Betsy McCaughey

From Powerbase
Jump to: navigation, search

<youtube align="right" size="tiny" caption="(Part 2)">jrPJYHVk1-M</youtube><youtube align="right" size="tiny" caption="McCaughey's comments on the public option on the Dylan Ratigan Show (Part 1)">DECSGMd2_BM</youtube>Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (20 October 1948), Elizabeth Betsy McCaughey is a policy analyst best known for writing what has been widely described as a "false"[1] and "error-laden"[2] negative critique of Hillary Clinton's healthcare reform proposals in a 1994 New Republic article titled "No Exit." More recently McCaughey has reappeared as the main source of the "Death Panel" rumour in the US made famous by Sarah Palin[3]. She has also written favourable articles about Tea Party candidates[4] as well as been featured as a speaker at Tea Party rallies and events.[5]

Education and career

In 1976 McCaughey received her PhD in constitutional history from Columbia University. She has trained in corporate banking and served as a "lending officer in the Food, Beverage, and Tobacco Division."[6] She is the author of several books and her writings have appeared in scholarly journals and news publications. She has been featured on various US news shows throughout the years. McCaughey has lectured at Vassar College and Columbia University and worked at right-wing think tanks including the Manhattan Institute where she authored her infamous New Republic article "No Exit," and the Hudson Institute where she remains today. Shortly after publishing "No Exit", McCaughey became Lt. Governor of New York State from 1994-1998 where she reportedly did not have a "working relationship"[7] with Governor George Pataki. Pataki "ignored"[7] McCaughey's policy recommendations and in response McCaughey accused him of "McCarthyism."[7] In 2004 she founded the "Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths," which she describes as "a nationwide educational campaign to stop hospital-acquired infections."[6] In 2009 one of McCaughey's staff members "abruptly resigned" from the committee "expressing concern that Ms. McCaughey was using it as a platform for some of the harshest — and sometimes false — attacks against President Obama’s health care plan."[8]


McCaughey has shifted between the Democrat and Republican party, worked for universities and think tanks, and served in government all while writing for news publications and appearing on news shows to discuss her views on US healthcare debates. Referred to as an "East Coast version of Sarah Palin"[7] in a profile done of her in the New Republic (the magazine that published her infamous "No Exit" article), McCaughey shot to fame and infamy after "No Exit" was shown to be ridden with errors and inaccurate claims. Despite the negative press "No Exit" conjured, McCaughey has had a successful career as a policy analyst and currently runs a campaign against the Obama Administration's proposed healthcare reforms by writing articles and through her website, DefendYourHealthcare. Although she has repeatedly been discredited for reportedly incorporating "fearmongering" into her analyses, McCaughey continues to be quoted as an expert and is frequently invited to speak at US policy and political events.

"No Exit"

In 1994 under the supervision of then New Republic editor Andrew Sullivan (Sullivan wrote in 2009 that he did not "commission the piece"),[9] McCaughey wrote an article providing an extremely negative take on the Clintons' proposed health care reforms titled "No Exit".[10] Many argue that the piece "helped derail health care reform"[11] and influence political debate in Washington. McCaughey's attempt to display neutrality on the issue of healthcare in the US was seriously undermined by her history of working for right-wing think thanks (at the time of "No Exit's" publication McCaughey was working at the Manhattan Institute,[12] a position she reportedly got by way of a friend on the board)[1] and as revealed years later by Rolling Stone Magazine, because McCaughey was reportedly "influenced by Phillip Morris, the world's largest tobacco company."[13] Even though many journalists such as The Atlantic's James Fallows[14][15] decried the article's accuracy then and even more so now,[16] TNR was awarded the National Magazine Award for McCaughey's work in 1995.[17]

McCaughey and Big Tobacco

In 2009 a report by Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson provided evidence that McCaughey was "influenced" by Tobacco giant Philip Morris while writing "No Exit."

In an internal company memo from March 1994, the tobacco giant detailed its strategy to derail Hillarycare through an alliance with conservative think tanks, front groups and media outlets. Integral to the company's strategy, the memo observed, was an effort to "work on the development of favorable pieces" with "friendly contacts in the media." The memo, prepared by a Philip Morris executive, mentions only one author by name:
"Worked off-the-record with Manhattan and writer Betsy McCaughey as part of the input to the three-part exposé in The New Republic on what the Clinton plan means to you. The first part detailed specifics of the plan."[18]

Jamison Foser of Media Matters for America expanded on the report, revealing that McCaughey's employer at the time, the Manhattan Institute was being funded by Philip Morris:

See, McCaughey was working for The Manhattan Institute at the time. And The Manhattan Institute was funded by -- you guessed it -- tobacco companies.
While Phillip Morris was "working with" McCaughey in 1994, the tobacco giant was also budgeting $25,000 for The Manhattan Institute for 1995. The Manhattan Institute has also taken tobacco money from Brown & Williamson, R.J. Reynolds, and Lorillard.[19]

In response to Dickinson's report Lawrence Mone of the Manhattan Institute wrote a letter to Rolling Stone's editor which James Fallows of The Atlantic reprinted parts of, denying claims that McCaughey's work at the institute was influenced by tobacco:

"Below is a letter to the editor of Rolling Stone from Lawrence Mone, president, Manhattan Institute for Policy Research.
"In his article "The Lie Machine," Tim Dickenson asserts that former Manhattan Institute scholar Betsy McCaughey's work was influenced by Phillip Morris. This conclusion is false. Betsy McCaughey wrote two articles for the Wall Street Journal on the Clinton Health Care plan and an additional article for the New Republic which was solicited by its publisher. At no time were her ideas influenced or controlled by anyone but the author herself."[20]

Fallows, who has been McCaughey's strongest critic since "No Exit," followed up with the Manhattan Institute asking for clarification since Dickinson's report alleged that McCaughey worked secretly with tobacco companies and the Manhattan Institute's response seemed to only address an official claim that she worked with them. The Manhattan Institute repeated their claims to Fallows, which ultimately left him unable to make a clear conclusion:

Is this a question of a lobbyist grossly exaggerating his "influence" to impress bosses and funders? That's a very familiar pattern in Washington. On the other hand, the lobbyist's detailed knowledge of Betsy McCaughey's writing plans suggests some interaction. I don't know the underlying truth here. It would be valuable if Ms. McCaughey, who has specialized in detailed textual analysis, would address in specific what these documents contend.[20]

Death Panels

In 2009 a "false"[3] rumor was circulated in the US stating that the Obama administrations's proposed health care reforms would involve government-sponsored "death panels" allotted with the authority to decide which patients would be allowed to live. Its most effective proponent became former presidential candidate John McCain's running mate, Sarah Palin.[21] What surprised some analysts was the speed and momentum with which the rumor spread, eventually making its way into serious health debates, despite the fact that it was proven wrong time and again.[3] Weeks later it became clear that the main source of the rumor was McCaughey.[22][23]

in a radio interview with former Senator Fred Thompson, Ms. McCaughey said, “One of the most shocking things I found in this bill, and there were many, is on Page 425, where the Congress would make it mandatory, absolutely require, that every five years, people in Medicare have a required counseling session that will tell them how to end their life sooner.” She went on to say that it encouraged people to cut their lives short “in society’s best interest.”[21]

While it was proven from the onset of the rumour that "the bill offers to pay for Medicare patients to speak with their doctors about their wishes for the end of their life, on issues like who will be allowed to make decisions if they are incapacitated, and what kinds of care are available for terminally ill people," the rumour had a serious effect on the Obama administration's health proposals and "hijacked"[24] the healthcare debate.

But in today’s vicious news cycle, lies take on lives of their own on Web sites, blogs and e-mail chains and go viral in seconds. Ms. McCaughey’s claims were soon widely circulated in the thirst for ammunition against the Democrats’ health care reform plan.[24]

Oregon Democratic Representative Earl Blumenauer also traced the source of the rumour from McCaughey all the way to its proponents in congress and held the media responsible for not pointing out its falsehoods earlier:

The news media was a particular culprit in this drama. This was not just Fox News; seemingly all the national news organizations monitored any meetings they could find between lawmakers and constituents, looking for flare-ups, for YouTube moments. The meetings that involved thoughtful exchanges or even support for the proposals would never find their way on air; coverage was given only to the most outrageous behavior, furthering distorting the true picture... By lavishing uncritical attention on the most exaggerated claims and extreme behavior, they unleashed something that the truth could not dispel.[24]

Comments on the "Public Option"

  • "You are missing the major issue. The major issue is that these bills are a medical assault on seniors."[25]
  • "The public option is anti-competitive."[26]


While McCaughey has written and spoken extensively about the "unfair" treatment she received following the emergence of widespread condemnations of "No Exit" for its lack of factual accuracy, she continues to be featured as healthcare policy expert. According to Media Matters for America Senior Fellow Jamison Foser:

Inexplicably, McCaughey is trotted out on television shows and in newspapers to provide "expert" analysis of current health care reform proposals. Incredibly, McCaughey is cast in precisely the role she performed so fraudulently last time around: as the just-the-facts Ph.D. who has, unlike the advocates of reform, actually read every page of the bill. Once again, she brings with her -- and dramatically waves around -- an almost unbelievably thick three-ring binder, which she incredulously announces is only half of the bill. She peppers her alarmist (and clearly false) claims about health care reform with footnotes and page numbers. Those page numbers happen to be the only things she says that actually appear in the bill. But never mind all that. She's an "expert."[16]






  1. 1.0 1.1 Michelle Cottle, "No Exit The never-ending lunacy of Betsy McCaughey.", The New Republic, 5 October 2009
  2. Conor Clark, "The Rise and Fall (and Rise) of Betsy McCaughey", The Atlantic, 29 July 2009
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 JIM RUTENBERG and JACKIE CALMES, "False ‘Death Panel’ Rumor Has Some Familiar Roots", New York Times, 13 August 2009 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "rutenberg" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "rutenberg" defined multiple times with different content
  4. Betsy McCaughey, "The seniority trap", New York Post, 31 October 2010, accessed on 17 November 2010
  5. David Weigel, "Betsy McCaughey, Mike Pence, Stephen Baldwin to Speak at 9/12 ‘Tea Party’ March on Washington", Washington Independent, 3 September 2009
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Betsey McCaughey CV
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Noah Kristula-Green, "Slideshow: The Many Lives of Betsy McCaughey", New Republic, 5 October 2009 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "slide" defined multiple times with different content
  8. Jim Rutenberg, "Resurfacing, a Critic Stirs Up Debate Over Health Care", New York Times, 4 September 2009
  9. Andrew Sullivan, "Betsy McCaughey And Big Tobacco", The Atlantic, 29 September 2009
  10. Elizabeth McCaughey, "No Exit", The New Republic, 7 February 1994
  11. Michael Calderone, "Foer on TNR's 'original sin'; McCaughey piece 15 years later", Politico, 5 October 2009
  12. James Fallows, "Let's Stop This Before It Goes Any Further", The Atlantic, 12 February 2009
  13. Susie Madrak, "Rolling Stone Finds A Smoking Gun: Betsy McCaughey Lied About Healthcare Reform For Tobacco Lobby", Crooks and Liars, 19 September 2010
  14. James Fallows, "A T, The Atlantic, January 1995
  15. James Fallows, "I was wrong", The Atlantic, 13 August 2009
  16. 16.0 16.1 Jamison Foser, "No apology", Media Matters for America, 9 October 2009 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "foser" defined multiple times with different content
  17. Mickey Kaus, "No Exegesis", The New Republic, 8 May 1995
  18. Andrew Sullivan, "Betsy McCaughey And Big Tobacco", The Atlantic, 29 September 2009
  19. Jamison Foser, "Betsy McCaughey, Big Tobacco, and the campaign to destroy health care reform", Media Matters for America, 28 September 2009
  20. 20.0 20.1 James Fallows, "Manhattan Institute replies (re McCaughey and tobacco lobby) UPDATED", The Atlantic, 28 September 2009
  21. 21.0 21.1 Jim Dwyer, "Distortions on Health Bill, Homegrown", New York Times, 25 August 2009
  22. Jim Rutenberg, "Resurfacing, a Critic Stirs Up Debate Over Health Care", New York Times, 4 September 2009
  23. Betsy McCaughey, "DEADLY DOCTORS O ADVISERS WANT TO RATION CARE", New York Post, 24 July 2009, accessed on 21 November 2010
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 EARL BLUMENAUER, "My Near Death Panel Experience", New York Times, 14 November 2009
  25. Betsy McCaughey, "Betsey McCaughey on Dylan Ratigan Show (Part 1)", The Dylan Ratigan Show (YouTube), 6 October 2009
  26. Betsy McCaughey, "Betsey McCaughey on Dylan Ratigan Show (Part 2)", The Dylan Ratigan Show (YouTube), 6 October 2009