Associated Press turns from trusted news source to White House PR

WASHINGTON — With no commentary heading or tag, the Associated Press (AP) published an apparent “news” story early Tuesday morning countering Sarah Palin’s opposition to the proposed health care bill with unsourced statements.
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Headlined, “FACT CHECK: No ‘death panel’ in health care bill” and written by AP reporter Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, the story leads with two opening paragraphs before a Q&A which appears to be a White House talking points post.

The AP piece leads:

Former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin says the health care overhaul bill would set up a “death panel.” Federal bureaucrats would play God, ruling on whether ailing seniors are worth enough to society to deserve life-sustaining medical care. Palin and other critics are wrong.

Nothing in the legislation would carry out such a bleak vision. The provision that has caused the uproar would instead authorize Medicare to pay doctors for counseling patients about end-of-life care, if the patient wishes.

Nothing in the legislation would carry out such a bleak vision. AP gives no attribution to the opinion that the health care bill could not play out in the scenario Palin says might happen should the bill pass as proposed.

Instead, the Q&A section mirrors White House talking points on the bill. For example:

Q: Does the health care legislation bill promote “mercy killing,” or euthanasia?

A: No.

It is not until the last two questions of the nine questions and answers posted that AP gives any attribution to the answers.

The “FACT CHECK” piece ends with the line:

The White House says it is countering false claims with a “reality check” page on its Web site, http://www.whitehouse.gov.

Following the story, another information line gives the link to a White House “Reality Check” page, which reads:

White House site on health care claims: http://www.whitehouse.gov/realitycheck/

The Associated Press has its roots dating back to a May 1846 agreement between five New York City newspapers to share incoming reports from the Mexican-American War, according to a Wikipedia posting.