CNN health reporter Dr. Sanjay Gupta may be Obama's Surgeon General
But CNN's John King is reporting as I type this that the cable channel's health reporter, Dr. Sanjay Gupta -- the guy comic Kathy Griffin said she wanted to give her a pap smear on the outlet's New Year's Eve show -- is leaning toward accepting an offer from Barack Obama to be the nation's surgeon general. (Kudos to Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz, who appears to have broken the story first.)
King said Obama administration officials have promised Gupta a "very high profile" role in helping shape and sell the new president's health policies to the nation. Gupta, who apparently had an internship-type job in the Clinton administration, has reportedly been talking to CNN and CBS about getting out of his contracts to take the position.
According to King, Obama has offered to make Gupta the face of his administration's effort to reshape health policy in the U.S. This would require selling lawmakers and the public on the new president's plan to expand health care coverage. And it would also put Gupta in charge of the 6,200-member public health service, uniformed officers who work at the Food and Drug administration, Natinola institutes of Health and other federal agencies.
In one sense, it's a savvy move: the administration will need someone who can explain the intrcacies of health care reform to voters effectively enough to mobilize public support for reform -- something Hillary Clinton famously failed to do 16 years ago.
King and anchor Wolf Blitzer also read a statement from CNN saying that Gupta's reporting was restricted to general health issues once they realized Obama was interested in the position. Blitzer also noted Gupta would be taking "a huge pay cut" to work for the government -- something I wondered how he knew. (Perhaps they were just reading Howie's story, which I now realize had all this information in it.)
CNN released a statement saying, "Since first learning that Dr. Gupta was under consideration for the surgeon general position, CNN has made sure that his on-air reporting has been on health and wellness matters and not on health-care policy or any matters involving the new administration."
This would be the first time someone named by People magazine as one of the sexiest men alive (2003) also was named Surgeon General. And to some, this will be taken as a sign that America's infatuation with celebrity has reached alarming proportions.
But the neurosurgeon has made a name as a dashing medical correspondent for CNN and CBS, operating on wounded soldiers in Iraq and filing reports for Katie Couric's evening newscast on the Tiffany Network while maintaining a teaching schedule and medical practice.
My colleagues here are wondering if this means Dr. Phil's in line to run the CDC and Judge Judy is ready for the Supreme Court.
I'm wondering: When did Obama's transition turn into a bad Saturday Night Live skit?