Of the three cable TV stations, only MSNBC got the news right this morning that the Supreme Court has upheld the health care mandate.
Both Fox and CNN rushed to air, reporting incorrectly that the Supreme Court had done away with the so-called individual mandate. And it was those reports that President Obama saw first on TV, before his staff gave him the real news from the court.
The mishaps cued sarcastic reactions on the Internet and even a parody of the famous photo of Harry Truman on election night, holding a copy of the Chicago Daily Tribune's incorrect headline, "DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN." The doctored image has Obama's head on Truman's body, and he's holding an iPad set to CNN's website, which reads, "Mandate struck down."
CNN apologized with this statement:
"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 didn't go that far, in a statement from vice president Michael Clemente:
"We gave our viewers the news as it happened. When Justice Roberts said, and we read, that the mandate was not valid under the Commerce clause, we reported it. Bill Hemmer even added, be patient as we work through this. Then when we heard and read, that the mandate could be upheld under the government's power to tax, we reported that as well-all within two minutes. 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. Fox reported the facts, as they came in."
What actually happened at Fox was this: Hemmer, the host, announced "breaking news" at 10:07 a.m. - "the individual mandate has been ruled unconstitutional."
Meanwhile, at CNN, reporter Kate Bolduan told Wolf Blitzer that, "according to producer Bill Mears, the individual mandate is not a valid - not a valid exercise of the commerce clause. So, it appears as if the Supreme Court justices have struck down the individual mandate, the centerpiece of the health care legislation."
Both cable stations would change their headlines within minutes, but not before the faux news spread online and prompted reactions, even from some Republican officials.
Blitzer then cited "conflicting information" as the real news came in, and Hemmer said, "Be cautious with us; we're trying to do the best we can right now as we sort through it."
"This is a very confusing, very large opinion," Bolduan would tell Blitzer on the air. She added that, in fact, the mandate was ruled constitutional under Congress's tax power.
Hemmer did the same. "That is huge," added Megyn Kelly, also a Fox host.