Washington Babylon — August 13, 2008, 5:31 pm

More Hot Air From David Broder on Speaking Fees

David Broder answered questions from Washington Post readers today during an online chat, and was asked about his acceptance of speaking fees from private groups, a topic I first raised here in June. Here’s the exchange:

Re: Speaking Fees: A few weeks ago, the paper’s ombudsman, Deborah Howell, wrote a critical piece about your acceptance of speaking fees and the fact that you have spoken before groups that lobby Congress on several occasions. How much do think this revelation hurts your credibility? Personally, I find it difficult to take you seriously on any of the issues (like health care) where you accepted fees and accomodations from advocacy groups in the area.

David S. Broder: You are certainly entitled to judge my work by whatever standard you wish. I would simply point out to you that I have never accepted a speaking fee from a health care or medical group since I started covering that policy area 16 years ago.

As I reported, and as Broder has acknowledged, he spoke last October before the Western Conference of Prepaid Medical Service Plans, “an organization comprised of 31 member companies, primarily Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans.” The event was held at the La Quinta Resort & Spa, “a legendary hideaway and meeting destination, renowned since 1926 for its charm and serenity. La Quinta Resort & Club features 90 holes of some of the country’s best golf . . . [and] a variety of unique indoor and outdoor treatments including PGA WEST Golf Massage, open-air Celestial Showers Sacred Stone Massage and more.” At almost precisely the same time, Broder wrote a column that was very sympathetic towards a health care plan favorable to Blue Cross.

Broder wasn’t paid a fee for that speech, but he did accept travel and accommodations at the resort, so at minimum he is parsing words. But Broder has apparently spoken at least three other times before health care groups:

  • At the Association for Community Health Improvement in 2005, at the Hyatt Regency in Tampa, Florida. The group is a coalition of for-profit and non-profit hospitals, government health officials, community health centers.

  • At the American College of Physicians, during a lobbying visit the group paid to Washington in the summer of 2005.

  • At the American Academy of Family Physicians in 1999, in Orlando, Florida.

Was Broder paid for these speeches, or did he accept travel and accommodations for the trips to Florida? Maybe the Post should find out. (Broder has very pointedly refused to speak to me about the matter since I first raised it.)

Ever since I wrote the original story Broder has blown smoke about his speaking fees, and the Post has allowed him to do it and even abetted him. When Post ombudsman Deborah Howell asked Broder about his speaking engagements
he initially misled her, then acknowledged that he had broken the newspaper’s own rules. “He also said he had cleared his speeches with Milton Coleman, deputy managing editor, or Tom Wilkinson, an assistant managing editor, but neither remembered him mentioning them,” Howell reported.

Broder also told Howell that he had attended an event at the American Council for Capital Formation, “but did not give a speech” to the group, as I had reported. But as I subsequently noted, a Council publication reported on Broder’s speech to the group and their account even had a picture of him as he addressed the crowd.

It would be one thing if Broder fessed up and apologized, it’s another for him to simply continue to so flagrantly mislead the Post and its readers.

Oh, and even more surprising is that during his online chat, Broder was asked why the Post had not reported on the John Edwards affair story, and he replied: “I was not aware of the Edwards story before this past week, and I was shocked as anyone could be at the news.” Which would make the dean of Washington political reporters more shocked than just about anyone else in the country, since the National Enquirer first reported on Edwards last fall, and the story has been openly discussed and commented on ever since.

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