Betsy McCaughey (born Elizabeth Helen Peterken, October 20, 1948, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) was the Lieutenant Governor of the State of New York from 1995 to 1998, during the first term of Republican Governor George Pataki. She has provided commentary on United States constitutional law and healthcare policy. McCaughey was also listed as a member of the board of directors of the Cantel Medical Corporation until she resigned on August 20, 2009.
A constitutional scholar by training, McCaughey (pronounced "McCoy") rocketed to fame in 1994 as the person who drove a silver stake through the heart of Hillarycare, when the New Republic published a detailed article she penned that turned out to be entirely false. Fifteen years later, the harbinger-ess of apocalyptic warnings has risen from the undead spreading nonsense about the horrors Obamacare could potentially unleash upon our society. She has been busy penning op-eds, making the rounds on the TV and radio news circuits lying, distorting, and manipulating the fine print of current health care legislation.
Pick an inflammatory, misleading rumor that has sprung up in this debate, and chances are McCaughey had a hand in springing it. [TNR]
Gail Wilensky, one of McCaughey's conservative critics, "It's very frustrating to see somebody who makes outrageous statements that bear no relationship to reality receive so much attention." Yes, McCaughey professes to have read the legislation currently circulating, and, as in 1994, she brandishes that fact like a talisman that can dispel any conflicting viewpoint. But, also as in 1994, she spins out an indefensibly sinister, apocalyptic translation of the text that no amount of countervailing evidence can shake. [TNR]
A few of her wild exaggerations and outright falsehoods:
- she warned that a provision buried in the stimulus bill will soon have computers dictating doctors' treatment of patients based on government protocols
- she sounded the (false) alarm that the White House aims to ration care based on patients' value to society--an idea that swiftly morphed into the "death panel" hysteria
- she made the outrageous claim that the proposed reforms would force seniors into regular chats with their doctors about how to end their lives
That such claims are untrue in no way dims McCaughey's zeal. Confronted with conflicting information, she plows ahead with her unique interpretation of reality, leaving critics on both the left and the right completely dumfounded. McCaughey has always presented herself as a just-the-facts-please, straight-shooting political outsider. In reality, she has proved devastatingly adept at manipulating charts and stats to suit her ideological (and personal) ambitions. It is this proud piety concerning her own "honest" integrity combined with her willingness to peddle outrageous fictions--and her complete inability to recognize, much less be shamed by, this behavior. [TNR]
The Independent Gold Digger
As much as she trumpets her own "hard-charging" independence, McCaughey wouldn't be anyone or anything had she not married into immense wealth.
In 1972, she married Thomas McCaughey, an aspiring investment banker ,with whom she had three daughters. For the next 20 years, as her husband conquered Wall Street, Betsy dabbled in a number of careers (writing books, lecturing at her alma maters, guest curating at a local museum--at one point, she even toyed with becoming a TV reporter). But, in 1992, she and Thomas split, and Betsy found herself cast out of her comfortable role as Park Avenue wife. [TNR]
By 1997, she had become a Democrat (grandly invoking Winston Churchill--"I'd rather change parties than change my principles"--to explain the shift) and launched her own bid for governor. She was now the wife of Wall Street big dog Wilbur Ross. (In December 1995, the bride and groom, an even more prosperous Yalie than Betsy's first husband--Ross has been a member of Forbes's billionaires club since 2005--held their reception aboard the decommissioned aircraft carrier Intrepid, surrounded by their 600 nearest and dearest.) A staunch Democrat, Ross had pledged not only to fund his beloved's gubernatorial run, but also to open his wallet to supportive down-ticket candidates. [TNR]
The lieutenant governor publicly complained that she was under attack for not being part of the old boys' network. And when, two weeks shy of the 1998 Democratic primary, McCaughey announced that her husband Wilbur was cutting off her campaign funding--a move presaging the couple's post-election divorce--she kicked the woman-against-the-odds shtick into high gear. Rather than put the unpleasantness behind her, two years after the election, McCaughey filed a $40 million fraud suit against her by-then ex-husband, claiming that he had reneged on his promise to fund her campaign unconditionally. And, ran off to join the conservative think tank, the Hudson Institute. [TNR]
Opportunist, yes. Dishonest, self-serving, liar, without question. One of us, not even remotely. Not only is she adept at manipulating truth, she's also, apparently, rather talented when her back is on the floor.