The journalists at CBS This Morning on Wednesday swooned over Barack Obama's fake interview with an actor/internet chat show host. Offering almost no criticism of the viral video designed to boost ObamaCare enrollment, co-anchor Gayle King lauded, "Humor works. Bravo to Zach [Galifanakis] and bravo to the President!" [See video below MP 3 audio here.]
In a follow-up interview with senior Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett, King enthused over the Funny or Die video: "It's certainly gone viral, which I would think you guys are doing the hula over there." Jarrett assured her that "we are." The Democratic strategist then shifted into full-commercial mode and told the hosts: "Everyone who is watching your show, go on the website today. HealthCare.gov. It's working just fine."
Co-host Charlie Rose sounded like a PR agent for Obama, touting, "This morning, President Obama is having better luck online than he did after the health care rollout. His appearance, Tuesday with comedian Zach Galifanakis now has 11 million web views."
King uncritically wondered about the video's results, asking "And people have signed up?"
According to the website Mediaite:
Sec. Jay Carney revealed that the video was wildly popular, netting 3 million views over the course of one day and resulting in a spike in traffic to HealthCare.gov.
But the Department of Health and Human Services threw cold water on the administration’s figures Tuesday afternoon during a call with reporters. They noted that, of the people who watched the Funny or Die video to the end where they were presented with a link to Healthcare.gov, only 19,000 followed the link.
While HHS asserted that the health insurance exchange portal experienced “substantially increased traffic overall” on Tuesday, that’s a 0.6 percent conversion rate via the Funny or Die video.
Reporter Bill Plante never mentioned this. Instead, he noted, "Funnyordie.com quickly became the source of referrals for HealthCare.gov."
Plante related that "the administration will not say how many of the thousands of millennials who clicked on the Affordable Health Care website actually signed up..."
He revealed that "most of the chat was scripted,but "Mr. Obama came ready" to improvise with the comic.
Plante briefly wondered about "those who say the video demeans the office of the president?"
But he then played a clip of the executive producer of the internet show, Mike Farah. Farah explained how much doing it "made sense."
A partial transcript of the March 12 CBS This Morning segments cab be found below:
CBS GRAPHIC: Laughter as Medicine: WH Hopes Online Video Will Cure Controversy
CHARLIE ROSE: This morning, President Obama is having better luck online than he did after the health care rollout. His appearance, Tuesday with comedian Zach Galifanakis now has 11 million web views. Bill Plante is at the White House where the administration hopes the video will help cure a controversy. Bill, good morning.
BILL PLANTE: Good morning, Charlie. Well, the problem, the controversy, is that the administration needs healthy young people to sign up for health care in order to pay for the older and less healthy. But so far not nearly enough of them have. So how do you convince them? Well Mr. Obama went where presidents don't usually go.
ZACH GALIFANAKIS: It must kind of stink, though, that you can't run, you know, three times.
BARACK OBAMA; Actually, I think it's good idea. You know, if I ran a third time, it would be sort of like doing a third Hangover movie. Didn't really work out very well, did it?
PLANTE: It's a regular feature on the comedy website Funny or Die, comedian Zach Galifianakis's irreverent chat show called Between Two Ferns. But there was nothing regular about this episode. President Obama's appearance was actually requested by the White House and shot there too.
MIKE FARAH (Executive producer, Between Two Ferns): One of the official White House ushers came to the room and told us to get off the sofa because I guess that sofa is probably from, like, the 18th century.
PLANTE: Funny or Die has been in talks with the White House for months about how to promote ObamaCare to the website's mostly young audience.
OBAMA: A lot of young people think they're invincible.
GALIFANAKIS: Did you say invisible? Because, I just think that's –
OBAMA: No, not invisible. Invincible.
PLANTE: With the enrollment deadline looming, the time was right for the President to get involved. While most of the chat was scripted, Mr. President Obama came ready to play.
FARAH: This is something that the President definitely ad-libbed was all this stuff about Bradley Cooper.
OBAMA: Those Hangover movies, basically he carried them.
GALIFANAKIS: Yeah, everybody loves Bradley. Good for him.
OBAMA: Good looking guy.
GALIFANAKIS: Good for him. Being like that in Hollywood? That's easy. Tall, handsome, that's easy. Be short, fat, and smell like Doritos and try to make it in Hollywood.
PLANTE: Funnyordie.com quickly became the source of referrals for HealthCare.gov.
JAY CARNEY: I can assure you that the Funny or Die video will be one of the reasons we get young Americans to HealthCare.gov, one of the reasons we get young Americans to enroll in health insurance programs.
PLANTE: And to those who say the video demeans the office of the president?
FARAH: I would tell the critics, thanks for watching, first of all. We appreciate your views. It's crazy that it makes sense for the President to do a Funny or Die video. But once you see the results, it starts making that much more sense.
GALIFANAKIS: What is it like to be the last black president?
OBAMA; Seriously? What is it like to be the last time to every talk to a president?
PLANTE: So, the video has gone viral, millions of views so far. But the administration will not say how many of the thousands of millennials who clicked on the Affordable Health Care website, actually signed up, insults or not. Norah, Charlie, Gayle.
ROSE: Barry Goldwater once said you have to go hunting where the ducks are and the young people watch this show.
GAYLE KING: That's right. And humor works. Bravo to Zach and bravo to the President. That was very funny stuff. Thank you, Bill Plante.
KING: Valerie, let's get to Funny or Die. It's certainly gone viral, which I would think you guys are doing the hula over there.
VALERIE JARRETT: We are.