ABC and NBC journalists on Wednesday and Thursday hailed Kathleen Sebelius as "falling on her sword" and "taking responsibility" for the ObamaCare website debacle. On World News, reporter Jim Avila complained about the Sebelius grilling as a "rude grandstand" and a "three hour circus of a congressional hearing." He dismissed it as "official finger pointing day on Capitol Hill."
Yet, on Thursday, Avila sympathized with the Democratic Health and Human Services secretary, praising, "...The woman in charge of the Affordable Care Act fell on her sword with her first full-throated apology." The Obama official "was reluctant to pass the buck, even when pressed." Over on NBC's Today, host Matt Lauer gushed, "Kathleen Sebelius went before Congress yesterday and she did something you don't see happen in Washington very often, she took the blame." [Video of both morning shows below. MP3 audio here.]
Spinning the upside of Sebelius being forced to recount the disasterous launch of the ObamaCare site, he added, "She said, 'I'm accountable.' Whether she's to blame or not, what did she accomplish for the administration?"
Chuck Todd, playing the role of White House stenographer, recounted, "They feel like she bought time, they feel like she stood her ground, and wasn't – didn't take any bait."
On Good Morning America, Avila showed two clips of Republicans attacking Sebelius and demanding accountability.
But he made sure to narrate, "A senior White House administration tells ABC News that they understand that they gave the Republicans this opportunity. But they believe, they're very confident, in fact, that once the website is fixed, that the American public will embrace ObamaCare."
On World News, Avila derided, "Back at the often rude grandstand of a three hour circus of a congressional hearing...Secretary Sebelius is caught muttering as Republicans trashed the Affordable Care Act from website to individual mandate."
To his credit, the journalist did note the problems with the website: "Political theater made even more bizarre by the Healthcare.Gov website itself, crashing again in all its glory today, even as its creator spoke."
After Sebelius testified that the page has "never" crashed, Avila retorted, "Huh? Never crashed?"
However, neither ABC nor NBC mentioned a new CNN report claiming the White House is pressuring insurance industry exectives to keep quiet about how badly the ObamaCare launch is going:
After insurance officials publicly criticized the implementation, White House staffers contacted insurers to express their displeasure, industry insiders said.
Multiple sources declined to speak publicly about the push back because they fear retribution.
But Bob Laszewski, who heads a consulting firm for big insurance companies, did talk on the record.
"The White House is exerting massive pressure on the industry, including the trade associations, to keep quiet," he said.
A transcript of the October 31 GMA segment is below:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: We're going to get the latest now in the battle now over ObamaCare after a rough day on Capitol Hill for HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius. She called the launch a debacle, apologized and accepted full responsibility. But the grilling never let up. And ABC's Jim Avila has all the fallout from Washington.
JIM AVILA: The President at the birthplace of RomneyCare, defending its spawn, ObamaCare. And telling the Boston crowd, it will get better.
BARACK OBAMA: I'm not happy about it. There's no excuse for it and I take full responsibility for making sure it gets fixed ASAP.
AVILA: While back on Capitol Hill, before a much more hostile audience and a congressional hearing, the woman in charge of the Affordable Care Act fell on her sword with her first full-throated apology.
KATHLEEN SEBELIUS: Let me say directly to these Americans: You deserve better. I apologize. Hold me accountable for the debacle. I'm responsible.
AVILA: Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was reluctant to pass the buck, even when pressed.
REP. GREGG HARPER: While I think it's great you're a team player and taking responsibility. It is the President's ultimate responsibility, correct?
SEBELIUS: You clearly -- whatever. Yes, he is the President. He is responsible.
AVILA: But apologies did little to stop a three and a half hour onslaught of Republican criticism Wednesday after a memo surfaced showing the lead contractor working on the site, warned of numerous problems.
REP. JOE PITTS (R-PA): Do you believe that two weeks was enough time to complete testing of the entire system?
SEBELIUS: Clearly not.
AVILA: A senior White House administration tells ABC News that they understand that they gave the Republicans this opportunity. But they believe, they're very confident, in fact, that once the website is fixed, that the American public will embrace ObamaCare. George?
STEPHANOPOULOS: And they know they have to meet that November deadline. Okay, Jim. Thank you very much.