When facts ‘can’t be true’

Updated
Julia Boonstra as featured in a political ad by Americans for Prosperity
Julia Boonstra as featured in a political ad by Americans for Prosperity
Quite a few alleged horror stories about “Obamacare victims” have been debunked in recent months, but for some reason, the story of Michigan’s Julia Boonstra has taken on more significance than most.
 
To briefly recap, Boonstra is featured in a Michigan attack ad sponsored by the Koch-financed Americans for Prosperity, in which she talks about her fight against leukemia. In the commercial, Boonstra says she’s transitioned to a new coverage plan, which she criticized as “unaffordable.”
 
It wasn’t long before the claims started looking dubious. We soon learned that Boonstra, at worst, would break even, all while benefiting from more secure coverage.
 
But as the controversy surrounding the attack ad grew, Boonstra felt compelled to provide more information about her circumstances. The Detroit News learned which plan she chose and reported yesterday that she’ll save “at least $1,200 compared with her former insurance plan.”
 
In other words, this “Obamacare victim” will, now know for certain, pay less money for better coverage and won’t have to change doctors.
When advised of the details of her Blues’ plan, Boonstra said the idea that it would be cheaper “can’t be true.”
 
“I personally do not believe that,” Boonstra said.
Facts are not dependent on belief.
 
As for why this alleged horror story, in particular, became nationally significant, there are a few relevant angles to keep in mind. First, the pattern of attack ads featuring “victims” who aren’t victims at all has clearly reached a critical mass. Second, Boonstra seemed to go out of her way to give her story a national profile, participating in a Republican National Committee event and even appearing as a Republican guest at this year’s State of the Union address.
 
But Boonstra’s story is also the one in which the right decided en masse that misleading ACA attack ads shouldn’t be fact-checked at all because … it’s not nice. Boonstra is a private citizen facing a life-threatening ailment, so conservatives said her claims, deceptive or not, should be off limits to scrutiny.
 
The defense remains wildly unpersuasive. Boonstra sought public attention and asked the public to consider her perspective. She chose to try to influence the public discourse, condemning both the health care law that’s helping her and those who helped approve it. In effect, when she chose to enter the public arena and present her story to the country, Boonstra invited scrutiny.
 
And that’s exactly what happened. No one has pried into her personal life beyond the details she’s volunteered to share, and those details do not bolster the argument she asked the public to believe.
 
What we’re left with is an attack ad featuring a woman who’ll save a lot of money while receiving better coverage. The right may see her as a “victim,” and she may personally choose not to believe the available evidence, but this does not a horror story make.
 
 ADDING: Related video:
The Rachel Maddow Show, 3/11/14, 10:49 PM ET

Koch-funded misinformation a GOP liability

Rachel Maddow shows how falsehoods in political ads from Koch-brothers-funded Americans for Prosperity are ripe for rebuttal by Democratic candidates.

Affordable Care Act and Obamacare

When facts 'can't be true'

Updated