CNN Bounces Back from Missing Plane Debacle With VA Coverage

Monday, 26 May 2014 01:49 PM

By Courtney Coren

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CNN was widely criticized for over-reporting on the missing Malaysia Airlines jet, but that weeks-long coverage helped buy the news network time to nail down details of the scandal it exposed at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Hospital.

Reporters investigating the VA scandal said they were able to use interest in the missing plane coverage, which did help boost the network's ratings, as they finalized their investigation into the Phoenix VA, Politico reported.

"Quite frankly, the plane coverage bought us some of that time, so that in April when we finally had it, I mean we didn't sit on it very long . . . we were all over it," said Drew Griffin, CNN senior investigative reporter.

"Once there was a news hole opening, we were ready to go," Griffin added.

CNN reported in late April that 40 veterans had died while waiting to see a doctor because of secret wait lists that were kept to make it look as if patients were not waiting more than the required 14-day period, while in some cases they were actually waiting for months. The story has since turned into a nationwide scandal.

CNN's coverage of the missing Malaysian airplane was mocked by President Barack Obama and conservative radio talk host Rush Limbaugh, among others.

Reports of problems at the VA began in 2012, when it was reported that veterans died after contracting Legionnaires' disease they picked up at a VA hospital in Pittsburgh. In 2013, patients at the Atlanta VA hospital died after VA workers lost track of them.

The story of patients dying at the VA hospital in Phoenix while they were waiting to see a doctor was originally reported by the Arizona Republic when a newly retired VA doctor, Sam Foote, unveiled the practice of patients' being put on a secret wait list to cover up the fact that they were waiting longer than the required 14 days.

The Arizona Republic reported that Foote also sent letters to Reps. Jeff Miller of Florida, Ann Kirkpatrick of Arizona, Sen. John McCain, and the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Miller, who is chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, held a hearing on the matter on April 9.

CNN pushed the scandal into the national spotlight when it aired a report about the Phoenix VA on April 23.

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