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News Busters
25 Mar 2023
Rich Noyes

NextImg:Flashback: Year of Media Spin Gave Us Budget-Busting ObamaCare

Thirteen years ago this week, the liberal media celebrated the final passage of the Affordable Care Act, aka “ObamaCare,” President Barack Obama’s big government answer to the millions of Americans without health insurance. Passage came after a year of media cheerleading, as journalists trumpeted the alleged benefits of Obama’s plan and denigrated conservative critics as racists or terrorists who wouldn’t mind seeing “half the country die.”

Reporters put their common sense aside and repeated White House talking points that the massive law would somehow pay for itself, or even be a moneymaker for the government. “If health care doesn’t pass,” NBC’s Chuck Todd warned viewers on the February 1, 2010 Nightly News, “that’s yet another $150 billion that would be tacked on to the deficit” — as if passing ObamaCare would save $150 billion.

CBS’s Katie Couric went further, happily chirping on the March 18, 2010 Evening News that a Congressional Budget Office report supposedly promised ObamaCare “would cut the deficit over 20 years by more than $1 trillion.” In real life, that was a statistic concocted by Democrats to help sell their bill, but Couric’s cheerful embrace of it reflected the mindset of a media eager to help the White House close the sale.

Fact checkers should scold every one of those news reports. Even though ObamaCare included massive new taxes and penalties, an analysis by the American Enterprise Institute’s Mark J. Warshawsky showed it still wound up adding $282 billion to the deficit through 2019.

And though the law had already proven far costlier than originally advertised, Democrats used the pandemic as an excuse to throw even more taxpayer money at it. President Biden’s 2021 “American Rescue Plan” made the ACA’s subsidies more lucrative, inflicting taxpayers with an additional $35 billion burden. Last year’s “Inflation Reduction Act” extended these additional subsidies through the end of 2025, adding an additional $64 billion in costs. And Biden’s latest budget, released earlier this month, hoped to make those super-sized handouts — and the long-term drain on the federal budget — permanent.

It didn’t take crystal ball to figure out that a program designed to hand out massive gobs of money to millions of people would probably wind up costing a lot more than advertised. But instead of offering even-handed skepticism, the liberal media were an obvious part of the ObamaCare sales team, and showed little patience for those who argued for another approach. Here are quotes from the MRC’s archives showing how the media’s push for ObamaCare evolved, starting with fawning coverage of Obama’s first “health care summit” in 2009:

■ “I have to tell you, Charlie, I was blown away by President Obama’s grasp of the subject, how he connected the dots, how he answered the questions without any script.”
— ABC’s Dr. Tim Johnson on World News, March 5, 2009.

Reporter Chuck Todd: “The President’s drive to pass health care got a Knute Rockne-like boost with a surprise appearance.”
President Obama: “To Sir Edward Kennedy.”
Senator Ted Kennedy: “I’m looking forward to being a foot soldier in this undertaking. And this time, we will not fail.”
NBC Nightly News, March 5, 2009.

■ “We’re going to pay big time if we don’t get this [Obama’s health care plan]. I don’t think we’re going to be a great world power.”
— NBC medical correspondent Dr. Nancy Snyderman on a special edition of MSNBC’s Hardball following President Obama’s July 22, 2009 press conference.

■ “Today, another dramatic push, this time from an ailing Ted Kennedy, absent from Washington but appearing on the cover of Newsweek and writing: ‘This is the cause of my life. We will have decent, quality health care as a fundamental right and not just a privilege.’”
— NBC’s Mike Viqueira on the July 19, 2009 Nightly News.

■ “What do you call a crazed group of people that disrupts a meeting on health care and hangs the congressman holding it in effigy? A mob. What do you call the partisan groups that whip up their fear-of-change ultra-conservative base to engage in that symbolic lynching and then disavow any responsibility?...One can only hope that this effort at organized intimidation doesn’t escalate.”
— Former CNN reporter Bob Franken writing on AOL’s “Politics Daily” site, August 7, 2009.

■ “When Hamas does it or Hezbollah does it, it is called terrorism. Why should Republican lawmakers and the AstroTurf groups organizing on behalf of the health care industry be viewed any differently — especially now that far too many tea party protesters are comparing President Obama and health care reform to Hitler and the Holocaust?”
— MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann talking about anti-ObamaCare protests on Countdown, August 7, 2009.

■ “Once again, we begin tonight with the battle over health care reform, but this time, we’re not starting at a town meeting. Tonight, we’re going to show you why many believe reform is desperately needed. These are just some of the tens of thousands of Americans who need health care but have no insurance or not enough of it, and they’re lining up at a free makeshift clinic in Los Angeles.”
— CBS’s Katie Couric opening the August 13, 2009 Evening News.

■ “There is already an e-mail circulating that I’ve received today that reads simply, ‘In lieu of flowers, pass health care reform.’”
NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams on Today, August 26, 2009, a few hours after the death of Senator Edward Kennedy was announced.

■ “There were ghosts in that chamber tonight, the other Presidents who tried to reform the health care system and failed. From Teddy Roosevelt, to Harry Truman, to Bill Clinton who came to Congress 16 years ago this month with his plan....There was another ghost in the chamber tonight, the spirit of Senator Ted Kennedy, who fought for decades for universal care....At the end, President Obama sought to draw on the grand rhetorical tradition of President Kennedy and others, trying to summon the country to a great and necessary endeavor.”
— ABC’s Terry Moran reporting on Obama’s speech to Congress on Nightline, September 9, 2009.

■ “The great news tonight is this bill is on track for passage. Historic change is coming to the United States.”
Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter on MSNBC after Obama’s speech, September 9, 2009.

■ “I mean, there are people that are actually trying to derail health care in order to take down Obama, even if it means half the country dies.”
— Host Dylan Ratigan on MSNBC’s 9am ET Morning Meeting, October 5, 2009.

Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer: “The fraudulence of these [health care] numbers is absolutely staggering....It will cause a huge deficit annually. That is an absolutely phony number that [Senator Harry] Reid gave us.”
Newsweek’s Evan Thomas: “Charles is right. This bill is a fiscal fraud. I’d still vote for it, because I think it’s a good thing to extend benefits and start down the road to universal and — because of the health insurance....”
NPR’s Nina Totenberg: “I am not saying it’s ideal. But we have to start this. But if we don’t get a health care bill this time, it is probably the last chance.”
— Exchange on Inside Washington, November 20, 2009.

■ “A lot of people are going to like [the health care bill] a whole lot once they see what’s in it. For the first time, it’s got some long-term care in it, which everybody is desperate for as the population gets older. It’s paid for, totally paid-for long-term care insurance. So, I think that there’s a lot in the bill that people are going to like. It’s just a question of understanding it.”
— ABC’s Cokie Roberts on This Week, December 20, 2009.

■ “What would you do, sir, if terrorists were killing 45,000 people every year in this country? Well, the current health care system, the insurance companies, and those who support them are doing just that....Remind me again, who are the terrorists?”
— MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann in a “Quick Comment” on Countdown, January 5, 2010, citing a statistic generated by the left-wing Physicians for a National Health Program about the number who die for lack of treatment.

■ “Democrats in the White House and Capitol Hill are braced for a shattering loss. And it’s really hard for them to wrap their head around it, the idea care reform may be in peril because Democrats can’t hold the seat that Teddy Kennedy held for nearly half a century. You know, one White House official summed it up in a single word: ‘Shakespearean.’”
— ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on World News, January 18, 2010, talking about the special election for the Massachusetts Senate seat.

■ “It’s that rare election where voters know exactly what they’re voting on. If they’re with Democrat Martha Coakley, they get health care reform. If they go for Republican Scott Brown, it’s deliberate, premeditated murder for health care!’”
— MSNBC’s Chris Matthews on Hardball, January 19, 2010, a few hours before the polls closed in Massachusetts.

■ “You said last night the first call you made after your victory was to Ted Kennedy’s widow, Vicki....How comfortable was that for both of you, knowing that you plan to do whatever you can to derail what Ted Kennedy called, called ‘the cause of his lifetime,’ which is health care reform?”
— NBC’s Meredith Vieira to Massachusetts Republican Senator-elect Scott Brown on Today, January 20, 2010.

■ “I’m on Medicare. People who’ve been in the military are on a government health program. And yet the Republicans were able the make the idea that being on a government health program is terrible. How absurd.”
— Longtime ABC News correspondent Sam Donaldson on This Week, January 24, 2010.

■ “The idea that this is a Democratic bill, you know, that this is some left-wing plot, some government takeover that they’re going to ram through the Senate, is the part that’s the problem. This is a very centrist, leaning conservative health care reform bill.”
Huffington Post political reporter Ryan Grim during the 3pm ET hour of MSNBC Live, February 24, 2010.

■ “It’s shaping up to be a great weekend here in Washington....I’m talking about the prospect of a quasi-climactic vote in the House that would finally have the United States join the rest of the industrialized world in offering health insurance to all its citizens....Passing a health-care reform bill would restore not only a measure of trust and confidence in our political process but also, more significantly, trust and confidence in ourselves.”
Washington Post business columnist Steven Pearlstein, March 19, 2010.

■ “All agree she [House Speaker Nancy Pelosi] gets credit for locking up this vote, one of the biggest since Medicare in the 1960s. And she’s said to have done it with an epic blend of persuasion, muscle and will, even when half the town said it couldn’t be done....[to Pelosi] What do you think your dad and your mom would have said about this moment?”
— ABC’s Diane Sawyer interviewing Pelosi on World News, March 22, 2010.

■ “You heard the President pay tribute to Senator Ted Kennedy, who devoted his career to health care reform. But there was another quiet tribute at the Senator’s grave. A note left by his son, Congressman Patrick Kennedy. It said simply: ‘Dad, the unfinished business is done.’”
— Diane Sawyer on World News, March 23, 2010.

■ “At least one thing seems clear: The bill that President Obama signed on Tuesday is the federal government’s biggest attack on economic inequality since inequality began rising more than three decades ago.”
New York Times economics writer David Leonhardt in his March 24, 2010 “Economic Scene” column.

■ “I am surprised that the numbers in the Washington Post poll weren’t better. I mean, since this thing passed last weekend, we’ve been seeing the longest wet kiss in political history given to the Obama administration by the liberal media elite, and every day it goes by, it’s sloppier.”
— Governor Haley Barbour (R-MS) on ABC’s This Week, March 28, 2010, commenting on an ABC News/Washington Post poll showing 46% approving of ObamaCare vs. 50% opposed.

■ “What are the Tea Partiers really angry about? Health care reform, or the fact that it was an African American President and a woman Speaker of the House who pushed through major change?”
— MSNBC’s Chris Matthews at the top of Hardball, March 29, 2010.

For more examples from our flashback series, which we call the NewsBusters Time Machine, go here.