Just ask Bill

| 15 Feb 2012 | 08:38

Warwick man offers a senior citizen’s perspective on debt reduction deal on 'FOX and Friends’ By Nancy Kriz WARWICK - As pundits worldwide continue to debate the merits of the debt reduction legislation signed by President Barak Obama on Tuesday after a fractious and protracted partisan Congressional battle, a Warwick man has joined the ranks of national television commentators offering his opinion of the deal. Bill Stelz Sr., a 67-year-old resident who lives in the Liberty Green senior complex, was a guest on FOX News’ “FOX and Friends” news program this past Wednesday morning as a member of its “Real American Panel” to talk about the debt agreement. And it’s not the first time Stelz has appeared in FOX News studios in New York City to offer comments. In October 2009, Stelz was a FOX guest where he talked about his personal experience with Medicare fraud. His appearance a year and a half ago was the result of e-mails he sent to FOX about his Medicare billing problem. Those correspondences, according to Stelz, included sending copies of bills for services he never had, and resulted in an extensive vetting process by four different producers before he was invited to talk about his situation on the air. A recommendation from one producer to another Media outlets nationwide later began to report on situations similar to Stelz’s, increasing national awareness on the problem. Eventually, a $100 million Medicare fraud crime ring was busted. Stelz’s comments and presentation style impressed producers, so much so that when “a senior citizen” was needed to be part of the planned panel on Wednesday, they sought out Stelz the day before to come back and be that person. “They decided to do a segment on the debt ceiling even though it was pretty much settled,” said Stelz. “This new producer said I was recommended by Lee Cushnier as being a good subject for this. I had worked with Lee when I was on FOX to talk about my Medicare problems. We talked a bit on the phone and I told her what I had in mind to talk about. I think she felt that based on what Lee told her, I had a valued opinion and what I would talk about was truthful, not trumped up. She accepted Lee’s recommendation that I would be a good interview.” The producer quickly confirmed Stelz to be a guest to be part of a three-person panel to talk about the deal. Joining him were David Webb, co-founder of the national group Tea Party 365; and Chris Isola, an Iraq/Afghanistan War veteran. 5:15 a.m. car ride to NYC From his initial FOX experience, Stelz knew what to expect. A car service would pick him up at 5:15 a.m. for the 75-minute trip to FOX’s Manhattan studios. He was told his segment would be aired at 6:50 a.m., giving him little time to work his way through security and arrive at the studio’s “green room” for make-up, which everyone gets before going on the air, and any last-minute conversations with producers. But live television is fluid, and the 6:50 a.m. segment was pushed back to 6:40 a.m., giving him less than 10 minutes from the time he got out of the car and into the studio chair to get ready, composed and responsive to questions. Introduced by “FOX and Friends” co-anchor Steve Doocy, panel members offered opinions on their perspective of the debt deal, tying that into their groups they represented. 'Front and center in the senior community’ “I live in a senior community among hundreds of seniors,” said Stelz to Doocy when asked how he felt when Obama indicated at one point during negotiations that he didn’t know if Social Security checks would be mailed out if the nation went into default. “Many are frail and timid and very vulnerable. And when the president said that (about Social Security checks) they were very much intimated and very sick over it. They don’t know if they’ll get their medication or groceries or be able to pay their rent. Quite frankly, there were a number of residents that were very, very concerned over that.” Later, Stelz was asked during the 6:13-minute segment about the forthcoming six panel committee. Doocy asked him to respond to possibility of entitlement cuts. “Medicare and Social Security is absolutely front and center in the senior community,” said Stelz, whose son and family live in Monroe. “When you think about the super committee making decisions that are going to affect us, we’re highly concerned about the integrity with which those decisions will be made. Will they really understand the needs of the senior community? Will they really be thinking about seniors as they create legislation? One of the promises made in the campaign of 2008 was that legislation would be open and transparent. Quite frankly, what concerns me most of all through all this process is everything is behind closed doors. We have no idea what’s going on.” In a flash, the panel discussion was concluded, with Doocy calling the group “a great, real American panel.” As the show continued onto other topics, Stelz was quickly ushered back into his chauffeured car by 7 a.m. and back at home by 8:30 a.m. “You’re right in front of all the bright lights and cameras and stars,” said Stelz. “But I could care less. I’m not intimated at all. I gave a perspective of the senior community. They wanted to know these things and they wanted me to talk about it.”

I know that not everyone will agree with me, but I consider FOX to be the highest integrity news show in the world. And if they find me to be a good interview, so be it. It’s a big confidence builder. I’m proud to be a part of that. It’s just another adventure in this old man’s life.” Bill Stelz Sr. of Warwick, talking about his experience as a national commentator on Wednesday morning’s “FOX and Friends” program.