In the last couple of weeks ObamaCare has been dealt two serious setbacks: yet another delay in the employer mandate, and a devastating CBO report that claimed it will cost the equivalent of two million jobs. However, the reaction of Big Three (ABC, CBS, NBC) network reporters to these latest ObamaCare failures has been to blow them off as just a little “hiccup.”
When the White House announced another delay in the enforcement of the employer mandate to buy health insurance, the networks couldn’t even cover the story for a full day. The first reports arrived on the February 10 evening news, with the final stories filed on the February 11 morning shows. In total the Big Three networks spent just 4 minutes and 26 seconds on the delay. ABC spent the least amount of time on the mandate extension (41 seconds) followed by NBC (53 seconds) with CBS (2 minutes, 53 seconds) devoting the most time to the topic.
Not once did network reporters treat Barack Obama’s unilateral Executive Order delaying the mandate as the unconstitutional end-run around Congress maneuver that it was. To reporters the delay was, in Natalie Morales’ words on the February 11 NBC Today show, “just another hiccup...on the ObamaCare front.”
The evening newscasts on February 10 all included ObamaCare news briefs, but none of the coverage cited any Republican criticism of the latest delay or the fact that Obama was once again going around Congress to change the law. It wasn’t until the next morning that network reporters bothered to mention GOP criticism. Morales, on the February 11 Today show, noted: “Congressional Republicans criticized the move, saying it is an attempt to sidestep the health care law for political gain.” ABC’s Josh Elliott, on Good Morning America, explained: “Republicans, such as House Speaker John Boehner, say the President is giving corporations a break but not struggling families.”
Only Major Garrett, on the February 11 CBS This Morning, made any reference to Obama actually changing the law: “Now, Republicans contend this change illustrates the law’s fundamental flaws, both practical and political. House Speaker John Boehner also cites this and other ObamaCare delays as the White House rewriting the law to fit its political needs on its own terms.”
Not a single Republican was offered a guest segment or soundbite to slam the delay. There weren’t any Democratic guests or soundbites either. There was simply no time for even a robust debate on the issue. It was as if the networks all decided that “there was nothing to see here” and that it was best if the latest ObamaCare calamity was brushed aside as quickly as possible.
And the delay wasn’t the only ObamaCare setback the networks breezed past.
When the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, on February 4, announced that ObamaCare could end up costing the equivalent of 2 million jobs by 2017, network reporters passed along the White House spin that Americans shouldn’t view them as jobs lost but rather an opportunity to stay at home or retire early.
Nancy Cordes’s touting of the Democratic angle, on the February 5 CBS This Morning, was typical: “Democrats noted that according to the CBO report, those job reductions will not come from employers slashing positions but ‘almost entirely because workers will choose to supply less labor.’ Retire early, for example, once they no longer have to rely on their job for health insurance.”
The CBO estimates didn’t receive a full day of coverage either, with that bombshell story being covered from just the February 4 evening shows through the February 5 morning shows. In total the Big Three networks spent just 7 minutes and 11 seconds on the ObamaCare jobs slashing news. NBC (22 seconds) offered the least amount of time to the CBO report, followed by ABC (2 minutes, 12 seconds) with CBS (4 minutes, 37 seconds) in the lead for most air time.
With news of yet another delay in the employer mandate and estimates of millions of jobs at stake added to the other myriad of problems (broken website, higher insurance premiums, people being thrown off their old insurance plans) it has to be asked what kind of catastrophic news will it take to get the Big Three networks to devote more than a few minutes of their programs to it?
— Geoffrey Dickens is Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center. Follow Geoffrey Dickens on Twitter.