Fox News Shows Ignore Scott Walker's ACA Remarks After Months Of Gruber Coverage

Despite dedicating numerous segments to comments made by MIT economist Jonathan Gruber about tax credits established under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that appear to support a right-wing challenge to their legality, Fox News' programming on weeknights has ignored remarks made by Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) that undermine the legal theory behind this upcoming Supreme Court case.

In March, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in King v. Burwell, the radical attempt to dismantle the ACA based on an extremely literal reading of the law. The challengers in King, and several other identical lawsuits, argue that the IRS is prohibited from providing essential subsidies to insurance consumers who live in states that refused to set up their own health care exchange websites, because the law says that subsidies are unavailable for those who purchased insurance through the default federal exchange. If this interpretation is correct, millions of Americans will be unable to afford their insurance premiums -- a result that seems at odds with a bill with the word “affordable” in its title.

Nevertheless, the legal arguments in King have been hyped regularly by Fox News and right-wing media, especially after a video of Gruber came to light in which he seemed to agree with the King challengers that subsidies were not available to consumers in states who used the federal exchange. According to a search of the Nexis database, Fox News' weeknight programming since November 1 has frequently mentioned Gruber in connection to the King case, airing 25 segments that mentioned Gruber's comments in conjunction with the ACA lawsuit. Many of those segments featured a Fox host, contributor, or guest suggesting that Gruber's remarks were so significant that they would influence the outcome in King. Most notably, host Bill O'Reilly repeatedly claimed that the justices would be swayed by Gruber, stating on his November 18 show, “Believe me, the Supreme Court is taking notes.”

Meanwhile, those same shows have ignored a pair of videos that show Walker apparently undermining the legal theory behind King.

Think Progress recently uncovered a video of Walker in an interview with The Wall Street Journalin 2013, where he noted that “there's no real substantive difference between a federal exchange, or a state exchange, or the in between, the hybrid, the partnership.” Walker also said that he had “spent nearly two years” looking at the ACA and determined that “it was clear! It's a SINO, 'state in name only.' This really isn't an exchange that the states run or even run in a partnership. The federal government determines what's going to be covered. How it's going to be covered.”

The Constitutional Accountability Center found yet another video of Walker in February 2013 touting his own health care plan for Wisconsin. As CAC's Doug Kendall explained, Walker “unveiled a health care proposal explicitly predicated on the assumption that eligible Wisconsinites who purchased insurance through the federally-run marketplaces in his state would receive the tax credit.” In the video, Walker is shown giving a presentation where he says, in part, that  “the exchanges under the Affordable Care Act provide a subsidy to make the health care exchange affordable.”

A Nexis search shows that Fox's weeknight programming has made no mention of these remarks by Walker since the videos came to light earlier this month, even though his statements are arguably more significant to the ruling in King. As someone actually involved in the implementation of the ACA, Walker refused to set up a state-based insurance exchange, apparently under the widely shared assumption that the tax credits would nevertheless be available. 

Methodology

This report analyzes coverage of Jonathan Gruber's comments about the ACA and how they relate to the upcoming Supreme Court challenge to the law during Fox News' shows that air on weekdays from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.: The FiveSpecial Report, On the Record with Greta Van SusterenThe Kelly FileThe O'Reilly Factor, and Hannity. Our analysis of those shows includes mentions of Gruber and the pending lawsuits, and whether those segments connected Gruber's comments to the outcome of the case, between November 1, 2014, and January 21, 2015, a time period that reflects when Gruber's comments were first brought to light and the present week. This report also looked at whether or not Fox News' evening programming had similarly mentioned Gov. Scott Walker's remarks about the ACA and the availability of subsidies in connection with the exchange lawsuits.

The phrases “Affordable Care Act” or “Obamacare” or “Obama care,” and “Supreme Court” or “lawsuit” were searched with “Scott Walker” and “Gruber” to find the segments reviewed in this report.

Photo via Flickr/Gateway Technical College under a Creative Commons License.