Did Obama Embellish His Mother’s Deathbed Fight?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A new book challenges President Barack Obama’s carefully constructed mythology about his late mother’s deathbed fight with her health insurance company.

Throughout the 2008 presidential campaign, then-candidate Barack Obama regaled audiences with the story of how his mother, Ann Durham, hospitalized with terminal cancer, waged a valiant fight with her employer-provided health insurance, to pay claims for her medical expenses.

Obama’s narrative was a compelling argument for ending pre-existing condition exclusions the vast majority of health insurers underwrite into policies.

In his second debate with Sen. John McCain of Arizona, in October 2008, Obama said:

“For my mother to die of cancer at the age of 53 and have to spend the last months of her life in the hospital room arguing with insurance companies because they’re saying that this may be a pre-existing condition and they don’t have to pay her treatment, there’s something fundamentally wrong about that.”

However, in a New York Times review of “A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mother,” by author Janny Scott, Scott quotes from correspondence from the president’s mother to assert that the 1995 dispute centered around a Cigna disability insurance policy and that her health insurer had in fact, reimbursed nearly all of his mother’s medical expenses, without argument.

On Wednesday, after repeated requests for comment that The Times first made in mid-June, shortly after the book’s release, a White House spokesman did not dispute  Ms. Scott’s account but suggested Mr. Obama’s told the story based on his recollection of events that took place “more than 15 years ago.”

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14 Responses to Did Obama Embellish His Mother’s Deathbed Fight?

  1. feminazi says:

    Politicians come hardwired to lie. It’s a part of the psychopathy of their DNA. Same can be said of 99% of corporate CEOs. Normal, healthy people don’t go into politics or become CEOs. Obama was naive back in 2008 to think if he won the presidency, there wouldn’t be more scrutiny on his words.

  2. Feminazi,

    I think you’re spot-on, as usual.

    Look at how John McCain embellished his Vietnam war prisoner story. It got bigger and bigger until finally, men who were there said McCain’s version of events never happened.

  3. joost says:

    All politicians are liars. From Mark Foley to Anthony Weiner. These guys should have “Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire” on their business cards. No wonder the American people’s view of Washington is constantly low. They can’t be trusted. Remember Bill Clinton’s infamous, “I did not have sex with that woman, Monica Lewinsky.” I’ve come to the conclusion dogs are the most honest creature on earth.

  4. TOM339 says:

    When my mother died from cardio disease, she was in and out of the hospital for months. She would get better, come home, then take a turn for the worse and go back to the hospital. Round and round we went.

    I remember every detail of the ordeal and the image of her becoming weak and frail will remain etched in my brain until the day I die. I was also the designated advocate to help her deal with the secondary insurance, Medicare was primary.

    Using my mother’s illness to score points is unimaginable to me. This was the end of her life and an intensely private matter. I have to question what sort of man would exploit his mother’s cancer for political gain? I think only a man lacking in character could do such a thing.

  5. Harry says:

    What TOM339 said.

  6. Thai Noodles says:

    It’s Bush’s fault.

  7. Rachel says:

    I vividly recall candidate Obama’s narrative about his mother, Ann Durham, as she lay dying in her hospital bed, fighting with her insurance company to pay her medical bills. It was heart wrenching to think of a sick parent of two, battling not only cancer but despots at Cigna. So now none of this was true? Obama invented the entire chapter to help push his national healthcare plan during the election? I tell you, the more we learn about Obama, the less I like him. This is just wrong and it pisses me off.

  8. Estacada says:

    When I was finished reading this, I immediately wondered what else is Obama not telling the truth about? It’s only natural to go there. I also wonder how long until the Republicans use this stretch of the truth come debate time?

    Presidential elections have a nasty way of forcing skeletons out of the closet.

  9. JollyRoger says:

    Interesting. And here I was criticizing him for “forgetting” about his mother’s struggles. Maybe he didn’t forget after all.

  10. fran says:

    Cigna does not have a stellar rep:
    It won’t help Cigna that it has an unpleasant cameo role in Sicko, the Michael Moore film about the ailing state of U.S. health care. The movie takes a swipe at the insurer for a 2003 settlement of $85 million that it agreed to in order to resolve lawsuits filed on behalf of doctors who complained they were routinely paid late because of computer problems at the company. Moore’s broadside also suggests a health plan member was approved for a cochlear implant for his hearing-impaired child only after he threatened to sic Moore on the company, something a Cigna spokesman denies.

    This is what Obama said:
    “She had been diagnosed just as she was transitioning between jobs. And she wasn’t sure whether insurance was going to cover the medical expenses because they might consider this a preexisting condition. I remember just being heartbroken, seeing her struggle through the paperwork and the medical bills and the insurance forms. So, I have seen what it’s like when somebody you love is suffering because of a broken health care system. And it’s wrong. It’s not who we are as a people.”

    She was misdiagnosed in 1994 while living & working in Indonesia. An initial diagnosis of indigestion. She returned to the states in 1995 & was diagnosed with uterine cancer. By this time the cancer had spread to her ovaries. She moved back to Hawaii to live near her Mother, and died in Nov of 1995.

    So really, I think Obama was likely telling the truth. Insurance companies have been mastering the ability to screw people around, deny coverage, or just make things difficult. The 2003
    $85 million settlement over stalled payments probably dragged on for many years.
    Obama has been hounded about his birth certificate, his religion, and now the details of the death of his Mother. When does this tabliodesque crap end?

  11. Eric Equality Kuntz says:

    Lie. Miss-characterize. Fib. Twist. Take your pick.

    The New York Times author, Janny Scott, is no rightwing fringe dweller. She’s an esteemed, Pulitzer Prize winning author, perhaps best known for her “How Race Is Lived In America,” a 15-part series of articles examining racial experiences and attitudes in America.

    Maybe if Mr. Obama could stick to just a single narrative that is truthful, he wouldn’t open himself up to books disputing his version of reality?

  12. Stephen Iversonn says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong but by 1995, wasn’t Barack Obama a Harvard-educated attorney?

    If his sick and dying mother, whom he professed to love, was having difficulties navigating the world of insurance, why didn’t he go to bat for her? I have no recollection of Mr. Obama saying during the campaign something like, “It wasn’t until I wrote a letter to my mother’s insurance that the matter of claims payment was resolved.” He said nothing.

    The other point I want to make is, did Mr. Obama ever assist his mother with her out-of-pocket medical expenses? Harvard law professors make as much as a member of Congress. I mean, if there was ever a time to step up, it is when your mother has terminal cancer.

    In any case, I’m sure someone will say I’m part of the pajamas media here to attack our sainted president. Or something equally wrong and silly.

  13. Matteo says:

    No president has won reelection when unemployment is higher than 7%. Unemployment is 9.2% and real unemployment is 20%. Add to this, Obama’s job approval rating is 44%.


    Just go ahead and reserve the U-Haul for January, 2012. Obama won’t serve a second term.

  14. P says:

    Tom339 says: “When my mother died from cardio disease, she was in and out of the hospital for months. She would get better, come home, then take a turn for the worse and go back to the hospital. Round and round we went.

    And that is just how it often goes. My mother-in-law struggled for two years before the actual death. My dad for a year, my mom for two years. As Tom said, up and down, in and out of
    hospital. Each time we took the 22 hour overnight drive to spend with any of them so they could get to know their grandson we didn’t know what the outcome would be.

    That we were there at the LAST minute is the least important time for us to have been with them; by the end they ALL had been in deep comas for days. They didn’t even know we WERE there.

    Being at the deathbed at the very moment of death is not a test of love or character. It’s absurd for anyone to fault him for that and he never claimed to be there at the moment she died.

    That she was used as an example of how uncertain insurance was is not exploitive or deserving of criticism, and he didn’t say most of what is attributed to him. Death bed coma scenes, and funerals are for those of us left behind, not the deceased.

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