The media backlash against the "death panel"/euthanasia myth continued on Sunday as CBS Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer and ABC This Week host George Stephanopoulos pressed prominent Republicans on the issue.
First, watch Grassley squirm as he tries to defend his false claim that the government could decide to "pull the plug on grandma" under proposed health care legislation in Congress (via ThinkProgress and Paul Krugman):
SCHIEFFER: Senator Grassley, you have talked as Senator Conrad has about a bipartisan approach. But you really caught some Democrats off guard, a couple weeks ago, when you said this the other day. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRASSLEY: We should not have a government program that determines you’re going to pull the plug on grandma.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHIEFFER: Now, Democrats say there is nothing in this legislation that would pull the plug on grandma, or even require people to discuss it. Why did you say that, Senator Grassley?
GRASSLEY: I said that because — two reasons. Number one, I was responding to a question at my town meetings. I let my constituents set the agenda. A person that asked me that question was reading from language that they got off of the Internet. It scared my constituents. And the specific language I used was language that the president had used at Portsmouth, and I thought that it was — if he used the language , then if I responded exactly the same way, that I had an opposite concern about not using end-of-life counseling for saving money, then I was answering –
SCHIEFFER: All right.
GRASSLEY: And relieving the fears that my constituents had, and from that standpoint, remember, you’re talking about this issue being connected with a government-run program which a public option would take you with. You would get into the issue of saving money, and put these three things together and you are scaring a lot of people when I know the Pelosi bill doesn’t intend to do that, but that’s where it leads people to.
SCHIEFFER: Well, that’s what I was trying to get from you this morning. You’re not saying that this legislation would pull the plug on grandma, you’re just saying there are a lot of people out there who think that it would. Or do you want to say this morning that that is not true, that it won’t do that?
GRASSLEY: It won’t do that, but I wanted to explain why my constituents are concerned about it, and I also want to say that there is an $8 billion cost with that issue, and if you’re trying to save money and you put an $8 billion of doctors giving you some advice at the end of life, doctors are going to take advantage of earning that $8 billion and constituents see that as an opportunity to save some money.
It just scares the devil out of people. So that ought to be dropped. And by the way, some newspaper people were saying that we dropped it from the Senate Finance Committee because of the hullabaloo that you just played, and that’s not true. We got this out of our bill a long time ago, and Sen. Conrad will tell you that I was in conversation with people on the Finance Committee way back in March, that we weren’t going to have any of this end-of-life stuff in our bill because it scares people.
Similarly, Stephanopoulos repeatedly challenged McCain on his misleading suggestion that the health care bill in Congress would create "groups that actually advise people as these decisions are made later in life":
STEPHANOPOULOS: The president also says that the debate has been infected by falsehoods. And probably the most notorious one is the one made by your former running mate, Sarah Palin, who said that his bill would encourage death panels that would encourage euthanasia. He called that an extraordinary lie and he is right about that, isn't he?
MCCAIN: Well, I think that what we are talking about here is do – are we going to have groups that actually advise people as these decisions are made later in life and …
STEPHANOPOULOS: That's not in the bill.
MCCAIN: But – it's been taken out, but the way that it was written made it a little bit ambiguous. And another thing …
STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't think that's correct, Senator. The bill, all it said was that, if a patient wanted to have a Medicare consultation about end-of-life issues, they could have it at their request and the doctor would get reimbursed for it, no panel …
MCCAIN: There was a provision in the bill that talks about a board that would decide the most effective measures to provide health care for people, OK? Now, we had amendments, we republican have said that in no way would that affect the decisions that the patients would make and their families. That was rejected by the Democrats and the health committee.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But that's not a death panel.
MCCAIN: So what does – what does that lead to? Doesn't that lead to a possibility, at least opens the door to a possibility of rationing and decisions made such are made in other countries?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, every single independent group that looked at it said it just wasn't true.
MCCAIN: Well, then why did the Democrats turn down our amendments that clarified that none of the decisions that would be made by this board would in any way affect depriving of needed treatments for patients? I don't know why they did that then.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So you think Sarah Palin was right?
MCCAIN: Look, I don't think they were called death panels, don't get me wrong. I don't think – but on the best treatment procedures part of the bill, it does open it up to decisions being made as far – that should be left – those choices left to the patient and the individual. That's what I think is pretty clear, which was a different section of the bill.
It's going to take this sort of a confrontational approach to scare people away from promoting misinformation. People won't change their behavior without strong reputational incentives to do so.