‘Misleading’ Andy Griffith Ads Cost Taxpayers $3 Million, Gov’t Documents Show

December 1, 2010 - 5:49 PM

Andy Griffith

Andy Griffith (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) – The federal government spent $3.1 million on TV ads in which actor Andy Griffith touts the new health care law, but a non-partisan watchdog group says those ads are misleading.

Griffith, who played the starring role of a small town sheriff on the Andy Griffith Show in the 1960s and later portrayed an attorney on the 1980s program Matlock, appeared in three ads paid for by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, according to government documents obtained by the conservative public interest group Judicial Watch through the Freedom of Information Act.

The first ad, entitled “1965,” featured Griffith saying, “This year, as always, we’ll have our guaranteed benefits. And with the new health care law, more good things are coming.”

But the non-partisan FactCheck.org says some 10 million Medicare Advantage recipients will see their benefits cut by about $43 a month.

“Currently, about one in every four beneficiaries is enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan,” said FactCheck.org, a project of the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center.

“For many of them, the words in this ad ring hollow, and the promise that ‘benefits will remain the same’ is just as fictional as the town of Mayberry was when Griffith played the local sheriff,” the group said in an article titled “Mayberry Misleads on Medicare.”

“Even Barney Fife would see that these Obamacare ads are bogus,” said Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, in a statement, referring to the bungling Mayberry deputy sheriff character in the show.

The Obama administration spent a total of $3,184,000 on three ads, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

“Mr. Griffith is featured in three Medicare television ads and provided his services to the government at no charge pursuant to a gratuitous services agreement,” Pamela Gentry, director of strategic research and campaign management for the Office of External Affairs and Beneficiary Services for the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, wrote in a letter to Judicial Watch.

“These three spots, ‘1965,’ ‘Music to My Ears,’ and ‘Cozy Chair’ are only airing in September and October 2010,” the letter said.

“The production for the three advertisements cost $404,000; the total amount budgeted for the national media placement is $2.78 million, which breaks down per ad to $754,000 (‘1965’), $1,112,000 (‘Music to My Ears’), and $1,390,000 (‘Cozy Chair’).”

In a posting on its Web site on July 30, the White House said, “The Affordable Care Act will strengthen the health care system for all Americans, but senior citizens in particular stand to benefit from the new law. And the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is getting a little help delivering the good news from a well known TV star: Andy Griffith.”

The new documents show that the public relations firm Porter Novelli produced the advertising campaign. One of the documents lists Porter Novelli staff involved in the project and shows that former Obama campaign spokesperson Catherine McLean contributed 21 hours of her time to the project, according to Judicial Watch.

“Taxpayers don’t want their money wasted on propaganda for Obamacare. And it is a scandal that an Obama insider is involved in the contract for these misleading ads,” Fitton said in a statement.

“Taxpayers and Congress should be upset the Obama administration wastes millions of taxpayer dollars on this propaganda campaign at a time when the government desperately needs to tighten its belt.”