Posted on January 8, 2009

Conyers: Obama should not nominate Sanjay Gupta


By Sam Stein
Huffington Post
January 8, 2009

Rep. John Conyers has written a letter to Democratic colleagues urging them to join him in publicly opposing the nomination of Dr. Sanjay Gupta for Surgeon General.

Conyers, the veteran Judiciary Committee chairman, writes that Gupta “lacks the requisite experience needed to oversee the federal agency that provides crucial health care assistance,” and requests that fellow Democrats join him “in signing a letter to President-Elect Barack Obama that Dr. Sunjay Gupta not be nominated for the post.”

Here’s the bulk of the Dear Colleague letter:

“I join in opposition with respected Noble Peace Prize award wining economist Paul Krugman, who has very serious concerns with having Dr. Gupta be the nation’s Surgeon General. […]

“Also, there are highly experienced medical professionals who question whether Dr. Gupta has the necessary experience or even the medical background to be in charge of some 6,000 physicians or more who work in the United States Public Health Service. Gerard M. Farrel, executive director of the Commissioned Officers Association, stated in the January 7, 2008, Washington Post that Dr. Gupta will certainly face a ‘credibility gap’ because he never served in the National Health Service Corps, and furthermore, does not have the ‘experience or qualifications to be the leader of the nation’s public health service.’ Clearly, it is not in the best interests of the nation to have someone like this who lacks the requisite experience needed to oversee the federal agency that provides crucial health care assistance to some of the poorest and most underserved communities in America.”

Conyers’ letter represents one of the first critical takes on the potential Gupta nomination to come from the Hill. In most quarters, reports about the CNN medical correspondent have been greeted as a smart, if not provocative, pick. Howard Dean, a doctor himself, noted that Gupta’s responsibilities would be much the same as those in his current job: explaining medical issues of public concern in a manner that the public could understand.

Outside of government, however, some have begun questioning whether the CNN correspondent has the proper qualifications to be Surgeon General. Krugman, in his post noted that Gupta accused filmmaker Michael Moore of inaccuracies, “when the truth was that on every one of the allegedly fudged facts, Moore was actually right and CNN was wrong.” Gupta and CNN would later acknowledge making a mistake and apologize on air. Others have questioned whether he is the right conduit for Obama’s health care agenda, and whether or not he has ethical conflicts of interest stemming from the corporate sponsors of his show.

But while Conyers and these individuals have doubts, it’s unclear whether the post of Surgeon General will elicit much of a fight, since no Senators (who must confirm the nomination) have spoken critically of Gupta.