ABC 'World News' Spins For White House On Shutdown, ObamaCare

Monday night’s edition of ABC World News was a double dose of advocacy as Diane Sawyer and her team essentially served as a mouthpiece for President Obama’s position on the government shutdown and his health care law.

Sawyer led the broadcast, of course, with the government shutdown, which was then only a few hours away. She stated President Obama’s perspective on the matter: “The president expressed outrage that one faction in one house of Congress is ready to bring the entire federal government to a halt.” But rather than follow that up with a Republican viewpoint, Sawyer threw to chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl for a report on the shutdown. He began his package by playing a clip of Obama warning us all about the economic impact of a shutdown.


Karl then made sure to parrot the president’s position, just as Sawyer had done: “[President Obama] placed the blame entirely on conservative Republicans in the House who are demanding an end to Obamacare.” This was followed by the Obama sound bite that Sawyer had alluded to earlier.

At this point, there was still no mention of a Republican perspective. Karl summed up the bickering like this: “It's Washington dysfunction at its absolute worst: unreasonable demands, no negotiating, and lots of name calling.” At that point, Karl played a succession of three brief snippets of Democratic accusations against Republicans, while failing to show any Republicans accusing Democrats of anything.

Karl gave one nod to the Republican viewpoint near the end of his report, but it was far from flattering: “House Republicans, who have already voted 46 times to repeal all or parts of Obamacare, are still insisting that they won't fund the government, even temporarily, without at least some change to the law.” He at least played a sound bite from John Boehner, the only GOP sound bite in the report.

Minutes later, Sawyer introduced a segment on the president’s “historic” health care law: “[T]he president says he will not stop that other historic event about to take place tonight at midnight -- Obamacare. For the first time in the country, every American expected to have health insurance, 50 million uninsured will be able to start shopping tomorrow.

This was followed by a report from Paula Faris that featured several candid clips of ordinary Americans who were supposedly eager for ObamaCare’s arrival. These ordinary people all had questions and/or concerns, and Faris was there to play sales representative on the government’s behalf:
 

"Starting at midnight you can go on this website, Healthcare.gov, where you'll be able to shop around, compare plans and buy. Everyone regardless of age, gender, income or pre-existing condition will be able to get insurance."
 

Faris promised that ABC News would be there for all the people who had questions or concerns about ObamaCare:
 

"[T]omorrow we'll be tracking the process for these folks, walking them through it. Diane will be telling them exactly what questions they should be asking and just really helping them understand who they can trust throughout this process."
 

But can people trust ABC? The network seems to favor ObamaCare, so it’s likely that they would tell us to trust the government on this one. Based on Faris’s report, it seems like ABC wants to play Big Sister to Obama’s Big Brother.

Below are transcripts of the segments:

DIANE SAWYER: And a good evening to you on this Monday night. And as we come on the air we hear you. We have been tracking the words all of you have been using all day about what is going on in Washington, words like bizarre, sabotage, blackmail and enough. The president expressed outrage that one faction in one house of Congress is ready to bring the entire federal government to a halt. And here is our shutdown clock counting towards midnight. ABC’s chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl now looks at the shutdown that seems both real and surreal. Jon?

JONATHAN KARL: Diane, at this point a shutdown looks unavoidable. The only question is, how long will it last? With a shutdown now all but certain, the president issued a warning.

BARACK OBAMA: A shutdown will have a very real economic impact on real people. It would throw a wrench into the gears of our economy at a time when those gears have gained some traction.



KARL: He placed the blame entirely on conservative Republicans in the House who are demanding an end to Obamacare.

OBAMA: One faction of one party in one house of Congress in one branch of government doesn't get to shut down the entire government just to refight the results of an election.

KARL: Not everything gets shut down. Troops will continue to be paid. Social Security checks will continue to go out. Medicare and Medicaid benefits, too, and the post office will remain open. But every national park will be shuttered, veteran support centers closed, more than 800,000 federal workers told to stay home without pay. It's Washington dysfunction at its absolute worst: unreasonable demands, no negotiating, and lots of name calling.

JAY CARNEY: Blatant extortion.

CHUCK SCHUMER: They are hostage-taking tactics.

HARRY REID: Understand we’re dealing with anarchists.

KARL: The bill they are arguing about would only fund the government for six weeks. House Republicans, who have already voted 46 times to repeal all or parts of Obamacare, are still insisting that they won't fund the government, even temporarily, without at least some change to the law.

JOHN BOEHNER: It's time for the Senate to listen to the American people and to pass a one year delay of Obamacare.

KARL: It all adds up to a terrible civics lesson for these middle school students from Colorado. They were among the tourists we found today visiting Washington, getting in as many monuments as they can before it all shuts down tomorrow.

MIDDLE SCHOOL BOY: I think it's very disappointing to me because it's kind of sending a message that the government cares more about their parties and their bipartisanship than they do about us, the American people.

KARL: One thing not affected by a shutdown is congressional paychecks. Even during a shutdown members of Congress, like the president and the vice president, will continue to get paid. Diane?

SAWYER: So they consider themselves essential. Thank you so much, Jon.

***

SAWYER: And of course one issue in the middle of all of this, the president says he will not stop that other historic event about to take place tonight at midnight -- Obamacare. For the first time in the country, every American expected to have health insurance, 50 million uninsured will be able to start shopping tomorrow and ABC’s Paula Faris tells us what to expect when you check in.

PAULA FARIS: Max Dinett was dropped from his health insurance because of his pre-existing condition.

MAX DINETT: I have asthma and allergies.

FARIS: Courtney Hope says she can't afford it.

COURTNEY HOPE: The biggest thing I need from health care is good maternity coverage.

FARIS: We’ve heard from so many of you.

WOMAN: Will I in fact have more affordable health care?

FARIS: All part of the 48 million Americans who do not have insurance, about 15 percent of the population.

MAN: How do I sign up and when does the coverage begin?

FARIS: Starting at midnight you can go on this website, Healthcare.gov, where you'll be able to shop around, compare plans and buy. Everyone regardless of age, gender, income or pre-existing condition will be able to get insurance. And if you don't want to buy or have been delaying because of expense, you'll have until March 31, six months to purchase a plan or face a fine from the government.

DINETT: I just want to be covered like anybody else.

FARIS: In fairness, no one will know how good of a deal this is until midnight. But for people like Max, he can breathe easier now knowing he has a choice.

DINETT: I just want to have that safety net.

FARIS: And that is the big mystery. We will not know the details of these plans or how much they’ll cost until midnight but tomorrow we'll be tracking the process for these folks, walking them through it. Diane will be telling them exactly what questions they should be asking and just really helping them understand who they can trust throughout this process.

SAWYER: We'll be doing it right here and we will make it simple.

FARIS: Yes we will.

SAWYER: All right, thank you, Paula.

Paul Bremmer
Paul Bremmer is a Media Research Center News Analysis Division intern.