The Washington Post

CNN’s Supreme Court coverage: What’s all the fuss about

Hey wait, Internet! All this hammering CNN over its early and erroneous jump on the Supreme Court health-care decision may well overstate the network’s misdeeds. Judging from all the tweets, all the blog posts and the like, the network didn’t utter a single point of fact from, like, 10:05 a.m. till many minutes later.

That would be a case of false impressions. With the assistance of the TPM video above, the Erik Wemple Blog has gone through some of the CNN exchanges in an effort to spot the crew’s unimpeachable representations of fact. Below is a trip through the transcript, including a running tally of accurate statements by CNN individuals. The exercise proves conclusively that CNN got almost everything right.

Here goes:


Statement No. 1: “This is our first read and we’re still going through the opinion.”

True! We have no grounds for doubting this statement, especially in light of the conclusion that follows it.

Statement No. 2: “But I wanted to bring you the breaking news that according to producer Bill Mears, the individual mandate is not a valid ... exercise of the Commerce Clause.”

True ! Bill Mears is, in fact, the Supreme Court producer for CNN and the court did rule that the mandate wasn’t a valid exercise of the Commerce Clause.

Statement No. 3: “So it appears as if the Supreme Court justices have struck down the individual mandate, the centerpiece of the health care legislation.”

False and True! Okay, so the first part is off, but the second part — about the mandate being a centerpiece — is right on the money.

Statement No. 4: “I’m going to hop back on this phone to try to get more information and bring it right to you, Wolf.”

True! Given that we hear later from Bolduan bearing fresh news, this statement must be classified as true.


Statement No. 5: “Wow, that’s a dramatic moment, if in fact the Supreme Court has ruled that the individual mandate is in fact unconstitutional, that would be history unfolding right now. It raises questions about any of this health-care reform law.”

True! Blitzer’s deft use of the subjunctive here keeps falsehoods at bay.


Statement No. 6: “The court striking down that mandate is a dramatic blow to the policy and to the president. The justices have just gutted, Wolf, the centerpiece provision of the Obama health care law.”

False and True! In light of the Supreme Court’s ruling, King appears to have been mistaken in concluding that the court had stricken down the mandate. But he did get the “centerpiece” part correct.

Statement No. 7: “The question now is what else do they say in the ruling and can parts of the law be salvaged.”

True! Nothing counterfactual here.

Statement No. 8: “A direct blow to the president of the United States, a direct blow to his Democratic Party.”

False. It’s the opposite of that.


Statement No. 9: “If in fact that’s the final word on the individual mandate. It could be a little bit more complicated....”

Neither true nor false: Idle cable talk here.

Statement No. 10: “As we say, there’s some confusion out there, conflicting reports coming in from inside the Supreme Court. So let’s hold off on drawing any final conclusions on what exactly the nine justices of the U.S. Supreme Court have decided.”

True! Absolutely the case that conflicting reports were coming out of the Supreme Court; CNN, after all, was among those responsible for them.

Statement No. 11: “We’re now getting more information.”

True! More information indeed emerged, making this statement incontrovertible.

Statement No. 12: “The Chief Justice John Roberts saying potentially, potentially the individual mandate could be upheld as a tax. But we’re getting some conflicting information on what leads up to that.”

False: He didn’t say that it could “potentially” be upheld under tax law; he said it could be upheld under tax law.


Statement No. 13: “This is a very confusing, very large, opinion.”

True! No question about that one.


Statement No. 14: “Excuse me, Kate Bolduan’s getting some more details. What are you learning, Kate?”

True! Bolduan did indeed get more information, and it was good stuff, too.


Statement No. 15: As we are reading through this again, we are reading now that the entire law has been upheld, Wolf.


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


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