Some important ObamaCare news broke late on Friday when the Obama
administration announced it was dropping CGI, the contractor that built
the inept healthcare.gov website, and replacing it with technology
consulting firm Accenture. On top of that, on Friday, the Republican-led
House passed a bill -- with a substantial number of Democrats joining
in -- to partially address security concerns regarding healthcare.gov.
But alas, ABC’s Good Morning America didn’t have time to relay this news during the first half-hour of Saturday’s program. They were too busy reporting on a horrific scandal involving a prominent Democratic politician. And no, it was not about Benghazi, or the IRS targeting conservative groups, or anything to do with President Obama. Nope, this scandal involved New York City’s new mayor, Bill De Blasio. It turns out the mayor was caught red-handed eating pizza the wrong way. Co-anchor Dan Harris introduced the story: [Listen to MP3 audio here.]
"Switching gears now to a major crisis – a major crisis – enveloping the brand-new mayor of New York City. It involves this scandalous picture. Mayor Bill De Blasio caught on camera eating a pizza with a fork and knife. The horror."
The horror, indeed. Harris’s co-anchor, Bianna Golodryga, added, “People of course are outraged across the city. This is not the way you want to start your tenure.”
The anchors read the story with a somewhat sarcastic tone, yet ABC proceeded to run a full-length story, narrated by Ron Claiborne, on this “scandal.” Claiborne had a number of New Yorkers confirm, on camera, that pizza must be eaten with the hands. ABC even ran a clip of De Blasio using his Italian background to defend his use of a fork and knife.
GMA spent three minutes and 20 seconds on this pizza controversy during the first half of their show. It was not until the second half of the program that they mentioned ObamaCare – and they only devoted a 20-second news brief to it. Here is the brief that Claiborne read:
"And changes are coming to the healthcare.gov website. The government will be dropping CGI, the federal – the contractor that built most of that website when the contract expires next month. CGI will be replaced by the consulting firm Accenture. The website was, of course, plagued by delays and error messages when it first launched back in October. Most of those problems have since been fixed."
That was it. ABC didn’t even mention the House vote to require the administration to notify consumers if their personal information becomes compromised on healthcare.gov. CBS This Morning: Saturday, on the other hand, devoted a full two-minute, 20-second report to this latest ObamaCare news. Narrated by senior White House correspondent Bill Plante, the report covered both the House vote and the administration’s decision to switch contractors. For the record, CBS didn’t waste any time on the De Blasio pizza scandal during its two-hour Saturday morning show.
Admittedly, news about ObamaCare is not as exciting as a pizza-eating controversy. But it’s also more important. It impacts more people. ABC has tended to ignore or under-report bad news about ObamaCare in the past, despite the massive importance of such news. Good Morning America needs to get its priorities straight and put real news ahead of silly faux-controversies.
Below are transcripts of the GMA segments:
ABC Good Morning America
DAN HARRIS: Switching gears now to a major crisis – a major crisis – enveloping the brand-new mayor of New York City. It involves this scandalous picture. Mayor Bill De Blasio caught on camera eating a pizza with a fork and knife. The horror.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA: It’s just shocking and, of course, tradition holds that you're supposed to fold your slice in half and eat it with your hands. People of course are outraged across the city. This is not the way you want to start your tenure.
RON CLAIBORNE: You know, this is a pretty ugly way to start your way in office here in New York City. The New York Daily News is calling it – predictably perhaps – “Forkgate” and offered this harsh denunciation of the city’s mayor, saying he was eating his pizza like a tourist. Ouch. [Begin tape] Everybody, especially every New Yorker, knows there is only one way to eat a slice of pizza. Duh.
LITTLE BOY #1: Like New Yorkers.
LITTLE BOY #2: With my hands.
CLAIBORNE: Tell that to New York City’s new mayor, Bill de Blasio – please. At Goodfellas Pizza on New York’s Staten Island, at a meeting with local business owners he did the unthinkable – he ate pizza with a fork and a knife. That’s up there with former president Richard Nixon once wearing dress shoes for a shoreline stroll in California. This from Jon Stewart, a strong advocate of New York slices.
JON STEWART: Deep dish pizza is not only not better than New York pizza, it's not pizza.
CLAIBORNE: He sliced into Donald Trump and Sarah Palin for using a fork and a knife when they sat down for a New York bite during a stop on Palin's Northeast tour back in 2011.
STEWART: Donald Trump, why don't you just take that fork and stick it right in New York's eye?
CLAIBORNE: De Blasio is citing his Italian heritage to explain his bizarre behavior.
BILL DE BLASIO: In my ancestral homeland, it is more typical to eat with a fork and knife.
CLAIBORNE: But a long line of New York City mayors have done it the right way, even former president George W. Bush, and he's from Texas. [On-camera] What’s the real way of eating a pizza in New York?
DIMITRI PAPAHAJIDIS, burger and pizza joint employee: By the hands. With your hands.
CLAIBORNE: By the hands.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I do it the New York method right here.
CLAIBORNE: The mayor did eventually switch to hand-held eating.
DE BLASIO: Then I cross over to the American approach.
CLAIBORNE: The evidence of the culinary crime, however, remains. Goodfellas' owners Scott and Mark Constantino have framed the fork used to commit the food faux pas that rocked New York City.
CLAIBORNE: And changes are coming to the Healthcare.gov website. The government will be dropping CGI, the federal – the contractor that built most of that website when the contract expires next month. CGI will be replaced by the consulting firm Accenture. The website was, of course, plagued by delays and error messages when it first launched back in October. Most of those problems have since been fixed.
-- Paul Bremmer is a News Analysis Division intern.