September 30, 2013

With each hour of programming, it seems, Fox News reaches a little further beyond the sober and factual when it comes to health care. Around midday, Fox News host Jon Scott asked whether NBC News had been “cheerleading” for Obamacare by presenting a series of stories on how people can sign up to get health insurance under the new program. That was absurd enough.

Or perhaps it wasn’t. Just a while later, in the debut of her new program “The Real Story,” host Gretchen Carlson welcomed Donald Trump onto the set to talk government shutdown, Obamacare and other stuff. Here’s the precise language of one of her questions to The Donald: “Everyone knows you have a hit show over on NBC, with ‘Celebrity Apprentice,’ but NBC right now is going to help launch Obamacare, actually telling people this week how to sign up for it, how to make it easier. Do you have any cognitive dissonance in your mind when you look at the part of the company that employs you and the fact that you just said that you believe that Obamacare will be Obama’s downfall?”

Bolded text added to highlight an assumption built into Carlson’s language, as if signing up for health insurance is a shameful or scandalous act, and one that no news media should ethically abet. Think Carlson felt shame when she signed her insurance forms? Consider, too, that Carlson’s program airs during the block when Fox News claims it is presenting “objective” coverage.

Trump responded with ambiguity: “Well, I’ve long loved NBC because we’ve had such a great relationship together, but their whole political thing is a little bit out there, there’s no question about that. And I watched that the other night on the news, where they’re telling you how to go about it. I don’t read anything into that. I just think it’s, you know, something that they’re doing. They’re actually very fine people.”

As uninsured Americans find themselves on the eve of getting brand-new options to secure health care, desperation at Fox News is surfacing. It has been fighting this law from the start, highlighting any bad news related to the Affordable Care Act and suppressing the good news. The tone has been uniform; the skepticism has spread across most time slots; and the inspiration comes from on high, as Fox News chief Roger Ailes has made public his disregard for Obamacare. Let the record show that Fox News, in its assault against Obamacare, has moved from attacking legislation to attacking Q and As.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.