Michael Moore. (Photo: Reza Vaziri / Flickr)
Yesterday, on the TV and radio show "Democracy Now" hosted by Amy Goodman, the former Vice President of CIGNA, one of the nation's largest health insurance companies, revealed that CIGNA met with the other big health insurers to hatch a plan to "push" yours truly "off a cliff."
The interview contains new revelations about just how frightened the health industry was that "Sicko" might ignite a public wave of support for "socialized medicine." So the large health insurance companies came together over a common cause: Stop the American people from going to see "Sicko" -- and the way to do that was to cause some form of harm to me (either personally, professionally or...physically?).
Take a look at this stunning section of the interview with Wendell Potter:
WENDELL POTTER [former executive, CIGNA]: ...We were concerned that the movie ["Sicko"] would be as successful as "Fahrenheit 9/11" had been. And we knew that if it were, it really would change public opinion about our health care system in ways that would be harmful to the profits of health insurers. So, it was very important for this [attack] campaign to succeed. At one point during a strategy meeting, one of the people from [the insurance companies' public relations firm] APCO said that if our efforts, our initial efforts, were not successful, then we'd have to move to an element of the campaign to push Michael Moore off a cliff. And not meaning to do that literally, but to—
AMY GOODMAN: Are you sure?
WENDELL POTTER: Well, I'm not sure. To tell you the truth, when I started doing what I'm doing [as a whistleblower], I was concerned about my own health and well-being, maybe just from paranoia. But these companies play to win. And we're talking about some big bucks at stake here—billions and billions and billions of dollars.
AMY GOODMAN: So what were they talking about when they said, "If this doesn't work, we're going to push him off the cliff"?
WENDELL POTTER: Well, it would be just an incredibly intense PR effort, if necessary, to spend more premium dollars to defame Michael Moore, to discredit him even more as a filmmaker.
AMY GOODMAN: So, were you doing research on him?
WENDELL POTTER: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: You were going—personally?
WENDELL POTTER: Well, I was a part of the effort. I didn't—that was part of the reason for hiring APCO and to work with a trade association, is that it relieved me of the responsibility of doing that kind of work. You paid for it to be done by people who were experts in doing that kind of research.
AMY GOODMAN: But they were doing an investigation into him personally?
WENDELL POTTER: Well, absolutely. We knew as much about him probably as he knows about himself.
AMY GOODMAN: About his wife, about his kid, about—
WENDELL POTTER: Oh, yeah. You know, it's important to know everything that you might be able to use in some kind of a campaign against someone, to discredit them professionally and often personally.
AMY GOODMAN: And did you use that?
WENDELL POTTER: You use it if necessary.
The interview goes on as Potter reveals how his front group was able to get its talking points and smears into stories in the New York Times and CNN. It is a chilling look inside how easy it is to manipulate our mainstream media -- and just how worried the health insurance companies were that the American people might demand a true universal health care system.
In particular, Potter talks about how they may have succeeded in influencing CNN to run a factually untrue story about "Sicko" by its reporter, Sanjay Gupta (which led to my infamous encounter with Wolf Blitzer and later, an apology from CNN for getting their facts wrong).
Potter believes his work to defame "Sicko" succeeded, as the film didn't end up posting "Fahrenheit 9/11" grosses. To be clear, "Sicko" went on to become the 3rd largest grossing documentary of all time at that point. And as the release of "Sicko" in June of 2007 was the first time since the defeat of Hillary Clinton's healthcare bill in 1994 that the issue of health insurance was brought to the forefront of the national media, I believe it helped to reignite the issue during the 2008 election year by exposing millions of Americans to the truth about the health insurance industry. More than one person on Capitol Hill will admit that "Sicko" was a big help in rallying public support for the compromise bill that eventually passed earlier this year. But I agree, their smear campaign was effective and did create the dent they were hoping for -- single payer and the public option never even made it into the real discussion on the floor of Congress.
(There was really only one reason "Sicko" didn't sell as many tickets as "Fahrenheit" and that was because of a felony that was committed -- a felony that I will discuss for the first time on this site in the coming weeks or months ahead. Stay tuned.)
Please read or watch the entire interview with Wendell Potter. It's a fascinating peek behind the curtain of how corporate America really runs this country. And how if any of us get in their way, then those people must be stopped. It begs the question: Seeing how there's more of us than there are of them, how long will we let their takeover of our democracy continue?
God Bless the Ruling Class,
P.S. Over the next few days I will continue this examination of the Wendell Potter revelations on "Democracy Now" and in his new book. Please check in on MichaelMoore.com.