Crazy Conservative Medicine
Let's look back at the writing career of factually challenged WorldNetDaily columnist (and past president of a far-right medical group) Dr. Lee Hieb.
By Terry Krepel
Dr. Lee Hieb
That's too bad, because she had two things that make a good WND columnist -- implied authority (she's an orthopedic surgeon) and nutty right-wing bona fides in the form of being a past president of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons.
As ConWebWatch has detailed, AAPS is a right-wing group that opposes health care reform and mandatory vaccination, doesn't think doctors should be punished for massively overprescribing pain pills, and advocated Clinton conspiracy theories in the 1990s.
Let's look back on the highlights of Hieb's writings to see what made her such a perfect WND columnist.
Hieb's inaugural column was one huge red-baiting screed:
Call a Code Blue! Medicine in America is in cardiac arrest.
Hieb goes on to write that "the Russian communist Vladimir Lenin, too, understood the role of medicine when he opined, 'Medical care is the keystone in the arch of socialism.'" In fact, as David Blumenthal and James A. Morone write in their book "The Heart of Power: Health and Politics in the Oval Office," the quote was apparently fabricated by a public relations firm hired by the American Medical Association to fight an attempt at health care reform during the Truman administration. Blumenthal and Morone note that the AAPS dredged up the fabricated quote in 2000.
Still mostly anti-vaccine
Hieb started a February 2013 column by pretending she's not as anti-vaccine as she is, and she still comes off as anti-vaccine:
As any reader of this column must know by now, I am skeptical of modern government vaccination programs and violently object to mandates. I marvel at the purported horrible epidemic of flu we are supposedly currently experiencing an epidemic so bad that anyone not getting vaccinated is labelled some sort of bourgeois anti-social criminal. Wait ... where are all the supposed desperately ill people?
Perhaps Hieb couldn't find them because they were sick at home or in the hospital. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 9,500 people had been hospitalized for influenza between October 2012 and the time Hieb's column was written, and the proportion of influenza-related deaths "remains above the epidemic threshold." Further, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that more American workers called in sick in January 2013 than during any month in nearly five years, due in no small part to the flu.
But Hieb -- who has declared that mandatory vaccination violates the Nuremberg Code -- eventually avers that there is one vaccine she supports everyone getting: smallpox. And she fearmongers to make her case:
While it is true that smallpox has been eradicated in the wild, it is not gone. As smallpox came under some control, samples from the disease were given to the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta and to Biopreparat/Vector in the Soviet Union. Just as Oppenheimer thought it would be a more stable world if both sides had nuclear bombs, the World Health Organization thought it was only fair that both the democratic U.S. and the totalitarian Soviets should have samples of the world’s deadliest disease.
But Alibek is not exactly a credible source on the issue. According to the Los Angeles Times:
His most sensational research findings, with U.S. colleagues, have not withstood peer review by scientific specialists. His promotion of nonprescription pills -- sold in his name over the Internet and claiming to bolster the immune system -- was ridiculed by some scientists. He resigned as executive director of a Virginia university's biodefense center 10 months ago while facing internal strife over his stewardship.
Hieb conspiratorially added: "The government owns all smallpox vaccine in America. None is available for purchase by physicians or patients. I have talked to several naïve public health officials who assure me that, at the state level, the vaccine is stored and will be distributed if an outbreak occurs."
Hieb also ranted that "West Nile Virus was never seen in this continent until it appeared in birds in the Brooklyn Zoo (strange place) coincidentally just after a visit to New York City by Castro’s science adviser." This conspiracy theory -- also an Alibek invention -- was promoted at Newsmax in 2002 by another AAPS-linked doctor, Miguel A. Faria Jr.
Getting it wrong
Hieb may have approached some kind of WND record for having the most falsehoods and deceptions in a single work -- quite a feat since WND editor Joseph Farah proudly boasts of the misinformation his columnists peddle -- in her Oct. 7 column:
So, Warren Buffet woke up and called foul to Obamacare. John Boehner finally found a spine and tried to call a halt to Obamacare. But does it matter? Isn’t it all too little, too late?
In fact, Buffett (whose name Hieb misspells throughout her column) did not say such a thing -- the remarks were taken out of context and originally spoken three years ago. Buffett himself said of Hieb's claim, “It’s 100 percent wrong ... totally false.” Hieb then wrote:
I presume that the “Wizard of Omaha,” whose house I pass frequently on my way to and from shopping, is not stupid financially. He presumably gets the idea that you cannot spend more than you make, nor can you pay people to be idle.
First, Buffett is called the "Oracle of Omaha." Second, it seems highly doubtful that Hieb really does "frequently" pass by Buffett's house.
Hieb reportedly lives in Logan, Iowa, which is closer to Omaha but still nearly 40 miles away. She seems to be kept busy there fighting city notices to remove chickens from her property. With so much traveling between Logan and Lake City, Omaha would be far out of her way to visit with the frequency she claims, let alone to go as far into the city as one must to drive past Buffett's house.
Hieb then rants:
But until we hold Congress to the Constitution, it doesn’t matter what law they pass anywhere about anything. You can go to jail for all sorts of violations of their little bureaucrat regulations, which is how Dr. Natale ended in Federal Prison for something he wrote in an operative note and how an ophthalmologist in San Diego ended in federal prison for choosing the wrong CPT codes and how a businessman ended in prison for importing the wrong subspecies of crustacean.
Dr. John Natale was imprisoned for something a little more serious than "something he wrote in an operative note." Most people would call it Medicare fraud. According to the Chicago Tribune, Natale was convicted on two counts of making false statements, and "the trial jury found that for at least two patients in 2004, Natale prepared false post-operation reports containing details about aneurysm repairs that he never performed, and falsely describing the surgeries he did perform as being more complex and elaborate than they actually were." The judge also found that Natale obstructed justice while testifying in his own behalf at trial.
Hieb doesn't give enough info on the "ophthalmologist in San Diego" who "ended in federal prison for choosing the wrong CPT codes," but it appears she's referring to Jeffrey Rutgard, whose case the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons -- where Hieb is past president -- has championed. Rutgard was convicted in 1992 of 132 counts of fraud (which presumably involved a lot more than putting down the wrong billing codes), for which he was sentenced to 11 years in prison and ordered to pay $16 million in restitution. On appeal, some of the charges were dropped and that sentence vacated; he was resentenced to time served in prison.
To what end is Hieb directing all of these falsehoods and misrepresentations? Bashing Obamacare, of course. Hieb does graciously concede that Obamacare did not start "the collapse of America," but asserts that it "will be the straw on the camel’s back to finish."
* * *
How can you not miss a columnist who discredits herself so aggressively?