CBS Touts 12-Point Health Approval Jump for Obama; NBC: Wilson 'Continues to Reverberate'

President Obama's address before a joint session of Congress “to rescue health care reform” caused “a 12-point improvement from last week” so “52 percent now approve of the way he's handling health care,” Katie Couric announced at the top of Friday's CBS Evening News in touting how a new CBS News poll discovered that “among those who say they watched the speech” -- a group she failed to point out was predisposed to Obama's policies -- “support is even greater, 58 percent.”

On NBC, anchor Brian Williams introduced a story on fallout from “Congressman Joe Wilson, the South Carolina Republican whose heckling of the President from the House floor continues to reverberate.” Reporter Kelly O'Donnell, who noted support for him in his district, observed what neither ABC nor CBS reported Friday night, that he made Democrats uncomfortable enough to acknowledge the current bills would let illegal immigrants get benefits: “As a result of this controversy, Senate Democrats said today they discussed options, like requiring Social Security numbers to make clear illegal immigrants will not get coverage.”

CBS's Chip Reid began: “The President bet the house on his prime time health care speech -- and in some areas he's cashing in” since “42 percent say he has clearly explained his plan, up from 33 percent last week. And for those who watched the speech, it surged to 58 percent.”

Unmentioned by Couric or Reid, but noted in the CBSNews.com online summary of the survey, “forty-two percent of speech watchers identified themselves as Democrats, 27 percent were Republicans and 31 percent were independents.” Plus, “among those who watched, 60 percent say they mostly agree with the health care plans the President presented; 33 percent mostly disagree.”

Reid did proceed to recount how Obama came up short on some key concerns: “Only 22 percent of Americans believe reform will help them personally” and “52 percent of Americans say it's impossible to expand health care coverage without increasing the deficit.”

The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the close-captioning against the video to provide this transcript of the lead story on the Friday, September 11 CBS Evening News:
KATIE COURIC: Good evening, everyone. Well, he needed to do something to rescue health care reform, so the President took his case directly to the American people in a national television address before a joint session of Congress. Did it work? The answer tonight is maybe. A CBS News poll just out shows he did change some minds – 52 percent now approve of the way he's handling health care. That's a 12-point improvement from last week. And among those who say they watched the speech, support is even greater, 58 percent. But chief White House correspondent Chip Reid tells us the President still has a lot of work to do.

CHIP REID: The President bet the house on his prime time health care speech – and in some areas he's cashing in, according to the new CBS News poll. 42 percent say he has clearly explained his plan, up from 33 percent last week. And for those who watched the speech, it surged to 58 percent. The President still has a lot of explaining to do, though, on some specifics. One example, he spent a lot of time arguing that everyone will benefit from health reform, even those who already have insurance.

BARACK OBAMA: What this plan will do is make the insurance you have work better for you.

REID: But he wasn't very convincing, according to the poll. Only 22 percent of Americans believe reform will help them personally. Even among those who watched the speech, only 31 percent think it will help; 27 percent say it will hurt; 39 percent say it won't have any effect. One of the President's key points was that his plan will not increase the deficit over the next 10 years.

OBAMA: I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits.

REID: But 52 percent of Americans say it's impossible to expand health care coverage without increasing the deficit. Only 42 percent say it is possible. Many fiscally conservative Democrats in Congress, whose votes are essential to the President, are also still skeptical.

SENATOR BEN NELSON (D-NE): In order to get my support, the President's going to have to convince me that the – with the numbers that it's not going to add one penny to the deficit.

REID: The President says most of his plan will be paid for by reducing waste and inefficiency in Medicare and Medicaid, but he still hasn't provided specifics. The President is also proposing automatic spending cuts just in case his plan does add to the deficit. But those kinds of automatic cuts have been routinely ignored by Congress in the past.

NBC Nightly News:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Now we move on to health care reform, as negotiators on Capitol Hill try to settle their differences over several issues. The one that was front and center today was the one raised by Congressman Joe Wilson, the South Carolina Republican whose heckling of the President from the House floor continues to reverberate. Correspondent Kelly O'Donnell has our report from Capitol Hill.

KELLY O'DONNELL: A much calmer Joe Wilson today, but after shouting down the President in prime time-

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Would not apply to those who are here illegally.

JOE WILSON: You lie.

O'DONNELL: -more fallout. Today, Wilson was told by Democratic leaders that he must apologize on the House floor or face a formal reprimand next week. Wilson already told the White House he was sorry.

CONGRESSMAN JOE WILSON, ON THURSDAY: My statements were inappropriate.

O'DONNELL: And with his re-election campaign video, went on offense against proposed health care changes.

WILSON, IN CAMPAIGN VIDEO: On these issues, I will not muzzled. I will speak up and speak loudly against this risky plan.

O'DONNELL: Democrats say illegal migrants will not get health insurance under reform, but Wilson claims legislation does not do enough to enforce citizenship requirements. Back home in his South Carolina district-

WOMAN: I think he spoke for many citizens, including myself.

O'DONNELL: : Folks at the Sunset diner did not approve of Wilson's outburst, but many say they agree with his views.

MAN: Maybe wasn't the time or the place to say what he said, but what he did I thought was accurate.

O'DONNELL: Wilson's sudden notoriety quickly contributed to campaign cash for both parties. Wilson is running ads on the Internet and says he's raised more than $700,000. Democrats say outrage surrounding Wilson helped their challenger, Rob Miller, top $800,000. As a result this controversy, Senate Democrats said today they discussed options, like requiring Social Security numbers to make clear illegal immigrants will not get coverage.

SENATOR KENT CONRAD: There's a high degree of confidence that we have an outline to prevent anybody here illegally from benefitting from these initiatives.

O'DONNELL: While the whole Wilson matter's been a big distraction, it's still unclear if the President has enough moderate Democrats to pass health care reform. Kelly O'Donnell, NBC News, the Capitol.
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center