ABC, CBS Praise Return and 'Reverse' of Harry & Louise
The fake couple famous for opposing universal health care is back and has changed their tune. The network news media couldnât be happier.
âTheyâre back: Harry and Louise, symbols of opposition to universal heath care,â Harry Smith announced on the CBS âEvening Newsâ August 19. âNow, theyâve switched sides.â
Harry and Louise were the stars of 1990s commercials run by the Health Insurance Association of America opposing President Clintonâs proposal for government-run coverage. But now a coalition of groups is bringing back the fictional couple â and the original actors â in a campaign aimed at promoting industry reform.
âEvening Newsâ and ABCâs âWorld Newsâ praised the idea that Harry and Louise have âswitched sides.â
âWell, Harry and Louise have switched sides,â George Stephanopoulos reported on âWorld Newsâ August 19. âNow a coalition of groups who want government action on health care will run ads during the political conventions in which the couple asks the next president to put health care at the top of his agenda.â
Wyatt Andrews said on the âEvening Newsâ that âsome patient-rights and hospital groups are borrowing Harry and Louise and in this new ad the couple changes sides in support of health care reform.â
But Harry and Louise havenât really âchanged sides.â Theyâre not supporting universal coverage like the plan Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obama has proposed. And theyâre not supporting Republican candidate Sen. John McCainâs proposal to provide tax incentives to help Americansâ buy their own coverage.
After suggesting Harry and Louise had âchanged sidesâ in the debate, Andrews acknowledged that âthe groups behind this campaign wonât touch the tough question of which candidate â Obama or McCain â has better ideas for health care. Theyâre trying to generate so much public and industry-backed pressure that health care reform gets done regardless of whoâs president.â
With an actual stance on policy neglected in favor of general support for government intervention, Harry and Louise have earned the support of the networks this time around. But coverage of the duo wasnât nearly as friendly when they originally appeared to oppose universal coverage.
The media were much more critical of anti-universal health care ads than of pro-reform commercials, according to analysis conducted by the Business & Media Instituteâs parent organization, the
CBS âThis Morningâ allowed Families USA chief Ron Pollack to call the old ads âunethical to the worst degreeâ on September 22, 1993. The report didnât mention the ads met all disclosure requirements.