WH Reporters Advocate for Single-Payer Health Care, Push Jemele Hill Story

Wednesday’s White House press briefing didn’t feature CNN’s Jim Acosta, so his colleagues picked up the slack with lobbying efforts for single-payer health care, ensuring wealthy Americans don’t get tax cuts, and anti-Trump comments by ESPN’s Jemele Hill.

Los Angeles Times reporter Noah Bierman got the ball rolling on single-payer health care, asking Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders what she made of Democrats proposing such a change.

“I think that the President, as well as the majority of the country, knows that the single payer system that the Democrats are proposing is a horrible idea. I can’t think of anything worse than having government be more involved in your health care instead of less involved,” Huckabee Sanders responded in part. 

Bierman followed up: 

BIERMAN: But could he sign something that’s not a full scale repeal? Obviously, I’m not just saying single payer, but something along the lines of what Senator Alexander

HUCKABEE SANDERS: We’d have to see the specific pieces of that legislation before we’re going to weigh in on a hypothetical bill.

Just over five minutes later, CBS News Radio White House correspondent Steven Portnoy explained that Trump told The Washington Post in January that “he wanted to see a program that would allow for insurance for everybody and that would leverage Medicare and Medicaid’s ability to control drug prices.”

“Bernie Sanders seems to be offering a plan that would do that. Why does the President not support it,” Portnoy wondered.

<<< Please support MRC's NewsBusters team with a tax-deductible contribution today. >>>

Huckabee Sanders took this biased question and, needless to say, blew it to smithereens:

I’m pretty sure that it’s not only does the president not support it but America doesn’t support it or Bernie Sanders would be sitting in the Oval Office right now. He pushed these ideas forward during the campaign. They were rejected not just by America but Democrats. He didn’t make it through the primary….I think that’s a pretty clear indication of what America wants to see, and it’s not a single payer system.

Portnoy’s asked a prior question which also trained to the left and had to do with tax reform. He referenced how the President was reportedly “adamant that the tax reform would not be a tax cut for the rich,” so he wanted to know: “Is he pledging to hold the top tax rate at 39.6 percent? Are we not going to see a reduction in that rate? How can he assure the Americans that the rich won’t get a tax cut?”

12 minutes after Portnoy, The Washington Post’s David Nakamura brought up the inflammatory comments made by leftist ESPN personality Jemele Hill in context of diversity:

I just want to read a comment from an influential African-American sportscaster ESPN yesterday who said “Donald Trump is a white supremacist who’s largely surrounded himself w/other white supremacists” who’s “rise is a direct result of white supremacy…Period…He is unqualified and unfit to be President.” Why do you think — do you have a reaction to that and is the President aware of that comment? 

Huckabee Sanders responded that she’s uncertain that President Trump has been aware of these claims, but, from her perspective, “I think that’s one of the more outrageous comments that anyone could make and certainly something that, I think, is a fireable offense by ESPN.” 

Since those comments were made, she was criticized across the political spectrum as if the White House were calling for Hill’s firing. But that level of panic is really unnecessary and another example of the media dialing the outrage meter up to a 12 when it deserves far less attention.

It’s not out of the ordinary to ask a press official if their boss was aware of such-and-such statement, but what came next from Nakamura was where the media bias angle comes in: “If the President was so clear, as you said, why do you think influential African-American figures are saying things like this?”

Once again, Huckabee Sanders stated that she’s not going to speak any further to Hill’s position, but added that Trump has been “committed to working with” the African-American community to move the country forward and united. 

“I think that’s where we need to be focused, not on outrageous statements like that one,” she concluded.

New York Times White House correspondent Mark Lander snuck his questions in right before Nakamura and he asked about Hillary Clinton’s book What Happened. And it went about as well as it did for Portnoy and single-payer health care:

MARK LANDER: Since you raised the issue of Mrs. Clinton’s book having a false narrative and false accusations, could you point us to a couple specific accusations in the book that you believe are factually incorrect? 

HUCKABEE SANDES: I think that probably the biggest one is any place within the book where she lays blame for the loss on anyone but herself. 

Lastly, one snarky question asked near the top of the briefing came courtesy of ABC’s Mary Bruce, who was filling in at the White House:

Two questions, if I can. The President’s dinner tonight with Schumer and Pelosi. They seem to be getting close, but in the past, the President has called Chuck Schumer a clown, Pelosi a loser, but now he seems to recognize that he needs them. How does that work? What changed?

Here’s the relevant transcript from September 13’s White House Press Briefing:

White House Press Briefing
September 13, 2017
2:16 p.m. Eastern

MARY BRUCE: Two questions, if I can. The President’s dinner tonight with Schumer and Pelosi. They seem to be getting close, but in the past, the President has called Chuck Schumer a clown, Pelosi a loser, but now he seems to recognize that he needs them. How does that work? What changed?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS: I think it’s less about him needing but as more about the President wanting to work with them and wanting to help move this country forward. As we’ve said many times before, we’ve got a very ambitious legislative agenda for this fall and the President wants to work with anybody that wants to move America forward and if they’re willing to do that, sit down, be part of that conversation on both tax cuts and tax reform, responsible immigration reform, the President certainly welcomes those conversations. 

BRUCE: And does he view Schumer and Pelosi as equal allies on the Hill forgetting things done on par with McConnell and Ryan?

(….)

2:17 p.m. Eastern

NOAH BIERMAN: I know the President came out today for Graham-Cassidy, but a lot of people believe that may not come to pass. Senator Alexander has introduced a more incremental bill that would stabilize the insurance markets. Could the President support a bill like that or does it have to be a more full-scale repeal. And, secondly, what does the President make of Democrats efforts on single payer?

HUCKABEE SANDERS: I think that the President, as well as the majority of the country, knows that the single payer system that the Democrats are proposing is a horrible idea. I can’t think of anything worse than having government be more involved in your health care instead of less involved. The President’s focused on looking at ways where government gets out of the way, people have more control over their own health care and looking at ways to, again, fully repeal and replace would certainly be a priority. But we want to move this system forward and make sure that we’re in a place that’s actually sustainable and that we have a healthcare system that works, that people who are under that healthcare system actually have a say in. 

BIERMAN: But could he sign something that’s not a full scale repeal? Obviously, I’m not just saying single payer, but something along the lines of what Senator Alexander —

HUCKABEE SANDERS: We’d have to see the specific pieces of that legislation before we’re going to weigh in on a hypothetical bill.

(….)

2:23 p.m. Eastern

STEVEN PORTNOY: This morning on CBS, Senator Manchin, said that, last night at dinner, the Presidnet was adamant that the tax reform would not be a tax cut for the rich. Do you know on what basis the President was able to make the promise?  Is he pledging to hold the top tax rate at 39.6 percent? Are we not going to see a reduction in that rate? How can he assure the Americans that the rich won’t get a tax cut?

HUCKABEE SANDERS: The President’s priority when it comes to tax cuts and tax reform is on the middle class, helping grow the middle class, helping create jobs, simplifying the system. He’s laid out those principles and that’s sort of where his focus and that’s what he’s going to push for as we move into this process. 

PORTNOY: Follow up on the question that was asked about Bernie Sanders’s health care. In January, the President gave an interview to The Washington Post he said he wanted to see a program that would allow for insurance for everybody and that would leverage Medicare and Medicaid’s ability to control drug prices. Bernie Sanders seems to be offering a plan that would do that. Why does the President not support it? 

HUCKABEE SANDERS: I’m pretty sure that it’s not only does the president not support it but America doesn’t support it or Bernie Sanders would be sitting in the Oval Office right now. He pushed these ideas forward during the campaign. They were rejected not just by America but Democrats. He didn’t make it through the primary. He didn’t make it into the oval. I think that’s a pretty clear indication of what America wants to see, and it’s not a single payer system.

(….)

2:35 p.m. Eastern

MARK LANDLER: Since you raised the issue of Mrs. Clinton’s book having a false narrative and false accusations, could you point us to a couple specific accusations in the book that you believe are factually incorrect? 

HUCKABEE SANDES: I think that probably the biggest one is any place within the book where she lays blame for the loss on anyone but herself. 

(….)

2:36 p.m. Eastern

DAVID NAKAMURA: Yes. You mentioned a couple times today sort of emphasized diversity in the West Wing and you talked about the President being very clear after Charlottesville and denouncing all hate. I just want to read a comment from an influential African-American sportscaster ESPN yesterday who said “Donald Trump is a white supremacist who’s largely surrounded himself w/other white supremacists” who’s “rise is a direct result of white supremacy…Period…He is unqualified and unfit to be President.” Why do you think — do you have a reaction to that and is the President aware of that comment? And why do you think — 

HUCKABEE SANDERS: I’m not sure if he’s aware of that, but I think that’s one of the more outrageous comments that anyone could make and certainly something that, I think, is a fireable offense by ESPN. 

NAKAMURA: If the President was so clear, as you said, why do you think influential African-American figures are saying things like this?

HUCKABEE SANDERS: I’m not going to speak for that individual, but I know that the President has met, again, with people like Senator Scott who are highly respected leaders in the African-American community. He’s committed to working with them to bring the country together. I think that’s where we need to be focused, not on outrageous statements like that one.