November 11, 2013
 Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health & human services (Jim Bourg/Reuters)
Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health & Human Services (Jim Bourg/Reuters)

Fox News host Bill Hemmer is a masterful moderator of those “fair and balanced” debates that are such a staple of daytime programming on his networks. His approach ranges between genial and jovial — and he does a fabulous earnest face when the topic is something dire or foreboding.

In a just-concluded segment on Obamacare, however, Hemmer got a touch combative — with Christy Setzer, a former spokeswoman for former Vermont governor Howard Dean. Here was a classic Fox News formulation: Hemmer and co-host Alisyn Camerota achieved balance in guest-selection by pairing Setzer with Angela McGlowan, author of the book, “Bamboozled: How Americans Are Being Exploited by the Lies of the Liberal Agenda.”

And then they all proceeded to hammer the lefty. Not without ample justification, too.

Hemmer pursued Setzer on the breakdown on Healthcare.gov, the portal that theoretically allows people to shop for insurance on the vaunted Obamacare exchanges. Hemmer noted that the site needs to be fully operational to get this whole train moving. Setzer volleyed back, citing a story in the Washington Times headlined “GOP set to jump on low Obamacare enrollment numbers. Said Setzer: “I think that tells you everything you need to know about the state of play right now.”

Hemmer wasn’t having any of the blame game. “You want Republicans … you want them to throw a lifeline to the president and dig him out of a hole?”

“Yes, I do,” replied Setzer. “I want Republicans to care about the plight of the uninsured.”

Again, Hemmer circled back to the Web site, arguing that nothing gets “traction” until Healthcare.gov gets traction.

In a comment that really piqued Hemmer, Setzer replied, “Well, it’s a little hard if the media is singlehandedly focused on this.”

Hemmer: “So first it’s the Republicans’ fault and now it’s the media’s — is that right, Christy?”

Back and forth they went, with Hemmer asking Setzer how long the administration had to launch Healthcare.gov and how much money would be required to fix it. Setzer, meanwhile, stuck to her argument that the Republicans had been campaigning against Obamacare for four years.

Prompting this from Hemmer: “Don’t come on here and throw out your talking points, all right? We asked you a legitimate question and you can’t give us an answer on time or money.”

At the very end of the segment, Hemmer finally coaxed from Setzer an admission that “this could have been rolled out better.” That concession came a few minutes late. The failures of the Obama White House in launching its signature initiative have been extensively chronicled by numerous mainstream media outlets, and the incompetence looks at once baffling and breathtaking. When called upon to defend the Obamacare worldview, a massive admission of incompetence should preface your comments, not footnote them. Especially when you’re up against the wolves at Fox News.

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