State Sen. Sharon Hewitt Deceptively Edits Video Testimony to Smear Medicaid Recipients

Louisiana State Sen. Sharon Hewitt (R- Slidell) created and shared a two-and-a-half minute long video of her exchange with Daryl Purpera, the state’s legislative auditor, during a meeting of the Senate Finance Committee on April 30th, asserting that Purpera revealed conclusive evidence of massive government fraud. On her Facebook page, she added, “At a cost of $500/person/month, we cannot keep paying for Medicaid for those 83,000 who don’t meet the eligibility requirements.” If you can’t view her video via social media, I’ve uploaded it here as well: At the time of publication, Hewitt’s video has been viewed more than 600 times on Twitter and more than 3,200 times on Facebook, generating dozens and dozens of shares and countless comments. Conservative blogger Scott McKay of The Hayride breathlessly asked his readers, “Did You See Louisiana’s Department Of Health Admit Medicaid Fraud Might Cost Us As Much As $500 Million?” (Obviously, McKay didn’t bother to watch the committee hearing, considering he didn’t even know who provided the alleged admission). Hewitt’s video does contain evidence of fraud, not by recipients of Medicaid but by the senator herself. Sharon Hewitt deliberately spliced out a crucial twelve seconds of Purpera’s testimony, and in so doing, she is now peddling an egregious lie, deceiving the people of Louisiana, and smearing those who rely on Medicaid for their health care. If you watch Hewitt’s video carefully, it’s not too difficult to realize that she altered it. (It occurs between 1:09 to 1:13). So what exactly did Hewitt not want her constituents to know? The entire video is publicly available on the state Senate’s website, but I decided to make it easier; I found the missing twelve seconds and uploaded the clip onto The Bayou Brief‘s YouTube account (I provided the lead-in for context, but you can skip to the final 12 seconds if you just want to cut to the chase). Remember, state Sen. Hewitt claimed to the public, in no uncertain terms, that Daryl Purpera’s testimony revealed 83,000 Medicaid recipients reported $20,000 more on their state income taxes than on their Medicaid applications. But during those twelve seconds that Hewitt cut from her video, Purpera corrects that assertion directly. “By $20,000 or more, he said, “Now, let me be (clear). That could go either way also. It could be more or less, and we weren’t able to gather that information.” (emphasis added). It is worth noting that Louisiana does not pay each Medicaid recipient $500 per month; Hewitt’s cost-breakdown is disingenuous. Most beneficiaries receive around $100 per month. She’s tacking on the additional $400 monthly costs to include the total budget of operating the system and dishonestly spinning those numbers as if they represent a per capita benefit for each beneficiary. If you want to know more about the proceedings of the meeting, yesterday, The Bayou Brief‘s Sue Lincoln published an excellent report, “Pretending to be poor? Go to jail.” For now, though, state Sen. Hewitt owes the people of Louisiana and Daryl Purpera an apology for receiving taxpayer funding as a legislator and defrauding taxpayers by lying about the public record.
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Lamar White, Jr.
Lamar writes about the people, the politics, and the magic of Louisiana. He is the founder and publisher of the Bayou Brief and a contributing writer for the Daily Beast. Lamar is best known for his investigative reporting on public corruption, racism, and civil rights. He has appeared as a guest on CNN, MSNBC, and the BBC, and he's been the subject of profiles in The Washington Post, The Advocate, and Huffington Post. Before launching the Bayou Brief, he published CenLamar, a popular blog that initially covered the drama of City Hall in his hometown of Alexandria. Lamar is a graduate of Rice University in Houston and the Dedman School of Law at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Today he lives in New Orleans and is currently writing a book about the life of reputed New Orleans Mafia boss Carlos Marcello. Support Lamar's work on Patreon.