Democracy Now! December 24, 2002

Program Title:
Democracy Now! December 24, 2002
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Is Bill Frist another Trent Lott? The NAACP and NOW gives the Tennessee Senator s record an F grade, consumer groups warn about his extensive ties to the medical and pharmaceutical industry. Today is Frist s first day as Senate Majority leader.; Christmas under Siege: Israeli pull back its troops in Bethlehem but warn residents that this will be no ordinary Christmas; We go to Manger Square and then talk to the founders of the Palestinian International Solidarity Movement

9:00-9:01 9:01-9:06 Headlines 9:06-9:07 One Minute Music Break 9:07-9:20 : Two weeks ago Tennessee Senator Bill Frist backed the embattled Trent Lott after he had openly praised Strom Thurmond s run for president in 1948 on a pro-segregation, anti-civil rights platform. "I wholeheartedly support the leadership of Trent Lott in the U.S. Senate." He went on to tell the Commercial Appeal of Memphis, Tenn.: "The statement was unfortunate, and it was off the cuff and casual," Frist said. "I know Trent Lott and he's not a racist. It's important people understand the Republican Party leads on issues on equity and fairness and nondiscrimination. Any implication otherwise is a disappointment to me." Today Lott is out as Senate Majority Leader and Frist is in. The leadership change is being hailed by the Republicans as a monumental change. Frist, an accomplished heart surgeon, compared his new responsibility as Senate Republican leader to saving a dying patient with a new heart. Frist said, "I accepted that responsibility with a profound sense of humility, very similar to placing that heart into a dying woman or a child or a man." But Frist is already coming under criticism. Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women, said "Few senators have a worse voting record on civil rights than Trent Lott, but Bill Frist is one of them. Frist has voted against sex education, international family planning, emergency contraception (the morning-after pill), affirmative action, hate crimes legislation and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Civil rights groups are openly warning that the Tennessee s doctor s record on race closely mirrors that of Trent Lott s. The NAACP has given him an F grade for voting against its issues more than 75 percent of the time during the last Congress. And Michigan Congressman John Conyers Jr. of the Congressional Black Caucus asked the Justice Department to investigate "efforts to suppress the minority vote" in this year's elections, citing "troubling incidents in key Senate races under the purview of National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman Bill Frist." Prior to running for Senate, he was a member of the all-white Belle Meade Country Club in Nashville. Under the headline Tennessee Redeemed, the neo-confederate magazine Southern Partisan praised Frist s election in 1994. Frist was labeled a genuine Southern conservative. Consumer groups and patient rights groups have also expressed concern over Frist s extensive ties to the medical industry. Not only is Frist the first doctor to serve in the Senate since the 1920s, his father formed HCA, the largest for-profit chain of hospitals in the country. Just last Wednesday HCA agreed to pay close to $900 million to settle a massive fraud inquiry by the Justice Department. All told the company, formerly Columbia/HCA, will pay more than $1.7 billion in civil and criminal penalties the largest ever in a health care fraud case. Frist has never worked for the family business but USA Today reports that he owns about $25 million in company stock. His wife owns another million. According to CBS News if Frist were in the House or in the White House, he would have to rid himself of the HCA investment. But the Senate s relaxed rules allows legislators to vote on issues that affect personal investments as long as it's good for the country. And the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights charges Frist has helped block strong patients bill of rights legislation, held up a Medicare prescription drug benefit bill and promoted capping verdicts received by patients who sue negligent hospitals. Frist is also the Senator who first put forward a controversial bill that exempted from legal liability drug companies, such as Eli Lilly, thatmanufactured Thimerosal, a preservative in childhood vaccines that has been linked to a rise in autism. The Frist-penned legislation initially failed but it was secretly reinserted into the House version of the 475-page Homeland Security Act. To this day no legislator has taken responsibility for the provision and Frist denies any connection. In response to the mystery, the online public interest journal, has offered a $10,000 reward to whoever can prove the identity of the so-called Eli Lilly Bandit. Within the Republican Party, Frist is seen as one of its rising stars. As head of the National Republican Senatorial Commission he captained the recent campaign to regain the Senate Majority. Some view him a future vice president or even presidential candidate. Today is his first day as Senate Majority Leader. Phone Guest: Michael Kranish, Washington correspondent for the Boston Globe. He authored a piece on Frist titled First Responder that appeared in the Boston Globe Magazine in October. Phone Guest: Charles Lewis, founder and executive director of the Center for Public Integrity. He is the author of the Buying of the President and several other books about transparency in government. Lewis did investigative reporting for 11 years at ABC News and CBS News, where he was a producer for 60 Minutes. He was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 1998. Lewis was interviewed just last week by Newsweek magazine. The article is called The Skeletons in Frist s Closet . Phone Guest: Kim Gandy, President, National Organization for Women. Gandy said "Few senators have a worse voting record on civil rights than Trent Lott, but Bill Frist is one of them. Frist has voted against sex education, international family planning, emergency contraception (the morning-after pill), affirmative action, hate crimes legislation and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Phone Guest: Jamie Court, executive director of the nonpartisan, nonprofit Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights Possible Phone Guest: Reverend Harold Middlebrook, Canaan Baptist Church of Christ, Knoxville, Tennessee. Leading critic of Bill Frist during his 1994 election campaign against Jim Sasser. He launched a massive get-out-the-vote effort to oppose Senator Frist s senate aspirations. Links: Center for Public Integrity: National Organization for Women: Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights: One Minute Music Break 9:21- 9:39 FRIST Cont d 9:39-9:40 One Minute Music Break 9:40-9:58: Israeli troops have temporarily withdrawn to the outskirts of Bethlehem as Christians prepared to mark Christmas in the West Bank town. The army said it pulled back to enable prayer services to go ahead, but the town's Palestinian mayor said celebrations would be muted. Bethlehem had been under curfew for the past month. Israeli army spokesman Amos Gilad told army radio that troops would stay out of the central square but would remain in the town itself, French news agency AFP reported. "You will not be able to see a besieged city on television, because we will do everything we can for religious celebrations to take place as planned," General Gilad was quoted as saying. The city s mayor Hanna Nasser said, "Bethlehem is a sad city. It's the first time in the city's history that the Christmas tree is not lit. We first go to Manger Square to speaker with Kristen Schurr and then go an interview with the founders of the Palestinian International Solidarity Movement who were in our Firehouse studios last week. Guest: Kristen Schurr, journalist with Free Speech Radio News Guest Huwaida Arraf, Palestinian-American who helped found the International Solidarity Movement Guest: Adam Shapiro, American Jew who helped found the International Solidarity Movement 9:58-9:59 Outro and Credits Democracy Now! is produced by Kris Abrams, Mike Burke, Angie Karran, Ana Nogueira and Alex Wolfe. Mike Di Filippo is our music maestro and engineer.

Date Recorded on: 
December 24, 2002
Date Broadcast on: 
December 24, 2002
Item duration: 
59 min.
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WBAI; Amy Goodman, host., December 24, 2002
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