C-SPAN founder and CEO Brian Lamb told The Daily Caller on Thursday that President Barack Obama “never” asked C-SPAN to air negotiations over his health care bill, despite making it a campaign promise during the 2008 presidential election season.
“The president said they were all going to be on C-SPAN. He never asked us and we don’t work for the government. We would have covered it but it was just interesting that he assumed, ‘they’re going to be on C-SPAN; they’re going to be on C-SPAN.’ I never thought they would,” he said in an interview on September 22 at the National Building Museum, where he was being honored with the Navy Memorial’s “Lone Sailor Award” for his service in the U.S. Navy.
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“When it got down to it, negotiations are the kind of things that do go on behind closed doors … I think it should happen that a discussion as wide as that health bill should have all been done in public as much as possible. Sometime in the future, somebody who is a leader is going to recognize the public is so cynical about what goes on in Washington that the best way to introduce them to the way it really goes on is to let them see it, and I think [then] a lot of cynicism will go away.”
Asked whether the outcome would have been different if negotiations had been carried out on-camera, as Obama promised they would be, Lamb replied: “I have no idea. Television cameras change things: Sometimes, very little, other times, bigger. It depends on where people are in their own lives and what their own objectives are.”
“The public gives them a salary and so when they’re conducting the public business, it makes sense for them to do it public, unless its high, important, national security problems that have to be done in private,” he added.
C-SPAN uses a video feed provided by the House of Representatives for its broadcasts of floor debates. Lamb argues that C-SPAN’s cameras need more access in Congress, but congressional leadership has consistently turned down the company’s requests.
“For a long time we asked Congress to let us put our own cameras in the chambers so you can get a much more honest view of what’s actually going on, and everybody on both sides turns us down,” he said.
“I suspect it probably isn’t going to happen. Newt Gingrich turned us down, John Boehner turned us down, Nancy Pelosi turned us down. They want to control what we see. And it’s not a misleading picture, necessarily, because you get to hear the debate, but it’s not the whole view that you can get if you sit in the chamber.”
A February 2010 half-day “health care summit” at the Blair House between congressional leaders and the White House was televised, but that event was not considered part of the negotiations affecting the health care legislation itself.