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Posted by on Oct 16, 2014 in 2014 Elections, Health, Media, Politics | 28 comments

Media Lets Republicans Get Away With Absurd Statements On Obamacare & Other Issues

Republicans have been successful at “playing the refs” with false claims of liberal bias, helping them get away with spreading their misinformation. Liberal blogs and magazines, have commented a lot on Mitch McConnell’s absurd statement in support of the popular and successful Kynect exchange site while attacking Obamacare, which makes Kynect possible. Fact checkers have debunked this claim months ago. However the mainstream media is paying little attention to this–considerably less than the far less significant refusal of Alison Lundergan Grimes, and other candidates,  to say who they voted for.

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Brian Buetler thinks that the media is largely giving McConnell a pass on this due to failing to understand this, and not really liking to discuss policy. He explained, as so many have in the past, why McConnell is both wrong and dishonest:

During the debate, McConnell said he’d be “fine” with it if Kentucky decided to hold on to Kynect if and when Republicans repeal Obamacare. The subtext of Holmes’s tweet is that Kynect would simply become a hub for the kinds of plans that existed in Kentucky before Obamacare. After all, it’s true there was an insurance market (a non-group market) before there was Obamacare. It could follow that McConnell’s proposition is perfectly reasonable.

But there were also websites before there was Kynect. One of those websites is a Kynect-like exchange called Yet somehow, before Obamacare and Kynect came along, it wasn’t processing half a million Kentuckyians a year. The uninsurance rate in Kentucky was extremely high and showed no signs of falling on its own.

That’s because prior to Obamacare, the non-group market was dysfunctional. It excluded and priced out the sick and poor. It offered decent plans to young people who posed minimal health risks, but also sold junk policies that left people who believed they were doing the responsible thing exposed to medical bankruptcy.

It took Obamacare (and, thus, Kynect) to transform that market into something that proved inviting to half of Kentucky’s uninsured population almost overnight. Take away Obamacare, and Kynect might still exist as a website. But it’d be about as useful to Kentuckians as ehealthinsurance was prior to last year. Not totally useless, perhaps, but dramatically diminished and completely superfluous.

You need to know all this if, as a political reporter, you’re going to dismiss the McConnell camp’s spin and call him out as clearly as you (presumably) called out Grimes. Likewise, when McConnell implies that Kentucky could simply replicate the ACA’s private insurance expansion and its Medicaid expansion, you need to know that Kentucky probably couldn’tand certainly wouldn’tever do it on its own. McConnell is suggesting that Kentuckians replace a valuable, paid-for federal benefit with one that would impose steep new burdens on the people of the state alone, knowing it’ll never happen.

Once you grasp it all, then it becomes obvious why McConnell’s contradiction is theoretically so dangerous. He isn’t just painting a shiny gloss on a controversial position. He’s exploiting the public’s confusion over it, playing voters for fools by peddling absurdities. Something that can come to define a campaign just as easily as Grimes’ political cowardice might ultimately come to define hers.

This isn’t the only dishonest statement to come from Republicans in recent debates. Tom Cotton, Republican Senate candidate in Arkansas, made an absurd claim that people with pre-existing conditions were better off before the Affordable Care Act. I happened to listen to the debate in Virginia on C-Span, hearing Ed Gillespie make multiple false claims, such as repeating the Republican lie that Medicare is being cut to pay for Obamacare.

Part of the problem is that many in the media sees their job as “objectively” reporting what each side says, regardless of whether one side is saying far more absurd things. The conventional wisdom this year is that Republicans are doing better because there have not been statements such as Todd Akin talking about “legitimate rape,” but in reality Republicans continue to say many totally off the wall things which are being ignored by the media. Paul Waldman discussed absurd statements which Republicans are getting away with this election cycle (also discussed here) and concluded:

…in the last few years, there’s a baseline of crazy from the right that the press has simply come to expect and accept, so the latest conspiracy theorizing or far-out idea from a candidate no longer strikes them as exceptional. Sure, there are exceptions: For instance, Republicans Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell both saw their candidacies derailed by their crazy or outsized statements. But their utterances were truly, deeply bizarre or comical, so they broke through.

But during this cycle, Republican crazy just hasn’t broken through at all. It’s almost as if the national press has just come to accept as normal the degree to which the GOP has moved dramatically to the right. At this point so many prominent Republicans have said insane things that after a while they go by with barely a notice. This is an era when a prominent Republican governor who wants to be president can muse about the possibility that his state might secede from the union, when the most popular radio host in the country suggests that liberals like Barack Obama want Ebola to come to America to punish us for slavery, and when the President of the United States had to show his birth certificate to prove that he isn’t a foreigner.

So ideological extremism and insane conspiracy theories from the right have been normalized. Which means that when another Republican candidate says something deranged, as long as it doesn’t offend a key swing constituency, reporters don’t think it’s disqualifying. And so it isn’t.

Originally posted at Liberal Values

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Copyright 2014 The Moderate Voice
  • rudi

    This is a media and consumer problem. News is driven by ratings, not nuanced statement of facts. Just look at the Obola hysteria. One death and two nurses sick, and news and the public is running around like Chicken Little.
    Situation and trends
    1.6 [1.4–1.9] million people died of AIDS-related illnesses worldwide in 2012
    How many TB cases and deaths are there?
    Situation in 2012
    Estimated: 8.6 million (8.3–9.0 million) new TB cases.

    Estimated: 0.94 million
    (0.79–1.1 million) people died from TB and 0.32 million (0.30–0.34 million)
    HIV-positive people died from TB.

    Notified: 5.7 million newly diagnosed TB cases.

  • The_Ohioan

    Sorry, I’m still missing it. These things are reported in the largest media markets pretty consistently. Are you suggesting we should allow these news media determine who is a viable candidate and who isn’t? I’m not ready for that.

    As long as they do report the crazy, I’m able to decide for myself who should be voted for – and who I should spend my money against. That’s all I expect from the fourth estate. And I don’t waste my time on any of those who misrepresent the facts.

  • They should report not only what the candidates say but the pertinent facts when candidates say thing which are blatantly false.

    I’m not saying that the media should determine who is a viable candidate. but they are doing that themselves in an irrational manner. For example, Chuck Todd saying that Alison Lundergan Grimes should be disqualified for not saying who she voted for, but giving McConnell a pass on a far more serious problem.

  • The_Ohioan

    Playing catch up. “First Read” statement – 2 hours ago.

    If you wanted another example of how Republicans likely won’t be able to deliver on their promise to repeal the four-year-old health-care law, it’s this. And if Senate Republicans really do want to repeal health care if they win control of the Senate, then McConnell has disqualified himself to be their majority leader to do it, as National Journal’s Ron Fournier contends. You can’t say you want to repeal the whole thing, but that Kynect is “fine.”

    Apparently, Mr. Todd was distressed about being quoted in a McConnell ad after he had declared Ms. Grimes not a viable candidate. Now he declares Mr. McConnell not a viable majority leader. Perhaps Ms. Grimes can include this in her next ad.

    Mr. Todd is very knowledgeable about politics, and it’s interesting to read his opinions, but deciding who should and who should not disqualified from holding office is not in his purview. That’s our job.

  • The_Ohioan

    Almost every article I read about this did include the problem with Sen. McConnell’s statement. That’s all I expect. I really don’t know what more they should do.

    Of course Forbes is a different cat.

    Mitch McConnell Is Right — You Can Repeal Obamacare And Keep Kentucky’s Insurance Exchange

    Like I said, I don’t waste my time on any of those who misrepresent the facts.

  • It looks like they are catching up with the facts, at least on this issue.

  • However many other issues remain, including ones I mentioned in the post. Did the media get into the problems in the individual market and how things have changed? Did they provide background on how the ACA really impacts Medicare?

  • slamfu

    There is a pretty good layout of McConnell’s outright falsehoods regarding Obamacare in the debate here:

    Its just pathetic the lengths they need to go to to try and shore up their garbage platforms.

  • sheknows

    “They should report not only what the candidates say but the pertinent facts when candidates say thing which are blatantly false”.

    And that happens here…on earth in the 21st century?

    They have no time to report facts. They got away from having to do that remember? by quoting another source. So if that source is wrong…oh can’t blame them for REPEATING it. This is what news has become now.
    I think what you are looking for is a news channel that is on network TV ( never going to happen). that reports on things like Fact Check. org does.

    Blatantly false to one man is just a different viewpoint to another. 🙂

  • The_Ohioan

    When Brietbart and WAPO include the same facts, as far as McConnell’s kynect goes, I’m satisfied. To picture all major media as not giving the facts about why crazy is crazy, or false is false, I’ve not seen it. I guess I’d have to have some examples (links) to be convinced. I’m sure everyone can come up with some – if it’s that important. I’m inclined to do my own detective work, but only if I consider it important.

    Daily Kos, of course, would take on falsehoods of a Republican. Will they do the same for Dems? I don’t consider them a mainstream media outlet any more than Rush Limbaugh is mainstream.

    Dissing the media without good backup is like dissing the government. More harm than good comes of disparaging our institutions.

  • The mainstream media eventually came on board regarding coverage of McConnell and Kynect, but only after some prodding. That is the exception. Other cases noted above have received poor coverage, and these are only a couple of statements in a couple of debates this week related to the ACA. They are far more characteristic of media coverage of politics, which far too often settles for reporting what each side and avoiding the details of policy matters.

  • From the Columbia Journalism Review:

    Political coverage falls short in Kentucky senate debate

    National reporters fail to examine Mitch McConnell’s unusual statement

    All politics is local, as the old saying goes. But if Monday’s Kentucky Senate debate is any indication, the same can’t be said of political media coverage.

    Democratic candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes made national headlines during the debate for again declining to share how she voted in previous presidential elections. At the same time, however, the Washington press corps barely covered a claim by incumbent Sen. Mitch McConnell that Obamacare, unpopular in Kentucky, could be repealed without dismantling Kynect, the popular statewide healthcare exchange funded through the law. McConnell’s argument is not only factually questionable, at best, but also seems to be of much more potential consequence to the state’s voters. Monday’s debate was the only televised face-off scheduled before the November election, and the imbalanced coverage calls into question the national media’s role in one of the most closely watched Senate races in the country…

    Coverage of this was initially poor, with some portions of the media finally responding due to both how atrocious the statement was and all the criticism of the media that this generated.

    There usually isn’t so much noise about the failings of the media, and usually such lapses in coverage do not get corrected.

  • The_Ohioan …. always high quality stuff.

  • JSpencer

    So Kos is supposed to be the flip side of Rush Limbaugh? C’mon, let’s be real here.

  • Sure he is the flip side (even if perhaps not in the sense originally brought up). Kos is generally accurate and rational. Limbaugh is the flip side of this. Plus I don’t believe Kos is a drug addict.

  • The_Ohioan

    No one said anything about a flip side. Sheesh! Neither should be considered main stream media dedicated to facts. Daily Kos is more factual, but tends to misinterpret Republican’s statements and to err by omission in other areas. No one could consider Limbaugh factual; indeed I sometimes wonder if he looks at a news article and spends time reversing the meaning of it prior to his show.

  • The_Ohioan

    Having spent some time looking up CBS, ABC, NBC and CNN news articles (I really don’t want to spend any more time on this) – in every case they have an article about McConnell’s Obamacare/kynect perfidy. Cherry picking articles, as the CJR seems to have done, to make a point is not very helpful – nor ethical. As we have seen in the many debates here about ACA.

  • The_Ohioan

    And as far as I can tell, there is no time lag in MSM’s reporting. In fact, DK often uses a WAPO article to make a point. You will correct me if that is not the case. 🙂

  • The CJR was not cherry picking articles. They were just one of several sources making the same complaint about the media coverage–which led to many media outlets finally covering the McConnell statement as a gaffe.

  • JSpencer


    Sorry, just a little nit-picking. 😉

  • The_Ohioan

    My mistake. I now see that CJR was complaining about the Oct. 13 debate not being covered properly. I thought they were complaining about MSM not covering the McConnell kynect imbroglio prior to the debate – or at all.

    In my ranging over the internet I seem to recall a MSM article reporting his disconnect in March. Whatever – ABC did report it in May and I’m not concerned about MSM – as long as I pay my telecom bill. And I’m pretty sure KY voters are well informed (those that can afford a newspaper or tv or are otherwise interested enough) and they are the only ones who can vote for Ms. Grimes or Sen. McConnell.

  • Nobody is saying it was never reported. The issue is that there is insufficient coverage of the facts behind the issues in the mainstream media. Thus the post-debate media coverage concentrated on Grimes not saying who she voted for (and easy gotcha story) as opposed to concentrating on the more complex policy issue.

    Plus this is not limited to this one false claim by McConnell or the McConnell versus Grimes race. It is characteristic of media coverage in general including, but not limited to, the other examples and other Senate races I also mentioned in the post.

    The fact that ABC had a post on this months ago is more proof of my point. Republicans keep bringing up the same lies. There is often coverage, but it is limited, making it easy for Republicans to feel safe to keep repeating the same lies.

  • The_Ohioan

    Absolutely true. Every falsehood should be refuted ASAP. The MSM should have been more diligent in explaining why the moderator was asking several questions about the Obamacare/kynect connection. They probably should be monitoring all non-MSM reporting and correcting those errors as well. That’s their job.

  • Rambie

    T_O: “…And I’m pretty sure KY voters are well informed (those that can afford a newspaper or tv or are otherwise interested enough) and they are the only ones who can vote for Ms. Grimes or Sen. McConnell.”

    While broadly I see your point T_O, I have to take exception here. It’s a sad fact of our times that many voters are NOT “well informed”. I’m more with Ron on this, and your last post seems to concur; “Every falsehood should be refuted ASAP.” However, they aren’t, or even if they are, it’s buried behind page 6 or at the tail end of their website and very few ever make it to air.

    As someone above said, the news media is in it for profit, not to fact check. It’s just lazy news media that pretty much just regurgitates whatever they are told and will make web-page hits or viewers to their TV/radios.

  • Plus it involves more than correcting lies after the fact. Perhaps if the media did a better job of covering what is in the ACA, as opposed to just quoting the political arguments, people might be better informed and less easily fooled by dishonest politicians like McConnell.

  • The_Ohioan

    I think the KY voters are informed; some simply choose not to act on it. They are so opposed to Obama that anything that has his name attached is verboten. We’ve seen over and over how – no matter how much debunking is done – that people will vote their gut not their brain. You can’t fix stupid or stubborn no matter how vigilant the MSM – and they can certainly be more vigilant.

    My only cavil is expecting them to counter everything every time. That would be best, but not very realistic – though they should certainly do it in a major debate like this one. On the whole I think they do a good job. You are free to disagree.

  • The_Ohioan

    And you are correct, Ron, that the MSM should be more thorough in reporting on complex issues and less distracted by flybys. Though I don’t know how much that would actually help the lo-fos and the stubborn when all is said and done.

  • sheknows

    “Perhaps if the media did a better job of covering what is in the ACA, as opposed to just quoting the political arguments” or at least recommend people “get the facts” at

    I have noticed that the media doesn’t even bother to get the facts ( since they dont have to). Ever Since their job devolved into quoting what others say things, it freed them up to become entertainers instead of journalists.

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