Betsy McCaughey Philip Morris Shill - Rolling Stone
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Betsy McCaughey Philip Morris Shill

The blonde, Chiclet-toothed Betsy McCaughey has been fingered as the Typhoid Mary of the “death panels” meme.

[Listen to McCaughey unveil the lie here on the radio show of former presidential candidate Fred Thompson.]

McCaughey has run this con before, concocting elaborate and terrifying lies about the Clinton health care reform efforts of the early 1990s. What has never been reported before, however, is that McCaughey’s infamous writings in the New Republic, were shaped by the world’s largest tobacco company as a part of a secret public relations campaign to destroy Hillarycare.

A March 1994 Tobacco Strategy memo released among the millions of documents made public in the 1998 tobacco settlements, details the tobacco giant’s covert strategy to coordinate with its own slice of the vast right wing conspiracy — a group of more than thirty conservative think tanks, front groups, and media outlets — to derail the Clinton health plan. [The tobacco giant’s wanted especially to kill per-pack excise taxes that were a major funding mechanism of Hillarycare.]

The memo’s author is not listed on the document, but based on the writer’s declared board affiliations within the document, it appears to have been written by Roy Marden, then Philip Morris’ Manager of Industry Affairs. The Phillip Morris memo lays out a strategy to place advantageous stories with friendly allies in the media. But it mentions only one writer by name:

“Worked off-the-record with Manhattan and writer Betsy McCaughey, as part of the input to the three-part expose in The New Republic on what the Clinton plan means to you. The first part detailed specifics of the plan.”

The “specifics” that McCaughey detailed in that piece, “No Exit,” were as profoundly untrue and inflammatory as the claim of death panels is today. Posing a as non-partisan academic, McCaughey parsed the legalese of the Clinton bill’s 1,364 pages. The central, terrifying claim of McCaughey’s piece was that even Americans of means couldn’t escape looming constraints of government healthcare. “The law will prevent you from going outside the system to purchase basic health coverage you think is better,” McCaughey wrote. In fact, the bill’s language stated plainly: “Nothing in this Act shall be construed as prohibiting the following: (1) An individual from purchasing any health care services.”


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