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It was a historic day at the Supreme Court on Thursday, one that will not soon be forgotten by healthcare advocates, politicians and media observers.
For CNN and Fox News, that isn’t a good thing.
The cable news networks reported that the Supreme Court had struck down the individual mandate at the center of the Affordable Care Act, the formal name for what has become to be known as Obamacare, the president’s stab at universal healthcare and the signature policy accomplishment in his first term. Both on air and online, CNN ran graphics and headlines that read that the court had invalidated the mandate. Fox also ran a headline on the air saying the mandate was invalidated.
As it turned out, outlets including the Associated Press, MSNBC, SCOTUSBlog and The New York Times soon reported the actual decision: the mandate had survived as a tax, in effect upholding it and the rest of the law. The decision was given by Chief Justice John Roberts, in a 5-4 call.
CNN soon was pummeled by critics on Twitter, who pointed out that the network already was down to its lowest ratings since 1991. Many also joked that Aaron Sorkin‘s HBO show The Newsroom, about a cable network thought to be similar to CNN, would use this in a future episode.
“In his opinion, Chief Justice Roberts initially said that the individual mandate was not a valid exercise of Congressional power under the Commerce Clause. CNN reported that fact, but then wrongly reported that therefore the court struck down the mandate as unconstitutional. However, that was not the whole of the Court’s ruling. CNN regrets that it didn’t wait to report out the full and complete opinion regarding the mandate. We made a correction within a few minutes and apologize for the error.”
Fox News later issued a statement, which included a shot at CNN.
“By contrast, one other cable network was unable to get their Supreme Court reporter to the camera, and said as much. Another said it was a big setback for the President,” the statement read in part. “Fox reported the facts, as they came in.”
While the cable networks had round-the-clock coverage, broadcast nets largely broke into their regularly scheduled programming to cover the ruling. ABC, which had George Stephanopoulos and Diane Sawyer anchor the coverage, returned to Rachael Ray‘s talk show at 10:26 am EST; CBS, which had anchor Scott Pelley leading coverage, returned to Let’s Make a Deal soon after.
Meanwhile, Matt Lauer stayed to anchor NBC’s coverage during the 10 a.m. hour of NBC’s Today; he was joined by Savannah Guthrie, NBC’s chief legal correspondent and the expected replacement for Lauer’s exiting co-host Ann Curry.
Watch the video below
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