ABC Touts ObamaCare's Popularity, While NBC Reports Website Problems

For the second straight morning, ABC's Jonathan Karl was merely a White House stenographer when reporting on ObamaCare's year-end deadline, touting enrollment numbers and parroting White House talking points.

Tuesday's Good Morning America framed the latest ObamaCare delay as a result of the law's popularity, as opposed to NBC reporting that it was, at least in part, due to website issues. "A crush of visitors to the website yesterday caused the White House to expand this year's deadline for signing up through the end of today," co-host George Stephanopoulos reported.

And Karl as well blamed the law's popularity: "That one-day grace period was granted because people faced long wait times on the website, as there was a crush of visitors trying to get in before the deadline."

However, over at the Today show Natalie Morales cited a different reason for the delay: "Officials acknowledged the government website was still having problems signing people up. The site has been plagued by computer glitches since they it live earlier this year."

Karl relayed the administration's spin that the delay was like a benevolent extension of voting hours: "Officials compare this to keeping the polls open on election day for a few extra hours because of long lines. They say that yesterday, there were well over one million visitors going to that website. That was a record."

And unlike ABC, NBC gave a voice to critics of the delay. Today fill-in host Willie Geist noted, "The President's critics, critics of the Affordable Care Act, saying here's another delay that shows this law is not ready for prime time."

Below is a transcript of the segments, which aired on December 24:

ABC
GOOD MORNING AMERICA
12/24/13
[7:07 a.m. EST]

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: To President Obama now. While enjoying some down time in Hawaii, his staff back in Washington signed him up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. And he wasn't the only one. A crush of visitors to the website yesterday caused the White House to expand this year's deadline for signing up through the end of today. ABC's Jon Karl is with the President in Honolulu. And he's got all of the latest numbers. Good morning, Jon.

JONATHAN KARL: Good morning, George. Between health care briefings, the President has already had a chance to get in a couple rounds of golf. But officials say today is really the deadline. If you want to have coverage go into effect by the first of the year, you must enroll today. That one-day grace period was granted because people faced long wait times on the website, as there was a crush of visitors trying to get in before the deadline. Officials compare this to keeping the polls open on election day for a few extra hours because of long lines. They say that yesterday, there were well over one million visitors going to that website. That was a record.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Jon, the President signing up for this health insurance. He has already got the best health care in the world. So, what was this all about?

KARL: Well, the White House officials say this was a symbolic gesture. Of course he does have the very best health care in the world. Doctors and a medical staff that goes with him wherever he goes, even on Air Force One. What he got was the cheapest plan, the Bronze plan. And it was individual coverage, just for him, not for the family. And for this symbolic gesture, George, he will be spending $400 a month.

(...)

NBC
TODAY
12/24/13
[7:08 a.m. EST]

WILLIE GEIST: Meanwhile, Peter, a little domestic business. The health care exchanges deadline extended to 24 hours to midnight tonight to get in for the January 1st coverage. The President's critics, critics of the Affordable Care Act, saying here's another delay that shows this law is not ready for prime time.

PETER ALEXANDER: This time they mean it for real. Today is, in fact, the last day that you can complete your enrollment if you want health coverage in the 36 states that use the federal exchange, by January 1st. In fact, we also learned that the President was among those people who just enrolled for health coverage. He did it this last weekend. He doesn't need it, Willie. He won't use it. Presidents get their health coverage through the military. He actually had staffers sign him up because his effort would be a little bit more complicated considering his circumstances. The President, if you're wondering, will be getting a Bronze plan. That's the cheapest for someone his age. And he is going to pay for it. And it will cost him less than $400 a month.

GEIST: Pretty expensive act of symbolism there. Peter Alexander in Hawaii this morning. Peter, thanks.

(...)

[8:03]

NATALIE MORALES: One more day. The deadline has been extended for people looking to sign up for health care through the federal exchange. A government spokesman said that consumers will be able to select a plan through today and still get coverage starting at the beginning of the year. Officials acknowledged the government website was still having problems signing people up. The site has been plagued by computer glitches since they it live earlier this year.
 

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014