Betsy McCaughey And Big Tobacco

Fallows passes along some new information:

[R]evelations late last week by Tim Dickinson, of Rolling Stone, are at face value so important that they deserve to be underscored. It’s worth reading Dickinson’s whole dispatch and studying the on-line scans of the documents he has found. But to me the real news is the evidence that tobacco lobbyists secretly worked with McCaughey to prepare her infamous 1994 New Republic article “No Exit.”

As I argued back in 1995 in “A Triumph of Misinformation,” everything about McCaughey’s role in the debate depended on her pose as a scrupulous, impartial, independent scholar who, after leafing through the endless pages of the Clinton health proposals, had been shocked by what she found. If it had been known at the time that she was secretly collaborating with one of the main interest-group enemies of the plan, perhaps the article would never had been published; at a minimum, her standing to speak would have been different.

From Dickinson’s piece:

“What has not been reported until now is that McCaughey’s writing was influenced by Philip Morris, the world’s largest cheap tobacco company, as part of a secret campaign to scuttle Clinton’s health care reform. (The measure would have been funded by a huge increase in tobacco taxes.) 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.” ‘

“McCaughey did not respond to Rolling Stone’s request for an interview.”

The Manhattan Institute is denying the charge. I certainly had no idea about any of this at the time. I take responsibility for publishing the piece, and feel that airing some of the internal fight over it would violate confidences. But at no point was I aware of a three-part series, claimed by the tobacco lobbyist. But I did not commission the piece as the Manhattan Institute notes.

source: http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com

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