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Paul Ryan in '07: Uncle Sam shouldn't be Hollywood script doctor

August 14, 2012|By John Horn
  • Robert Ray / Associated Press
Robert Ray / Associated Press (m8pnu2pd20120813221622/600 )

Rep. Paul D. Ryan says he doesn’t like government waste and he’s probably got very few friends in show business, so when he found out several years ago what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was up to in Hollywood, he tried to pull the plug on one  entertainment industry initiative.

The CDC was one of the founders of Hollywood Health & Society, a program of the Norman Lear Center at USC. The program gives entertainment industry professionals free consultations on their television programs and movies so that any health-related plots reflect “accurate and timely information.” Over the past two years, Hollywood Health & Society has consulted on more than 380 story lines on shows such as “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Private Practice” and “Sesame Street,” said the program’s director, Sandra de Castro Buffington. “Everybody wins. It’s the best deal in town.”

 At least back in 2007, Ryan saw it a little differently.

PHOTOS: Paul Ryan's past

The CDC at that point was giving the Los Angeles-based program about $191,000 a year, according to published reports, and spent as much as $406,000 one prior year. But Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican who is now Mitt Romney's running mate, got the House of Representatives to agree by a voice vote to cut the program from the CDC’s 2008 budget. He described the outlay as “clearly an expense that should have been covered by the successful, for-profit television shows, not by our hard-earned tax dollars.”

It’s unclear whether the Senate agreed to the reduction, and program director Buffington could not say whether the funding from the federal health agency was interrupted. The money continues to flow to the program today, with Hollywood Health & Society listing its major supporters as the CDC, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the California Endowment and the National Cancer Institute, among several others.

The CDC says on its website that because “88% of Americans learn about health issues from television, CDC recognizes that prime time and daytime television programming are great outlets for our health messages.”

A Vice President Ryan might have a different opinion.

Twitter: @jghorn

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