GOP unearths "please delete e-mail" directive from Obama health official post-launch

Remember Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services? She headed the prominent division of Health and Human Services that decided to be general contractor for the building of despite having none of the skills to do that successfully, apparently.


So, since the launch, members of Congress have been requesting e-mails pertinent to the very expensive and disastrous launch of Obamacare’s federal exchange website. In requesting e-mails, one might excuse the GOP of being a bit wary of the Obama administration’s ability and willingness to hold on to such things in the wake of a big controversy. Indeed, HHS has already admitted that some of those e-mails are missing. So much sloppy record keeping! An e-mail from Tavenner revealed today suggests they’re right to be wary, and not just because of a record of sloppiness within the administration.

We’ll get to the content of the e-mail in question in one moment, but first let me give you the headline and the lede on this story in The Hill. Emphasis mine.

Headline: “GOP says Obama health official instructed staff to delete email”

Lede: “House Republicans on Friday accused a top Obama administration health official of telling staff to delete an email related to the healthcare law’s rollout last fall.”

And, the content of the e-mail in question, from the same story.
Emphasis mine again.

In a letter to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Administrator Marilyn Tavenner, the Republicans point to an Oct. 5 email from Tavenner to staff about how to handle calls from people applying for ObamaCare.

In the first line of the email, Tavenner writes “please delete this email but see if we can work on call script.”

Republicans in their letter ask why Tavenner wanted the email deleted, and whether she has asked for other emails to be deleted.

“This contradicts … [the claim] that your practice was to instruct subordinates to retain copies of e-mails,” said the lawmakers, including House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Tim Murphy (R-Pa.).


So there’s an e-mail that says “please delete this email,” but the paper is unable to report in its headline or lede anything beyond that the GOP alleges this activity happened. The story has advanced from this Reuters report: “The letter made no reference to any evidence that Tavenner intentionally hid or destroyed the emails” to some evidence that there was intention. Pray, what would be enough evidence to go ahead and make that assertion? One could argue we don’t yet have definitive evidence that the directive was nefarious, though generally deletion of e-mails pertaining to a controversy in the wake of a controversy should be viewed with suspicion. But it is not in dispute that Tavenner sent an e-mail asking people to delete an e-mail. The paper reported on that e-mail in the next paragraph.

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Jazz Shaw 10:01 PM on November 28, 2023