Fox, CNN Get Health Care Ruling Wrong

Journal-isms: The news networks initially reported that the individual mandate was struck down.

Alex Wong/Getty Images
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Initial Reports Say Individual Mandate Struck Down

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld a key provision of the health care law championed by President Barack Obama, the so-called individual mandate that requires people to have health insurance,” CNN reported on Thursday, correcting its initial report that the individual mandate had been struck down.

” . . . The importance of the decision cannot be overstated: It will have an immediate and long-term impact on all Americans, both in how they get medicine and health care, and also in vast, yet-unknown areas of ‘commerce.’ “

The initial failure of some networks to get it right, as seen in this screen grab of the CNN report captured by Daily Kos, led to this comment from Newsday writer Lane Filler: “Finally, with today’s Supreme Court decision, a decades-long battle is over: ‘Dewey Beats Truman,’ is no longer the biggest major screw-up in American media history.”

Even President Obama, who was watching the cable reports, thought at first that the individual mandate was struck down, according to Jake Tapper of ABC News. “Senior administration officials say the president was calm,” Tapper wrote.

The mistake was due to the complexity of the ruling. Unlike many institutions, the Supreme Court does not issue embargoed copies of its pronouncements so that reporters can digest them before going public. A similar situation occurred in the Bush v. Gore ruling in 2000, declaring Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the Republican, winner of the disputed election over Vice President Al Gore, the Democrat.

As David G. Savage reported for the Los Angeles Times, “The decision came on a 5-4 vote, with the court’s four liberal justices joining with the chief justice.

“On one hand, [Chief Justice John G.] Roberts [Jr.] agreed with the law’s conservative critics who said Congress does not have the power to mandate the purchase of a private product such as health insurance.

“But the Affordable Care Act does not impose a true legal mandate on Americans, he said. It simply requires those who do not have health insurance by 2014 to pay a tax penalty.