The media war over George W. Bush’s stent

From Benghazi to the health of former President George W. Bush, wild unsubstantiated assertions by the news media take the place of real reporting. Fox News is left to set the record straight, yet frequently it doesn’t get the credit it deserves.

The stent placement in President Bush’s coronary artery is the latest example of the world of Fox News versus wild speculation.

The subsequent media firestorm and unsubstantiated August debate over whether Bush’s heart procedure was needed has culminated in yet another round of anti-journalistic speculation this week more than two months after the fact.

A National Journal “article” published on Monday (and the subsequent hullabaloo by NBC news, CNN, etc.) was essentially a non-attributed rip-off of an opinion piece I published in USA Today (August 16th) and the Dallas Morning News and then reported on Fox News.

I had attempted back then to report the facts about the severity of President Bush’s lesion, and the appropriateness of his treatment by his team of doctors in Dallas, led by Dr. Tony Das, who inserted the potentially lifesaving stent.

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My source for the real medical facts back in August was the president’s senior spokesperson, Freddy Ford.

President Bush, typically unselfish, was not responding to criticism with anything personal or political but was concerned for the reputation of his doctors who he felt were being falsely maligned.

He wanted to set the medical record straight for their sake.

He wanted his experience to be used as an example, where he had gone from riding 100 kilometers with wounded veterans and yours truly on the rugged trails of his ranch back in May without even being winded to having been diagnosed a severe coronary lesion in a critical location (left anterior descending artery) just two months later.

He wanted his case to serve as a lesson for other Americans including those with cardiac risk factors (former smoker, uneven diet) but minimal symptoms (vague discomfort).

The initial public announcement on the day the stent was inserted  (August 6) was intended to do just that. “We would never have put it out if it wasn’t serious in the first place,” Freddy Ford said to me.

Yet despite the public announcement, the news media, wildly speculating as usual without information, seized on Bush’s stent as a prime example of what ObamaCare was out to prevent; frivolous overuse of technology especially among the privileged.

Stents have been under attack ever since the COURAGE trial in 2007, a poorly done study (published in the New England Journal of Medicine) which cherry-picked healthy patients and failed to show a survival advantage for stents.

Three days after Bush’s stent, on August 9, two oncologists, Drs. Prasad and Cifu, wrote an irresponsible op-ed in the Washington Post which cited the COURAGE trial and tried to apply it recklessly to Bush’s case, claiming that he should have had a colonoscopy rather than a stress test.

This article, republished in the Dallas Morning News, prompted the Bush camp to reach out to me to help set the record straight.

My article was reviewed for medical accuracy by Bush’s doctors.

President Bush, with his trademark concern for those around him, didn’t want to see the pastry chef blamed for his diet while in the White House.

We all thought this was the end of the story until the National Journal article this week rekindled the flames of reckless speculation.

The mainstream media took two months to come around to acknowledging the truth (still without sources) because of the current agenda to always attack and divide: That is to automatically attack the use of expensive technologies, even when appropriate and to automatically undermine the role of Fox News even when we break a story.

The media also seems to be trying to obscure the news that matters the most -- “He’s doing great – has been all along!” as Ford said to me this week.