Scandal-Plagued PR Firm Ketchum Wins $25.8 Million DHHS Contract

Last year, the Obama administration announced nearly $1.2 billion in grants to help hospitals and health care providers implement and use electronic health records, but the proposal has faced stiff resistance from skeptics who doubt whether such a system can adequately protect patient privacy. To overcome this obstacle, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has hired a public relations firm to help build consumer trust in electronic medical records: Ketchum, Inc., the PR firm behind the Armstrong Williams "No Child Left Behind" scandal. In 2005, it was revealed that the George W. Bush administration funnelled $240,000 through Ketchum to pay prominent black conservative pundit Armstrong Williams $240,000 to promote "No Child Left Behind" on his nationally-syndicated television show, and urge other black journalists to do the same. Also, in 2003, the U.S. Department of Education signed a $700,000 contract with Ketchum to produce series of video news releases (VNRs) touting the "No Child Left Behind" law. The VNRs were narrated by a fake "reporter," who was actually PR pro, and were broadcast on at least 40 stations nationwide. The videos were made to look like "news" stories, but did not reveal that the "reporter" was fake and paid with taxpayer money. The Government Accountability Office eventually found that the VNRs constituted illegal "covert propaganda" by the government. Consumer advocates have warned that awarding the PR contract to Ketchum will heighten skepticism about the security of electronic health records. The DHHS contract with Ketchum is worth $25.8 million.


We regret the initial error in the headline. The government contract awarded to Ketchum is worth $25.8 million, and the government announced $1.2 billion (with a "b") in grants to help transition to electronic medical records.

Anne Landman


one tenth of one percent as many dollars are involved as the title claims

Hire a copy editor. I'm cheap.

Do you mean 25.8 million, not billion, in the headline? The multi-billion dollar PR deal had me aghast there.