Actor Andy Griffith of Matlock fame was not financially compensated for starring in a taxpayer-funded ad touting President Obama’s new health-care law, according to one government agency. The commercial has been criticized by Republicans for being political — and thus illegally paid for with federal dollars — and also misleading to seniors.
“He volunteered to help us on this education campaign after we contacted him and explained our education effort for this year,” said Peter Ashkenaz, a spokesman at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).
The Daily Caller attempted to reach Griffith, who reportedly lives on Roanoke Island, N.C., but was unable to do so. A Hollywood talent agency that formerly represented the well-known actor declined to disclose his contact information.
The initial ad buy of $700,000 tells viewers that because of the law, “good things are coming” including free checkups. But Factcheck.org released a post saying, “Would the sheriff of Mayberry mislead you about Medicare? Alas, yes.”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bu8q0EU4b9w&feature=player_embedded
“Griffith tells his fellow senior citizens, ‘Like always, we’ll have our guaranteed [Medicare] benefits.’ But the truth is that the new law is guaranteed to result in benefit cuts for one class of Medicare beneficiaries — those in private Medicare Advantage plans,” wrote Factcheck.org.
A handful of GOP lawmakers penned a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius calling the ad “a clear violation of the spirit of federal laws that prohibit the use of taxpayer dollars for campaign purposes,” asking for the department to “cease the ad campaign immediately and reimburse the U.S. Treasury for any expenditure of taxpayer funds related to this effort.”
“The job of the executive branch, quite simply, is to execute and implement the law, not re-litigate a political debate,” the letter reads.
CMS has denied the spot is political, and Ashkenaz said CMS has used celebrity spokespeople — such as Leslie Nielsen, Sherman Hemsley and Jasmine Guy — in the past to reach out to beneficiaries to educate them. This year’s video, he said, “is part of our annual efforts to inform Medicare beneficiaries about changes to Medicare before the annual open enrollment period begins in the fall.”
He said Griffith is one of the most popular and trusted voices with seniors, which is why he “was the perfect choice for helping seniors know who to talk to and where to go to get more information about what is in the bill.”