As the Supreme Court released its ruling on President Obama's landmark Affordable Care Act, media networks scrambled to digest the complicated decision and report the news as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, the first major networks to break news did not read the entire controlling opinion, and misreported the decision, which even initially left the president with the wrong information.
Scotusblog.com, the destination for Supreme Court news and one of the outlets that accurately reported the ruling, investigated how major media players ran with the wrong news. Scotusblog.com publisher Tom Goldstein conducted interviews with news organizations and created a timeline of events that occurred between the release of the Supreme Court opinion at 10:06 a.m., and the moment when CNN corrected its inaccurate report, at 10:15 a.m.
Goldstein reported that CNN and Fox producers were scouring the opinion and read that the individual mandate was "not a valid exercise of Congress’s power under the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause." The statement appeared at the bottom of page two, and producers at CNN and Fox News immediately ran with the information. Goldstein wrote:
Into his conference call, the CNN producer says (correctly) that the Court has held that the individual mandate cannot be sustained under the Commerce Clause, and (incorrectly) that it therefore 'looks like' the mandate has been struck down. The control room asks whether they can 'go with' it, and after a pause, he says yes.
A similar sequence of events occurred at Fox News:
The Fox producer reads the syllabus exactly the same way, and reports that the mandate has been invalidated. Asked to confirm that the mandate has been struck down, he responds: '100%.'
CNN and Fox News were not the only outlets to get it wrong. The Huffington Post tweeted the incorrect ruling, prior to the site's official story on the decision. Goldstein wrote:
Back at the Court, the Huffington Post’s reporter, Mike Sacks, has not yet filed a story on the ruling. Their social media team does not wait, however. Taking the news from CNN without attribution, it tweets – 'BREAKING: Individual mandate has been ruled unconstitutional by Supreme Court.'
Goldstein found that Bloomberg was the first media outlet to accurately report the news, and did so exactly one minute and 32 seconds after the Supreme Court released the ruling. The key? The Bloomberg team turned to page three and read that the Supreme Court upheld the individual mandate as a tax. "At 10:07:32 – 52 seconds after the Chief Justice began speaking – Bloomberg issues an alert: 'OBAMA’S HEALTH-CARE OVERHAUL UPHELD BY U.S.SUPREME COURT.' Bloomberg is first, and it is right," Goldstein wrote.
Click over to ScotusBlog.com to read Goldstein's entire post, which includes a detailed account of what happened at other news networks and at the White House.