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Networks See 'Surprising' 'Setback' With ObamaCare Delay, But Journalists Ignored Clues

CBS, NBC and ABC on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning highlighted the delay of the ObamaCare employer mandate as a "surprising," "significant setback" for the President. [See video below. MP3 audio here.] Nightly News anchor Brian Williams even went so far as to cynically note, "A development this big with the President on an airplane heading into a holiday weekend is going to make a lot of people suspicious." Yet, these same networks ignored giant, glaring clues about what Democratic Senator Max Baucus once called the coming "train wreck."

On Wednesday's Good Morning America, Jon Karl deemed the development a "significant" setback. CBS This Morning co-host Norah O'Donnell saw it as a "major" problem. Reporter Jan Crawford relayed, "House Speaker John Boehner said even the Obama administration knows the train wreck will only get worse." On the July 2 Evening News, Wyatt Andrews described the one year postponement of the rule, which forces employers to pay a $2000 fine if they don't provide insurance, as a culmination of "months of complaints and backlash."

World News anchor Diane Sawyer told her viewers she had a "a surprising delay to announce tonight in one of the most controversial parts of the President's new health care reform."

The problems of ObamaCare could only be "surprising" to journalists who haven't been interested in covering the complicated law's provisions. Certainly, reporters did not spend months featuring "complaining" voices or showcasing a "backlash." 

In mid-April, Senator Baucus openly derided the law, "I just see a huge train wreck coming...I don't see any results yet."

Yet, it took 300 hours for ABC, CBS and NBC to notice Baucus's remark.

An April 9, 2013 Media Reality Check exposed the setbacks that the media have ignored:

On March 26, Obama's own Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius admitted that premiums will rise for some people buying new insurance policies in the coming fall, because of ObamaCare requirements. As the March 26 Wall Street Journal reported: "The secretary's remarks are among the first direct statements from federal officials that people who have skimpy health plans right now could face higher premiums for plans that are more generous."

Big Three coverage: 0 stories.

On April 3 Fox News reported that the Obama administration admitted a system of exchanges designed to make it simpler for small businesses to provide health insurance, the very core of ObamaCare's promise, will be delayed an entire year. According to Jim Capretta of the Ethics and Public Policy Center this is a huge setback because: "Lots of small businesses struggle with providing insurance for their workers so this was supposed to facilitate it and make it easier for small business to do this," and added: "It was a huge portion of the sale job. When they passed the law in 2010 there were many senators and members of Congress who were saying 'I am doing this because it's going to help small businesses.'"

Big Three coverage: 0 stories.

On April 4 Quinnipiac University released a poll showing that even two-thirds of Democrats now believe Obama's health care reforms will either hurt them personally or have no effect on their daily lives, vs. 27% of Democrats who believed they would be helped. Overall, only 15% of voters think ObamaCare will mostly help them personally, vs. 78% who expect it to hurt them or have no effect.

Big Three coverage: 0 stories. 

The news that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius solicited donations from health care companies in order to underwrite ObamaCare PR was buried by the press.

The three networks should be given credit for honestly describing the employer mandate delay as a serious problem for the President. However, it shouldn't have taken them so long to see this "train wreck" coming.

A transcript of the July 3 CBS This Morning segment on the topic is below:

[7:05]

NORAH O'DONNELL: And a major setback this morning for President Obama's signature issue, the health care law. A key provision is being delayed by a year. It requires companies with more than 50 employees to provide coverage or face fines. But that rule is now on hold until 2015, after the midterm elections. Jan Crawford is in Washington. Jan, good morning.

JAN CRAWFORD: Good morning, Norah, good morning, Charlie. This requirement was one of the most controversial provisions in the whole massive health care law. And the Obama administration has gotten an earful about it. Small businesses were threatening layoffs to avoid having to comply with the provision. All of that, of course, raising considers the health care law was going to hurt workers and the economy.

(Video Clip)

CRAWFORD: (voice-over) The news came while the President was flying back from Africa to Washington, a major concession in what is considered the President's signature achievement.

Vice President JOE BIDEN: This is a big (expletive deleted) deal.

CRAWFORD: Posted with no fanfare on the White House website, the administration pushed back by one year the requirement that businesses with more than 50 workers provide health care coverage or pay fines of $2,000 per employee. "We have listened to your feedback and we are taking action."

The decision marks a shift in the official line on health care, which the President himself stated recently –

BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States: I think it's important for us to recognize and acknowledge this is working the way it's supposed to.

CRAWFORD: But the concerns were widespread. Some small business owners said they would lay off workers so they had less than 50 employees that brought them under the new law. Even business owners who support health care reform were sounding the alarm. We talked earlier this year to one of those business owners, Hans Rockenwagner, who runs a bakery in California.

HANS ROCKENWAGNER, bakery owner: We want to do the right thing, it just seems that the whole plan was maybe a little hastily put together.

CRAWFORD: With next year's midterm elections looming, that kind of feedback troubled leading Democrats, who staked a lot of political capital on the law, like Montana's Max Baucus.

Sen. MAX BAUCUS (D-Mont.): I just tell you, I just see a huge train wreck coming down the – you and I discussed this many times. I don't see any results yet.

CRAWFORD:: Tuesday night, Republicans who remain staunchly opposed to the law, which passed without a single GOP vote, said the announcement was vindication. House Speaker John Boehner said even the Obama administration knows the train wreck will only get worse.

(End Video Clip)

CRAWFORD: And in another sign of trouble, the White House is trying to get the NFL on board to educate people in the upcoming fall about health care exchanges, which they're hoping to encourage participation in if this whole thing is going to work. But the NFL said over the weekend that it wants nothing to do with this political football.

-- Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.