Rep. Stark Apologizes To Journos

From a release put out by Rep. Pete Stark’s office:

    “Earlier today I sent a press release suggesting that three journalists, Nancy Snyderman and Robert Bazell of NBC News and Susan Dentzer of the PBS’ NewsHour, participate in America’s Health Insurance Plans’ (AHIP) Speakers Network,” said Stark. “According to these journalists, AHIP and/or the Leading Authorities Speakers Bureau added them to this network without their approval and without their knowledge. I therefore apologize to each for suggesting that they contracted with the insurance lobby.”

    “Again, my apologies to the three journalists for associating them with this reprehensible lobby. But as is often the case, AHIP’s actions speaker louder than my words. That the insurance lobby would add journalists to their speakers network without approval smacks of the kind of dishonesty they regularly employ. Not only does AHIP lie about health care policy, they also besmirch the reputations of journalists.”

See the original press release after the jump…

    Representative Pete Stark (D-CA), Chairman of the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, today issued the following remarks in response to reports that health care reporters Nancy Snyderman and Robert Bazell of NBC News and Susan Dentzer of PBS’ NewsHour participate in America’s Health Insurance Plans’ (AHIP) Speakers Network.

    AHIP is the lobbying group for private health insurance companies. Snyderman is Chief Medical Editor and Bazell is Chief Science and Health Correspondent for NBC News. Dentzer is on-air health care correspondent for The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. All three contracted with the insurance lobby to give speeches to industry groups for large sums of money, a practice known as “buckraking.” Though the Washington Post reported in 2002 that NBC prohibited its employees engaging in buckraking, AHIP lists Synderman’s fee as between $30,001 and $50,000 per speaking engagement.

    The names and photos of all three journalists were removed from AHIP’s website after it was reported that they were members of the group’s speakers network.

    “Journalists should neither take money from business groups with a financial interest in the subjects they cover nor have a lobbying organization arrange lucrative speaking engagements for them before special interest groups,” said Stark. “Health care journalists who participate in such arrangements call into question the objectivity of their coverage and that of their employers. People depend on health care journalists to provide unbiased information about the state of America’s health care system, not make claims that may encourage business groups to pay for their services in the future. Buckraking presents clear conflicts of interest. I’m not surprised AHIP would sink to this level, but I expected more from America’s health care journalists.”