I’ve been trying to figure out why the mainstream media has all but decided to ignore one of ObamaCare’s chief architects saying the administration played on the public’s stupidity in passing the law.
After all, the press usually loves when hidden video surfaces, as it did this week with MIT professor Jonathan Gruber, and we get unvarnished comments showing what someone really and truly believes.
And yet there hasn’t been a mention on the network evening newscasts. CNN's Jake Tapper, to his credit, played the clip twice, asked two senators about it and wrote an online column on the subject, but that was about it for the network. Nothing in the Washington Post but for a couple of online items. (Update: The Washington Post finally got around to covering the controversy today, three days after it broke.) Not a word in the New York Times, which in 2012 ran a puffy profile of Gruber (“It is his research that convinced the Obama administration that health care reform could not work without requiring everyone to buy insurance”).
This is utterly inexplicable, except as a matter of bias. No matter what you think of ObamaCare, on what planet is this not news? Maybe on that comet where the spaceship just landed.
I tried to think of the possible excuses. Too busy covering other stories? Hey, nobody in America has Ebola anymore! The only real competition is a big winter storm and Eminem disgustingly dropping F-bombs at HBO’s Veterans Day concert.
Was Gruber’s point about health care taxes and mandates too complicated? Then explain it. Besides, it isn't that this argument never came up before; it's that Gruber fesses up to the attempt at deception.
Even MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski, who makes no secret of being a liberal, admitted yesterday that “had it been a Republican, the media would have been exploding.”
And yet MSNBC’s coverage in the previous two days basically consisted of Ronan Farrow doing a softball sitdown with Gruber. Now I’ve tried to avoid taking cheap shots at Farrow, a guy with zero journalistic experience, who worked for the administration, and who’s basically on the air because he’s Mia Farrow’s son (and maybe Frank Sinatra’s son). But this was a farce.
“I was speaking off the cuff and I basically spoke inappropriately, and I regret having made those comments,” Gruber said.
Did Farrow ask what was inappropriate? Did he ask whether the comments were true? Nope, he carried the professor’s water:
“But the point you were making underneath the choice of words was actually quite nuanced. You were saying, correct me if I’m wrong, that due to political pressure the language of ObamaCare had to be somewhat opaque.”
Somewhat opaque, I love that. Also known as being highly misleading and pulling the wool over people’s eyes.
Let’s review: Gruber, a highly paid administration consultant, said this at an academic conference a year ago:
“This bill was written in a tortured way to make sure CBO did not score the mandate as taxes…Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. And basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter, or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical for the thing to pass.”
Stupidity. Really critical. And where is the rest of the press?
Now Fox has certainly given the story heavy rotation, and conservatives on the network and elsewhere have jumped on the tape, and a second one that soon surfaced, to discredit the Affordable Care Act. Gruber’s comments don’t prove that the program is a mess or isn’t working. They show that the administration was counting on public ignorance to pass it.
In another interview, on Boston’s WGBH, Gruber didn’t argue with host Emily Rooney’s characterization that he had admitted to “intentional obfuscation.” In fact, he’s not really taking back what he said at all. He said he didn’t want it widely known that “we gave poor people money.” Gruber then pivoted to charge that “the master strategy of the Republican Party” is “to confuse people enough about the law so that they don’t understand that the subsidies they’re getting is because of the law.”
That’s a separate debate, but it’s kind of ironic that a guy who pleaded guilty to intentional deception is now accusing the other side of spreading confusion.
All this would seem to be a ripe subject for public debate. But in much of the mainstream media, it’s been blacked out. And that's downright embarrassing.
Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of "MediaBuzz" (Sundays 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz.