The stubborn yet false rumour that U.S. President Obama’s health-care proposals would create government-sponsored “death panels” to decide which patients were worthy of living seemed to arise from nowhere in recent weeks. Advanced even this week by Republican stalwarts including the party’s last vice-presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, and Charles E. Grassley, the veteran Iowa senator, the nature of the assertion nonetheless seemed reminiscent of the modern-day viral Internet campaigns that dogged Obama last year, falsely calling him a Muslim and questioning his nationality. But the rumour, which has come up at Congressional town-hall-style meetings this week in spite of an avalanche of reports laying out why it was false, was not born of anonymous emailers, partisan bloggers or stealthy cyber-conspiracy theorists. Rather, it has a far more mainstream provenance, openly emanating months ago from many of the same pundits and conservative media outlets that were central in defeating Bill Clinton’s health care proposals 16 years ago, including the editorial board of the Washington Times, the American Spectator magazine and Betsy McCaughey, whose 1994 health care critique made her a star of the conservative movement (and ultimately, New York’s lieutenant governor).
Obama's purported "death panels" have familiar source
The spectre was raised 16 years ago over Clinton proposals