November 14, 2013

The first thing that Ezekiel Emanuel and Fox News host Megyn Kelly clashed over last night was the number of people who’ve had their health insurance cancelled since the Obamacare rollout. “Five million people have already been cancelled,” said Kelly to Emanuel, former special adviser on health policy to the director of the Office of Management and Budget and National Economic Council.

Emanuel wasn’t swallowing that figure: “Only on Fox is it 5 million.” Kelly volleyed back, “OK, fine. So let’s go with 3 million. You can deny the problem while you want, sir, but the data is out there.”

Back and forth they went, typical of the tension-filled debates on Fox News as Obamacare comes under increasing pressure from the Hill and from the terrible enrollment numbers. They talked about events in the individual insurance market; whether the White House could have and should have foreseen the current difficulties; and management of HealthCare.gov.

Emanuel had argued previously that the administration needed a CEO to handle the HealthCare.gov rollout — a suggestion that the White House didn’t implement. Discussion of the program’s management opened up a debate on the circularity of Fox News’s coverage of the health-care law. Sample this transcript:

EMANUEL: There were differences about how they wanted to run it, and they decided to run it with people in CMS [Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] having the charge for doing it. Remember, this was not an environment which was hospitable to setting up the exchanges. You and your colleagues were constantly criticizing, trying to underfund it and trying to make sure it didn’t work.
KELLY: A lot of that criticism proved true.
EMANUEL: It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. We’re going to try to do everything we can to make it fail and then when it fails, we’re going to say, “Oh why did it fail?”
KELLY: What? I don’t think Fox News had anything to do with the rollout of HealthCare.gov. As far as I know, we didn’t touch that Web site.
EMANUEL: You were constantly attacking the law and you were trying to make it underfunded.
KELLY: I’ll give you that one, too. It was all our fault.
EMANUEL: Okay.

Check out the video: When Kelly says “It was all our fault,” she was clearly being facetious. At the same time, she didn’t muster the cable anchor’s classic show of umbrage at the notion that Fox News has played a leadership role in derailing Obamacare. And Kelly’s line about Fox News’s lack of involvement in building HealthCare.gov echoes a similar moment earlier this week on the network. When a Democratic voice cited Republican opposition for Obamacare’s problems, Fox News host Bill Hemmer quipped, “But the Republicans did not build the Web site.”

 

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