Associated Press Gives Credibility to Smear Against Tom Price

President-Elect Trump’s nominees are going through their confirmation hearings, and in pretty much every case the press is covering the hearings by highlighting the Democrats’ allegations against them, no matter how false or petty those complaints might be. A case in point is Dr. Tom Price, whom Trump has nominated as Secretary of Health and Human Services.

The AP headlines: “Pointed questions for Trump’s pick for health secretary.” It is always the Democrats’ questions that are considered newsworthy. Then there is the AP video whose headline is, “Sanders Worried Over Trump Health Secretary Pick.” Seriously: is it news to anyone that Bernie Sanders doesn’t like Trump’s nominees? I would be sorely disappointed if he did.

The AP’s story on Tom Price’s confirmation hearing gives lots of space to Democrats’ claims the Dr. Price has a “conflict of interest,” a common theme of Democrat attacks:

They also planned to focus on Price’s investments, which have prompted questions about potential conflicts of interest and calls for a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation of possible insider trading.

Last week, Price signed a government ethics agreement pledging to sell his stocks, but that didn’t stop the questions. The latest controversy involves Price’s purchase last year of stock in Zimmer Biomet, a major medical device manufacturer. The acquisition came around the same time that Price introduced legislation to suspend Medicare rules seen as problematic for such companies.

“This isn’t a witch hunt. These are serious and disquieting allegations,” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York said Tuesday.

No, they aren’t. They are frivolous smears. The AP gives equal time to the GOP’s response to the Democrats’ lies:

Trump transition team spokesman Phillip Blando said the Zimmer Biomet purchase was directed by Price’s stockbroker as part of ongoing management of the congressman’s investments. The spokesman also said Price had no advance knowledge and had not directed the broker to consider the company. Government records show that Price was notified about the purchase more than a week after he offered the legislation. His spokesman said Price had been working on the bill for months.

A careful reader might understand that the Democrats’ smear has been thoroughly rebutted, but most wouldn’t. Here is a more thorough response to the Democrats’ claim, circulated by Trump’s transition team:

CNN recently broadcast a segment on Dr. Tom Price’s finances that was junk reporting. Any effort to connect the introduction of bipartisan legislation by Dr. Price to any campaign contribution is demonstrably false. The only pattern we see emerging is that Senate Democrats and their liberal media allies cannot abide the notion that Dr. Tom Price is uniquely qualified to lead HHS and will stop at nothing to smear his reputation.

For Background Use

Why this is a non-issue: (a) the account (and the associated purchase) was broker-directed, not directed by Dr. Price; (b) the extremely small purchase of Biomet was part of a larger portfolio rebalancing of Dr. Price’s portfolio (which involved the sale and purchase of dozens of stocks in a wide variety of sectors – again directed and chosen by the broker); (c) Dr. Price did not become aware of the stock purchase until 4/4/16 (as noted in the timeline) – a date well after the bill in question in the CNN story was introduced; and (d) Dr. Price was engaged on the general issues involved in this legislation dating back to 2015 (as described below), including putting out a Dear Colleague letter to that effect in September 2015.

Attachment: September 2015 Bipartisan Letter Opposing CMS Demonstration Project

Timeline:

* Dr. Tom Price has a diversified portfolio with Morgan Stanley in a broker-directed account. The portfolio includes both health care and non-health care related stocks.

* Dr. Price’s Morgan Stanley financial advisor designed his portfolio and directed all trades in the account. Pursuant to the arrangement with Morgan Stanley, the financial advisor, and not Dr. Price, has the discretion to decide which securities to buy and sell in his account.

* Dr. Price’s financial advisor periodically rebalances his portfolio to ensure proper diversification. On March 17, 2016, Morgan Stanley undertook a comprehensive rebalancing of Dr. Price’s portfolio. In the course of that rebalancing, the advisor purchased 26 shares of Zimmer Biomet, worth $2,697.74, on behalf of Dr. Price.

* Dr. Price learned of the purchase of Zimmer Biomet on April 4, 2016, when his financial advisor sent him a list of trades to be disclosed on his House Periodic Transaction Report (PTR).

* Dr. Price submitted the PTR reflecting the March trades on April 15, 2016.

* Dr. Price began work on his legislative effort to delay the comprehensive joint replacement demonstration project in 2015 in order to preserve treatment options for patients. He sent a Dear Colleague letter regarding this effort on September 21, 2015.

The Democrats’ smear of Dr. Price is frankly idiotic. It can properly be described as fake news. Yet the Associated Press, along with CNN, passes this fake news along to its readers along with the Democrats’ assertion that “t]hese are serious and disquieting allegations.”

This is typical of the bias that infects reporting on Trump’s nominees.

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