Another day and another Obama lie exposed. This isn’t the first time Obama has lied about his past to push his political ideology.
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.”
–series of statements with images of Obama and his mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, in the Obama campaign film “The Road We’ve Traveled”
“The Road We’ve Traveled” is a very slick and impressively produced campaign film—sheer catnip for Obama fans. There are a number of facts and figures that could be challenged, but for now we are going to focus on this sequence. The series of words and images is an excellent example of how such films can create a misleading impression, while skirting as close as possible to the edge of falsehood.
The sequence, in fact, evokes a famous story that candidate Obama told during the 2008 campaign—that his mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, fought with her insurer over whether her cancer was a pre-existing condition that disqualified her from coverage.
But the story was later called into question by Dunham’s biographer. The fact that Obama’s initial claim is not directly repeated suggests the filmmakers knew there was a problem with the campaign story, but they clearly wanted to keep some version of it in the film.
During the 2008 campaign, Obama frequently suggested his mother had to fight with her health-insurance company for treatment of her cancer because it considered her disease to be a pre-existing condition. In one of the presidential debates with GOP rival John McCain, Obama said:
“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 then earlier this year, journalist Janny Scott cast serious doubt on this version of events in her excellent biography, “A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s mother.” Scott reviewed letters from Dunham to the CIGNA insurance company, and revealed the dispute was over disability coverage, not health insurance coverage (see pages 335-339).
Disability coverage will help replace wages lost to an illness. (Dunham received a base pay of $82,500, plus a housing allowance and a car, to work in Indonesia for Development Alternatives Inc. of Bethesda, according to Scott.) But that is different than health insurance coverage denied because of a pre-existing condition, which was a major part of the president’s health care law.
Scott writes that Dunham, who died in 1995 of uterine and ovarian cancer, had health insurance that “covered most of the costs of her medical treatment…The hospital billed her insurance company directly, leaving Ann to pay only the deductible and any uncovered expenses, which, she said, came to several hundred dollars a month.”
When Scott’s book was published, the White House did not dispute her account. “The president has told this story based on his recollection of events that took place more than 15 years ago,” a spokesman said.
…We use a “reasonable man” standard here, and we think there are few viewers of this film who would watch this sequence and conclude that Dunham was involved in anything but a fight over health-insurance coverage.
The disability-insurance dispute certainly may have motivated the president, but he has never explicitly stated that. In any case, the filmmakers must have known they had a problem with this story or else they would have recounted it as Obama had done in the 2008 campaign, using phrases such as “pre-existing conditions,” “health insurance,” and “treatment.”
Instead, they arranged the quotes and images to leave a misleading impression of what really happened.