Jon Stewart Laughs at Nancy Pelosi When She Pleads Ignorance on Failure of Health Care Website

Comedian Jon Stewart grilled House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi over the failure of the ObamaCare website on Thursday night’s Daily Show, and got Pelosi to admit "I don’t know" why the company behind HealthCare.gov failed.

Stewart asked, "in terms of like, we're going to set up a health care web site that is an exchange. People are going to come to it. Why is it so hard to get a company to execute that competently?" Pelosi answered "I don’t know." Stewart laughed incredulously. [See video below.]

"Let me get the House Minority Leader, I can ask her. Hold on. What do you mean you don't know? How do you not know?" he wondered.

Pelosi defended ObamaCare as a bill that champions the "inalienable rights" of the Declaration:

"We worked very hard to honor our responsibility to pass a bill that honors the beliefs of our founders, life, a healthier life, liberty, the pursuit of your happiness."

Stewart continued to press her over the incompetance of the federal government:

"Is there a corruption in the system that needs to be addressed  to give us the confidence that moving forward we can execute the programs better?"

Pelosi answered that "there's no excuse" for the web site failure, and that "it should have been prepared for." She added that in response to government problems, "do something about it." Stewart responded, tongue-in-cheek, "I was going to say that to you.  I was actually going to say that to you."

Below is a transcript of the segment, which aired on January 30 on Comedy Central at 11:22 p.m. EST:

JON STEWART: I meant more in terms of like we're going to set up a health care web site that is an exchange. People are going to come to it. Why is it so hard to get a company to execute that competently? 

Rep. NANCY PELOSI (D-Calif.), House Minority Leader: I don't know. And –

STEWART: [ Laughter ] 

PELOSI: As one who -- that's my question. 

STEWART: Let me get the house minority leader I can ask her. Hold on. What do you mean you don't know? How do you not know? 

PELOSI: It's not my responsibility. But I will say this. We worked very hard to honor our responsibility to pass a bill that honors the beliefs of our founders, life, a healthier life, liberty, the pursuit of your happiness --

STEWART: Really. 

PELOSI: Yeah. If you want to be a writer, if you want to be a comedian, if you want to be a camera person, if you want to start a business --  

STEWART: But those are theoretical I'm talking about the practical, mechanical.

(...)

STEWART: I understand that. But I guess to back that up, the point is if you have two schools of thought. One school is thought is government has a role in our lives to help improve things, and that we can make a difference in peoples' lives. Given that the other group is it really isn't. And the group that makes that argument when they execute that plan -- 

PELOSI: It should work. Exactly. No, again. 

STEWART: For instance, are there things in the procurement process? Has the regulation become so onerous that government can no longer be agile enough to tackle these kinds of programs? 

PELOSI: Let me say that one of the things is the procurement process. Everybody knew about that. There's no excuse for this web site not to work. There's no excuse. And as they say, those who worked the hardest to make sure we had health care, but it will work and the policy is solid. 

STEWART: But there's clearly something systemic that is going on that is making the VA unable to deal with the backlog. To make us unable to deal. To give you an example, Obama's IT guy, owns a small company, but he's clearly a brilliant guy, he arranged all of Obama's internet campaign stuff where he would find you, you would be in the bathtub and you would get an e-mail. It would bubble out of the water, "hey, have you thought about giving us money?" You couldn’t figure out how it happened.

PELOSI: Classified as those who bathed. They know what we do. 


STEWART: That guy couldn't figure out the process. He couldn't figure out how to bid for that contract. He said it was a 300-page document. And it seems like it's obscured like that purposefully so that the larger companies have an advantage, because they have teams of lawyers and things that can do it. 

PELOSI: Doesn't matter. What matters is it should have been prepared for. There is no excuse. 

STEWART: Sure. 

PELOSI: All that is okay. 

STEWART: I'm not presenting it as an excuse. I’m presenting it as do we have a foundational problem? Is there a corruption in the system that needs to be addressed  to give us the confidence that moving forward we can execute the programs better?

PELOSI: I don’t think there’s a corruption. There may be a risk aversion with going with the known and then just not being entrepreneurial enough to say -- question whether that is really going to do the job. But I would say this in terms of the backlog at the VA, again horrible but being addressed. And the fact that the VA.'s computers can't talk to the Defense Department’s computers to get the information is stunning. 

STEWART: Seems insane. 

PELOSI: But do something about it. Okay, okay. 

STEWART: I was going to say that to you.  I was actually going to say that to you. This brings up an interesting point though. Is it possible that the people within the system don't have enough distance from it to see the way that people in congressional offices end up going and become lobbyists at these corporations? These corporations lobby to get all kinds of arcane things put into the regulation that makes it harder for these small businesses. Is it that -- can our Congress maybe not see the corruption inherent in that?
 

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