To counter an upcoming ABC special on health care reform featuring President Barack Obama, the Republican National Committee has put the word out that Republicans in the U.S. Congress should make themselves heard on their local airwaves.
In a Wednesday memo to media and scheduling contacts for the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, the RNC offered GOP legislators the use of its TV studio on June 24, the scheduled air date of ABC's planned health care reform special, so the lawmakers could discuss their own health care views in satellite interviews with their congressional districts' ABC affiliates.
The RNC has offered to pay for satellite time and set up the interviews with the affiliates.
National legislators from the Chattanooga region don't yet have plans to participate.
"We don't know all the details of this special, but we do hope that as the media covers this important issue they will present all sides," said Todd Womack, chief of staff for Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.
Rep. Nathan Deal, R-Ga., also was unaware of the RNC initiative, but chief of staff Todd Smith said Rep. Deal always is willing to discuss health care reform and is not opposed to participating.
Efforts to obtain comment from the office of Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., were unsuccessful Wednesday.
Tom Henderson, news director of local ABC affiliate WTVC NewsChannel 9, said the station has not been contacted by any legislators from the region about this, but "we certainly would not forgo the opportunity to speak with our local elected officials on health care reform, not so much as a way to contradict what ABC might or might not be doing, but just as a way to hear from our local representatives."
The station likely would air any such interviews as a follow-up piece the day after President Obama's news special, rather than the day of the special, he said.
"My thinking would be we do this in the context of ABC's reporting. Without that context it would seem (like putting) the cart before the horse," he said.
RNC Chief of Staff Ken McKay described the planned health care reform special as a "glorified infomercial" in a memo published on the Drudge Report. He said ABC denied Republicans' request to be included in the special.
The Tuesday memo to congressional staff states, "This means that President Obama and the Democrats will have an entire day to push their government-run health care agenda without hearing Republicans' policy ideas and principles on health care reform."
WHAT'S GOING ON?
On June 24, ABC News is planning to air a primetime news special on health care reform called "Prescription for America." The special will include an interview with President Barack Obama from the White House as well as an hour-long town-hall forum with the president, moderated by ABC reporters. The audience will be selected by ABC News to include Americans "who have divergent opinions" on the health care debate, according to a news release on the special. Republican National Committee members objected to the extensive primetime coverage of President Obama's views on health care without inclusion of opposing Republican views.