While Monday's NBC Today began its 7 a.m. ET hour coverage of the ObamaCare enrollment deadline by noting the healthcare.gov website had crashed yet again, it took an hour for ABC's Good Morning America and CBS This Morning to notice the malfunction and mention it in their reporting. [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Good Morning America's initial coverage was particularly stunning in that it touted how well the website was supposedly working. Co-host George Stephanopoulos proclaimed: "After all those early problems with the website, the White House now saying things are now back on track." White House correspondent Jon Karl declared: "That's right, George. They say they saw a huge increase of traffic to the website over the weekend....And so far, the website seems to be handling it without any major problems."
On CBS This Morning, White House correspondent Bill Plante announced: "The administration was very happy to point out over the weekend that thousands rushed to sign up before tonight's deadline....The deadline has been extended to cover those who start the process but can't finish by tonight....If you check a box on healthcare.gov saying that you tried to sign up but were unable do so because of technical issues, you get the extension." No mention of the website suffering from more "technical issues."
At the exact same time on Today, White House correspondent Peter Alexander was telling viewers: "The healthcare.gov website has been flooded procrastinators, with two million visits, they say, this weekend alone. In fact, for some hours this morning, a software bug actually knocked it offline. Administration officials tell us their tech team is working to fix it and should have it online as soon as possible."
ABC and CBS did eventually catch up to NBC. In a news brief at 8:03 a.m. ET on GMA, news reader Amy Robach reported: "This morning, healthcare.gov has crashed again amid a surge in traffic." Introducing an 8:04 a.m. ET segment on ObamaCare, This Morning co-host Gayle King acknowledged: "This morning, many visitors to healthcare.gov are finding that the website is down for maintenance. Six million Americans have signed up after a slow start that was blamed on flaws in that website."
In an 8:03 a.m. ET news brief on Today, news reader Natalie Morales explained: "Technicians were also working overnight to fix a new glitch in the enrollment website."
If healthcare.gov had been down for "some hours" and was being fixed "overnight" as NBC reported, why were ABC and CBS so slow to realize it?
Here is a transcript of Good Morning America's initial March 31 ObamaCare coverage:
7:10 AM ET
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: We're going to go to Washington now and the official deadline for ObamaCare. It's midnight Eastern Time and there has been a last-minute surge of people signing up for health insurance as the clock ticks down.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: ObamaCare Deadline Today; Uninsured Must Sign Up by Midnight]
ABC's Jon Karl has more on where things stand right now. And Jon, after all those early problems with the website, the White House now saying things are now back on track.
JON KARL: That's right, George. They say they saw a huge increase of traffic to the website over the weekend, more than two million visitors. A record number of people calling into the call centers. And they expect today, the final day to sign up before the deadline, to be the biggest day yet. And so far, the website seems to be handling it without any major problems.
They've signed up so far, as of Friday, six million people. Remember, the goal was seven million. Six million, though, is far greater than most people anticipated they would get. And White House officials tell me, George, they believe they are closing in on that seven million goal.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yeah, they think they're getting close. But there's a lot that this overall, this big number, doesn't tell us.
KARL: That's right. There is a lot we don't know. First of all, how many people that have signed up have actually paid? Remember, you aren't actually enrolled into your health plan until you make that first premium payment. We don't know how many people have done that. How many of those who have signed up are young and healthy? That's the most important figure. And finally, how many of those signing up were previously uninsured? And how many of those are simply those who had their old plans canceled?
So, George, even after we get the final numbers, it's going to be a while before we know how well all of this is actually going to work.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It sure will. Okay, Jon, thanks very much.