On Thursday night, Jon Stewart took aim at the frenzied – and, it turns out, inaccurate – coverage of the Supreme Court’s healthcare verdict.
In recent weeks, cable news networks have devoted hours of breathless speculation to the verdict and its potential fallout. For most of the media, the big question Thursday wasn’t what the Supreme Court would decide – most pundits had assumed it was a foregone conclusion that the court would knock some part of the law – but, as Stewart put it on “The Daily Show,” “Who would emerge from the chaos as the great champion of news first-iness?”
At 10:07 a.m., both CNN and Fox News reported the historic “breaking news” that the individual mandate had been knocked down. “Wow, that’s a dramatic moment. And, like many of our greatest dramas, a total fiction,” Stewart joked.
In the frenzied rush for a scoop, CNN and Fox News had misreported the ruling, having apparently only read the first page of the decision. By 10:09, Fox’s Megyn Kelly corrected the error, but CNN went on for what Stewart called “seven full minutes of unconstitutional mandate hyperventilation.”
In the space of those seven agonizing minutes, CNN’s John King had described the verdict as a “direct blow” to the Obama administration. Stewart saw considerable irony in this characterization of the decision, given the sloppiness of their reporting: “How will this administration recover from this incredibly public blow to their credibility? The administration staked their entire reputation on this important moment, and now the administration is out there, the face of this giant [mistake]. Sure wouldn’t want to be the administration right now.”
As it gradually became clear that the law had actually been upheld, Wolf Blitzer reported that “we are getting widely different assessments of what the Supreme Court has decided.” “Yes, widely different,” Stewart quipped. “There’s what you’ve been saying, and then there’s what happened.”
Stephen Colbert also mocked the misreporting snafu, but issued a blunter assessment: “You suck at news.”
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