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The Media Have Voted: Health Care Reform Passes

Turn on any news network and they’re focused on the battle for health care reform. In Ohio, one Obama supporter shouted, “We need courage.” She was wrong. They need votes. They have 59, give or take, in the Senate and probably more than 200 in the house. As ABC’s George Stephanopoulos put it March 17, “every vote counts.”


They’ve counted the shifting vote tally time and again, but one ally has never wavered. One has backed nationalized health care from the very beginning. If ObamaCare is victorious by hook or – more likely by crook – the president will have to thank his strongest supporter.


The media.


Obama should buy them some green beer for St. Patrick’s Day. He ought to buy them something since they’ve bought the Democratic Party line that Obama’s national health care reform is a good idea.


It didn’t matter whether it was NBC using the Winter Olympics to tell a positive story about Canada’s socialized health system or Time senior political analyst Mark Halperin saying it’s “immoral” that America is “the only industrialized democracy that doesn’t cover every citizen.” U.S. journalists told one side of the story: Obama’s.


From the president’s attack on insurers to the bogus prediction the bill was going to pass any day to claims that opponents were “Astroturf” or phony grassroots, the media mirrored the president’s position almost constantly. The Washington Post went so far as to cede much of its coverage of the issue to liberal blogger Ezra Klein, who naturally supported even the lamest attempt at national health care.


Nearly a year ago, during what ABC’s Diane Sawyer called “D-Day for health care” reform, the broadcast networks devoted 10 stories to Obama’s May 11 speech. Only one of those segments included a critic. And Sawyer was taking point for the administration plan, claiming it would benefit patients. “What’s the first thing they’ll do for you and your family?” It was inconceivable to journalists that the result of so-called health care reform might do something to most Americans, not for them.


ABC’s Terry Moran reversed a famous John F. Kennedy line calling people to “ask not what you country can do for you – ask what you can do for you country.” To Moran, Obama’s speech calling for another government mandate was presidential and showed how Obama “sought to draw on the grand rhetorical tradition of President Kennedy and others, trying to summon the country to a great and necessary endeavor.” That’s not JFK-like; it’s not even JFK-lite.


Those pesky, ordinary voters who dared oppose something so “great and necessary” were labeled radical or dangerous and abused in the media. Even this week, MSNBC’s looniest guy without a show, David Shuster, claimed tea party protesters were “far right” and said they were “going nuts” because of Hill maneuvering.


His nuttier colleagues had worse things to say about the voters who opposed health care reform. “Hardball” host Chris Matthews blamed it on racism: “I think some of the people are upset because we have a black president.” Fellow host Keith Olbermann preferred to blame tea partiers for another ism … “terrorism.” “When Hamas does it or Hezbollah does it, it is called terrorism. Why should Republican lawmakers and the Astroturf groups organizing on behalf of the health care industry be viewed any differently?” he ranted.


The few folks who watch Ed Schultz saw him saying Republicans were the party of death for opposing health care reform. “The Republicans lie! They want to see you dead! They’d rather make money off your dead corpse!”


The so-called professional journalists on the broadcast networks weren’t much better. While sleazy Democrats were contemplating passing health care reform without ever even voting on it, the evening news shows were largely silent. The bogus claim that the government can seize one-sixth of the economy through “deem and pass” received little coverage, let alone scrutiny. Imagine if the GOP had tried to ram through a similar controversial law. The media would have filled the airwaves with concerned citizens, experts and advocates. Since Democrats are embracing the corruption, it’s just a blip.


The broadcast networks were just as weak on facts. Last year, an analysis of network coverage showed less than one story in 10 included accurate cost estimates for health care reform.


And journalists repeatedly got the scope of the problem wrong. Before Obama changed his claim about the number of uninsured Americans, networks parroted the bogus figure 80 percent of the time. ABC’s Robin Roberts was typical when she told “Good Morning America” viewers that “50 million Americans” were uninsured. Her claim was wrong by at least 14 million people. But when Obama downgraded his number during a September speech, most of the media fell into line.


That was the real story of health care reform. No matter what Obama and the Democrats did, it was right. Anything to pass health care reform.


No matter how this plays out, Democrats will have to pay in 2010 and beyond. The news media will have to pay as well for betraying the trust of their readers and viewers. We can’t vote them out but we can continue to tune them out.


Dan Gainor is The Boone Pickens Fellow and the Media Research Center’s Vice President for Business and Culture. His column appears each week on The Fox Forum and he can be seen on Foxnews.com’s “Strategy Room.” He can also be contacted on FaceBook and Twitter as dangainor.