Wendell Potter, author of the newly released "Deadly Spin," and moviemaker Michael Moore ("Sicko," "Roger & Me") met for the first time on MSNBC's "Countdown" last night and it was love at first sight.
Both had nothing but the highest praise for each other and host Keith Olbermann chimed in, saying he admired both and that the more than ten minutes he gave them on the show was “time well spent.”
“Two heroes are having their first conversation,” said Olbermann.
Potter, former chief spokesperson for Cigna, apologized to Moore for being part of a campaign to discredit the moviemaker. Moore responded by saying Potter was a “real hero” to him and “courageous.”
Potter’s activities included “spying” on Moore in his hometown of Bellaire, Mich., where Moore’s “Sicko,” a criticism of the healthcare industry, had its premiere on June 16, 2007.
Potter described taking part in a discussion of a 23-page PR plan created for Health Care America that was designed to discredit Moore.
The big fear, said Potter, was that the movie would touch off a populace revolt against health insurance practices and lead to legislation. He feels that such practices cost the lives of 45,000 Americans yearly.
Potter said he was told he was not supposed to have the plan and only obtained a copy after one was dug up by the staff of “Bill Moyer’s Journal” in 2009.
Admits Mistake on HCA
Right to left, Wendell Potter, Michael Moore and Potter's son, Alex. Photo: PRWatch
Potter, responding to a criticism by APCO Worldwide, PR firm for HCA, said his book mistakenly reported that HCA was founded for the sole purpose of discrediting “Sicko.” He admitted last night that HCA had a previous existence when it was funded by the pharmaceutical industry and it was revived for use with “Sicko."
Responding to criticism by APCO senior VP William Pierce, Potter said in his blog on prwatch.org, “He’s right—partially. I should have pointed out in the book that APCO repurposed HCA for the insurance industry and other special interests who were concerned that ‘Sicko’ might lead to reforms that would threaten their profits. I would have discussed it if I had known about it.”
Charges HCA Was “Classic Front”
Potter says that an examination of IRS Form 990 returns for 2006 and 2007 reveal that HCA was a “classic front”—“Undisclosed income sources, mysterious expenditures and virtual offices.”
Many of these details are in the 990’s that are available on Foundation Center’s 990 Finder (link, PDF).
HCA had income of $822,298 in 2006. Form 990 does not require that sources be listed. “Compensation” of $142,500 is reported but not who received it. “Consultant services” cost $240,000. The 2007 and last filing shows $197,917 was paid to executive director Sarah Berk, former lobbyist for the American Hospital Assn.
HCA’s address was listed as 1455 Pennsylvania ave. N.W., suite 400, which Potter says is a “virtual office” at the Willard Office Building. Such offices provide a “live” receptionist, business support center, drop-off/pick-up, and mail forwarding for $125 monthly.
Numerous other organizations also claim occupancy of suite 400, says Potter.
Potter said he was surprised that so many major media repeated almost word-for-word the claims of the insurance industry vs. Moore and his film. He said these included USA Today, Time and CNN.
Denies “Push Off Cliff” Remark
Pierce had accused Potter of falsely charging health industry executives with a plan to “push Moore off the cliff” as a means of combating his film.
Potter said his book noted that such a reference was used as a figure of speech and not literally.
He provided this section from his book:
“Tuffin (Mike Tuffin of America’s Health Insurance Plan) and Schooling (Robert Schooling, SVP of APCO) wrapped up their presentation with a ‘worse-case scenario’ plan.
“If ‘Sicko’ showed signs of being as influential in shaping public opinion on health care reform as “An Inconvenient Truth” had been in changing attitudes about climate change, then the industry would have to consider implementing a plan ‘to push Moore off the cliff.’
“They didn’t elaborate, and no one asked what they meant by that. We knew they didn’t mean it literally—that a hit man would be sent to take Moore out. Rather, an all-out effort would be made to depict Moore as someone intent on destroying the free-market health care system and with it, the American way of life.”