Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler has identified another serious problem with the accuracy of President Barack Obama’s recently released campaign film, “The Road We’ve Traveled.” This is the second “gross inaccuracy” found in the 17-minute film.
The first was brought to light last week by Raw Story which noted that the filmmakers fudged the numbers on the auto bailout by $25 billion in order to claim GM had fully repaid the bailout.
Yesterday, Kessler turned his attention to another misleading sequence in the film during which the narrator connects Obama’s push for health reform to his personal experience when his mother became ill with cancer. Here’s how Obama told the story during the 2008 campaign:
For my mother to die of cancer at the age of 53 and have to spend the last months of her life in the hospital room arguing with insurance companies because they’re saying that this may be a pre-existing condition and they don’t have to pay her treatment, there’s something fundamentally wrong about that.
But when journalist Janny Scott published a biography of Obama’s mother in 2011, she revealed these claims to be false. Obama’s mother had argued over disability coverage during her stay in the hospital, but her health insurance was secure and covered the bulk of her treatment (minus a deductible). In other words, Obama’s memory of these events was shown to be false.
Kessler notes that once the factual account (based on Mrs. Dunham’s letters) was published, the White House declined to contest the facts. But the filmmakers apparently found the story too useful to set aside. Rather than offer a straightforward account, they skirt the issue in a way that is intentionally misleading. Here’s how the story appears in the film:
Narrator Tom Hanks: “He knew from experience the cost of waiting [on health care reform].”
President Obama: “When my mom got cancer, she wasn’t a wealthy woman and it pretty much drained all her resources”
Michelle Obama: “She developed ovarian cancer, never really had good, consistent insurance. That’s a tough thing to deal with, watching your mother die of something that could have been prevented. I don’t think he wants to see anyone go through that.”
Hanks: “And he remembered the millions of families like of his who feel the pressure of rising costs and the fear of being denied or dropped from coverage.”
The implication is that lack of “consistent” coverage wiped out the President’s mother financially and possibly even led to her dying of a preventable cancer. In reality, Obama’s mother had good coverage and a job making more than $80K a year at the time she became ill. Kessler reports that she missed a recommended test which might possibly have led to the cancer being discovered earlier, but this was her own decision, not that of an insurance company. He concludes:
…the impression left by the film, especially if you watch it (go to the 8:45 mark), is very similar to Obama’s 2008 campaign rhetoric: His mother was denied health-insurance coverage, draining her resources, and with better coverage she might have lived longer.
The film suggests this experience helped inspire the president to keep fighting for the health care law, even in the face of advice from aides that he accept a less-than-satisfactory compromise. The film suggests but does not say. It implies but does not state. And so this carefully crafted bit of Hollywood misdirection is able to persist months after it has been shown to be false. Indeed, the White House didn’t even bother to deny that this was intentional. When Kessler asked about it, they referred him to a previous statement to the effect that the President’s recollection comes years after the events in question.
That may have worked when the President and the public had only his memory to go on, but that’s not the case any longer. Given the facts on record, what we have here amounts to a lie.