Priorities: ABC Allows a Scant 21 Seconds for ObamaCare Grilling, Hypes New 'Thor' Movie
ABC on Wednesday and Thursday managed a mere 21 seconds total for the latest revelations about the botched ObamaCare rollout, minimizing the grilling that Kathleen Sebelius took before Congress and the resignation of one of the people behind the website. Instead, Good Morning America focused on deeply irrelevant topics such as promoting "Thor's leading lady," star Natalie Portman. In comparison to ObamaCare, the actress appeared for over three minutes on Thursday.
NBC's Today also yawned at the resignation of Tony Trenkle, the chief information officer at HealthCare.gov. Wednesday's Nightly News featured the testimony of Health and Human Services Secretary Sebelius for two minutes and 20 seconds. In contrast to ABC, which featured no clips of Sebelius's appearance, NBC included Republican senators such as John Thune, deriding, "This is a dishonesty. You've been misleading the American people!" [MP3 audio here.]
CBS offered the most coverage, three reports over seven and 35 seconds. On CBS This Morning, Norah O'Donnell explained, "[Trenkle] is the first official to leave since the botched rollout of the website. Meanwhile, 16 Senate Democrats told President Obama how frustrated are by all the problems."
Journalist Major Garrett described it as "rough day" for the secretary and informed, "Even friendly Democrats demanded a functioning website before month's end and better information." The This Morning reporter noted the President's dropping poll numbers, comparing them to George W. Bush after Hurricane Katrina. The program offered a follow-up report in the 8am hour.
The previous night's CBS Evening News, Wyatt Andrews delivered a balanced look at one woman who has embraced Obamacare and another who will suffer because of it: Anchor Scott Pelley lamented, "Three and a half million Americans have been told that their health plans will be canceled because their plans don't meet the minimum requirements of ObamaCare."
Although NBC's coverage was minor, at least the network managed a Nightly News report.
ABC skipped any coverage on World News. This was the sum total of GMA's reporting on Thursday:
JOSH ELLIOTT: And now to the new fallout from the problems plaguing ObamaCare. The chief information officer for HealthCare.gov is stepping down, thus becoming the first key player to do so. But Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius insisted, Wednesday, that the website is improving by the day, although she admitted early enrollment figures would be very low.
No clips of angry Republicans or a defensive Sebelius. Yet, the fluff-focused GMA promoted Natalie Portman and the new Thor film for three minutes and 23 seconds. Three minutes were given to Lululemon pants and the women who can't fit into them.
[Thanks to MRC intern Jeff Meyer for the transcript.]
A transcript of the November 6 Nightly News segment is below:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: For the second time now health secretary Kathleen Sebelius today faced a barrage of questions from Congress over hundreds of problems with this new federal health care website. Her testimony came just hours after the chief technical official stepped down at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. His office oversaw the creation of the website. NBC’s White House Correspondent Peter Alexander has more on all of this tonight.
PETER ALEXANDER: On Capitol Hill and once again under fire, Secretary Sebelius this time taking heat for the president's promise if you like your health care plan, you can keep it.
JOHN CORNYN: Is that statement on the White House website true or is it false?
KATHLEEN SEBELIUS: Sir, I think the statement
CORNYN: is it true or is it false?
JOHN THUNE: This is a dishonesty. You have been misleading the American people and the president has.
ORRIN HATCH: This, to put it bluntly, is simply untrue.
ALEXANDER: While more than 3 million Americans who buy their own insurance received cancellation letters Sebelius rejected bipartisan calls to postpone part of the law.
SEBELIUS: Delaying the Affordable Care Act wouldn’t delay people's cancer or diabetes or Parkinson's. So for millions of Americans, delay isn't an option. People's lives depend on this.
ALEXANDER: But in California facing pressure from the state’s insurance commissioner, Blue Shield of California agreed to give 115,000 people with policies being cancelled a three-month extension to find new plans. Still Blue Shield warns individuals who switch policies mid-year may be subject to paying a double deductible one for each plan. Today another big insurance company, Humana, whose executives met with White House officials, said it expects the administration to extend the enrollment deadline. Also tonight internal documents obtained exclusively by NBC News reveal that a stress test done by one of the government contractors the day before the website went live shows it could only handle only 1,100 users at once before becoming overloaded. And Secretary Sebelius says tech experts identified a couple hundred fixes that need to be made before the website works the way it is supposed to, Brian. But she said it is improving. The site’s already able to process 17,000 registrations every hour.
— Scott Whitlock is Senior News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Scott Whitlock on Twitter.