This week Fox News devoted at least 57 segments to scandalizing MIT economist Jonathan Gruber's statement that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) “was written in a tortured way” in a renewed effort to delegitimize the passage of health care reform.
Gruber, who helped craft and provided data for various ACA provisions, can be heard in a recently surfaced video saying that the health care law “was written in a tortured way” to minimize criticism. Gruber was making the innocuous observation that Congress often crafts legislation to fit rules and politically acceptable limits, and in the case of the ACA, Congress went on to transparently debate the law for years.
But Fox News seized on Gruber's comment to manufacture a scandal surrounding the ACA's passage, pretending his remarks show the law was passed deceitfully. According to a Media Matters count, this week alone the network devoted at least 57 segments to trumpeting this fictional account.
Of course, as New York Times economics correspondent Neil Irwin explained, Gruber's comment illustrated the “completely commonplace” way that “Congress makes policy of all types.” Irwin went on, “Legislators frequently game policy to fit the sometimes arbitrary conventions by which the Congressional Budget Office evaluates laws and the public debates them.”
The Senate held years of bipartisan hearings on health care reform before the ACA was passed, explaining in part why, as The New Republic described, the debate over the health care law was “one of the most transparent in recent memory,” and why the law was so difficult to pass.
METHODOLOGY: Media Matters searched internal databases for mentions of “Gruber” and “Obamacare” on the Fox News Channel between 6 AM - 11 PM from November 10-13th.
UPDATE: A subsequent PolitiFact count shows Fox News mentioned Gruber's name 779 times from Nov. 10-18, while MSNBC referenced Gruber 79 times and CNN just 27 times over the same period. PolitiFact's count defined a mention as “any time Gruber's name is said on air within a one-minute window.” The search began midnight Nov. 10 and extended to 10:30 AM Nov. 18.