with their health care
for example, "70 to 80 percent of Canadians find their waiting times
acceptable." ("Access to health care services in Canada, Waiting
times for specialized services (January to December 2005),"
Statistics Canada, http://www.statcan.ca/english/freepub/82-575-
CNN: Americans have shorter wait times than everyone but Germans
when seeking non-emergency elective procedures, like hip
replacement, cataract surgery, or knee repair.
This isn't the whole truth. CNN pulled out a statistic about
elective procedures. Of the six countries surveyed in that study
(United States, Canada, New Zealand, UK, Germany, Australia) only
Canada had longer waiting times than America for sick adults waiting
to schedule a doctor's appointment for a medical problem. 81% of
patients in New Zealand got a same or next-day appointment for a non-
routine visit, 71% in Britain, 69% in Germany, 66% in Australia, 47%
in the U.S., and 36% in Canada. (The Doc's in, but It'll be AWhile.
Catherine Arnst, Business Week. June 22, 2007
"Gerard Anderson, a Johns Hopkins health policy professor who has
spent his career examining the world's healthcare, said there are
delays, but not as many as conservatives state. In Canada, the
United Kingdom and France, 'three percent of hospital discharges had
delays in treatment,' Anderson told The Miami Herald. 'That's a
relatively small number, and they're all elective surgeries, such as
hip and knee replacement.' (John Dorschner, "'SiCKO' film is set to
spark debate; Reformers are gearing up for 'Sicko,' the first major
movie to examine America's often maligned healthcare system," Miami
Herald, June 29, 2007.)
One way America is able to achieve decent waiting times is that it
leaves 47 million people out of the health care system entirely,
unlike any other Western country. When you remove 47 million people
from the line, your wait should be shorter. So why is the U.S.
second to last in wait times?
And there are even more Americans who keep themselves out of the
system because of cost - in the United States, 24 percent of the
population did not get medical care due to cost. That number is 5
percent in Canada, and 3 percent in the UK. (Inequities in Health
Care: A Five-Country Survey. Robert Blendon et al, Health Affairs.
CNN: (PAUL KECKLEY-Deloitte Health Care Analyst): "The concept that
care is free in France, in Canada, in Cuba - and it's not. Those
citizens pay for health services out of taxes. As a proportion of
their household income, it's a significant number
true that the French pay higher taxes, and so does nearly every
country ahead of the United States on that list."
'SiCKO' never claims that health care is provided absolutely for
free in other countries, without tax contributions from citizens.
Former MP Tony Benn reads from the NHS founding pamphlet, which
explicitly states that "this is not a charity. You are paying for it
mainly as taxpayers." 'SiCKO' also acknowledges that the French
are "drowning in taxes." Comparatively, many Americans are drowning
in insurance premiums, deductibles, co-pays and medical debt and the
resulting threat of bankruptcy half of all bankruptcies in the
United States are triggered by medical bills. (Medical Bills Make up
Half of Bankruptcies. Feb. 2005, MSNBC.
CNN: "But even higher taxes don't guarantee the coverage everyone
(KECKLEY): 15 to 20 percent of the population will purchase
services outside the system of care run by the government."
It's not clear what country Keckley is referring to. In the United
Kingdom, only 11.5 percent of the population has supplementary
insurance, but it doesn't take the place of NHS insurance. Nobody in
France buys insurance that replaces government insurance either,
although a substantial amount buys some form of complimentary
insurance. ( Private health insurance and access to health care in
the European Union. Spring 2004.
CNN: "But no matter how much Moore fudged the facts, and he did
fudge some facts
This is libel. There is not a single fact that is "fudged" in the
film. No one has proven a single fact in the film wrong. We expect
CNN to correct their mistakes on the air and to apologize to their
In Sicko "fact check," CNN's Gupta falsely claimed his
source's "only affiliation is with Vanderbilt University"
Wednesday July 11, 2007
Summary: After Sicko director Michael Moore said that CNN's Sicko
fact-check "healthcare expert" Paul Keckley is "a person from a
think tank group who is a big Republican contributor," CNN's Dr.
Sanjay Gupta asserted that Keckley's "only affiliation" is with
Vanderbilt University. Gupta continued, "We checked it, Michael. We
checked his conflict of interest. We do ask those questions." In
fact, as a caption accompanying Gupta's original report stated,
Keckley is a "Deloitte Healthcare Expert."
On the July 10 edition of CNN's Larry King Live, CNN chief medical
correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta falsely asserted that the "only
affiliation" of Paul Keckley, whom Gupta had quoted criticizing the
national health care systems of France, Canada, and Cuba during a
July 9 "fact check" of filmmaker Michael Moore's documentary Sicko,
was "with Vanderbilt University." Gupta was responding to Moore's
claim that Keckley was "a person from a think tank group who is a
big Republican contributor." Moore also said that Keckley "has done
business with [health insurance provider] Blue Cross, with
[pharmaceutical firm] Aventis, with these other groups," and claimed
that Keckley was affiliated "with a think tank that's connected to
[presidential candidate and former Wisconsin Gov.] Tommy Thompson
[R]." In denying Moore's allegations, Gupta asserted: "We checked
it, Michael. We checked his conflict of interest. We do ask those
questions." In fact, in Gupta's original report -- which King
excerpted during his show -- the caption identified Keckley not as
affiliated "with Vanderbilt University," but rather as a "Deloitte
Healthcare Expert." Indeed, in addition to serving on the faculty of
Vanderbilt University, Keckley is the executive director of the
Deloitte Center for Health Solutions.
During the July 9 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, Gupta
presented a segment billed as a "fact check" of Moore's film,
describing how Moore "fudged the facts." During the segment, he
played two clips of Keckley, identified in the caption as
a "Deloitte Healthcare Expert." During the first clip, following
Gupta's statement that "[a] survey of six industrialized nations
found that only Canada was worse than the United States when it came
to waiting for a doctor's appointment for a medical problem,"
Keckley asserted: "That's the reality of those systems. There are
quotas. There are planned wait times. The concept that care is free
in France, in Canada and Cuba, and it's not." Keckley
continued: "Those citizens pay for health services out of taxes. And
as a proportion of their household income, it's a significant
number." During the second clip, which followed Gupta's statement
that while citizens of countries with universal health care are
subject to higher taxes than in the United States, "even higher
taxes don't give all the coverage everyone wants," Keckley
said: "Fifteen to 20 percent of the population will purchase
services outside the system of care run by the government."
Gupta and Moore then appeared on the July 10 edition of Larry King
Live to discuss Gupta's "fact check." After appearing on Larry King
Live, Moore put several links on his website to back up his
assertions to Gupta.
Contrary to Gupta's assertion on Larry King Live that
Keckley's "only affiliation is with Vanderbilt University," Keckley
is affiliated with Deloitte & Touche USA LLP, part of a global
audit, tax, consulting, and financial advisory services group of
firms. Keckley is the executive director of the Deloitte Center for
Health Solutions. The Deloitte Center for Health Solutions states on
its website that "it delivers research on and develops solutions to
some of our nation's most pressing health care and public health
related challenges." As Moore noted on Larry King Live, the Deloitte
Center for Health Solutions is also "connected" to Tommy Thompson.
The center's website lists Thompson as the Deloitte Center for
Health Solutions' independent chairman.
Keckley is also a Republican contributor, as Moore claimed.
According OpenSecrets.org, Keckley has donated $8,500 to Republican
candidates or party committees since 1990, including $1,000 to Sen.
Bob Corker (TN), $2,000 to the Republican Party of Tennessee, $2,000
to Sen. Lamar Alexander (TN), and $500 to Rep. Marsha Blackburn
(TN). During that period, he has made no donations to Democratic
candidates or party committees that have been reported to the
Federal Election Commission.
Moore's assertion that Keckley "has done business with Blue Cross,
with Aventis, with these other groups," is also accurate. According
to Keckley's curriculum vitae, posted on Vanderbilt's website, from
1998 to 2002 Keckley served as chief executive officer of EBM
Solutions Inc., which licensed software applications to "32
healthcare organizations in 2002 including Health Net of California,
Blue Cross of Tennessee, Aventis and others." Keckley's curriculum
vitae also lists him as a member of the Aventis Health Outcomes
Measurement Committee. Further, Keckley's biography on the website
of the Vanderbilt Center for Evidence-Based Medicine notes that he
is "a frequent keynote speaker for national healthcare organizations
including the AMA House of Delegates, National Quality Forum, The
Medical Group Management Association, Disease Management
Association, Blue Cross Association, American Association of Health
Plans and others."
From the July 9 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:
GUPTA: A survey of six industrialized nations found that only Canada
was worse than the United States when it came to waiting for a
doctor's appointment for a medical problem.
KECKLEY: That's the reality of those systems. There are quotas.
There are planned wait times. The concept that care is free in
France, in Canada and Cuba, and it's not. Those citizens pay for
health services out of taxes. And as a proportion of their household
income, it's a significant number.
GUPTA: It's true that the French pay higher taxes -- and so does
nearly every country ahead of the United States on that list. But
even higher taxes don't give all the coverage everyone wants.
KECKLEY: Fifteen to 20 percent of the population will purchase
services outside the system of care run by the government.
GUPTA: So there's no perfect system anywhere. But no matter how much
Moore fudged the facts -- and he did fudge some facts -- there's one
everyone agrees on: The system here should be far better.
From the July 10 edition of CNN's Larry King Live:
KING: Dr. Gupta, we have less than a minute, and we should clear up -
- have you ever had an effect by the fact of who the sponsor is on
what you report?
GUPTA: No. I, I -- have no -- no contact at all with the sponsors.
They've never affected my judgment. We did the story, the Sicko fact
check piece -- it was completely just -- just our own editorial
pursuits on this.
MOORE: Except --
GUPTA: And --
MOORE: Except -- except, let me say this, the one expert that you
had in the piece is a person from a think tank group who is a big
Republican contributor. He's done business with Blue Cross, with
Aventis, with these other groups.
I mean don't you have a right as a journalist -- or a
responsibility, actually, to tell the public when you're using an
expert, this person is a Republican, he's with a think tank that's
connected to [presidential candidate and former Governor] Tommy
Thompson [R-WI] --
KING: OK, we're --
KING: Sanjay, we have 20 seconds.
MOORE: He's with a think tank --
GUPTA: You know, his only affiliation --
KING: Hold it, Michael.
GUPTA: His only affiliation is with Vanderbilt University. We
checked it, Michael. We checked his conflict of interest. We do ask
MOORE: I'll --
GUPTA: Whether or not we disclose it to you on the [inaudible] --
MOORE: I'll put that all up on the site, too.
KING: I'll tell you what, guys --
GUPTA: Please do. You can talk to me directly.