The ruling has come down: Both CNN and Fox badly bungled their reporting of today’s landmark Supreme Court opinion on healthcare. And both organizations have taken very different routes to correcting their mistakes.
We gave our viewers the news as it happened. When Justice Roberts said, and we read, that the mandate was not valid under the Commerce clause, we reported it. Bill Hemmer even added, be patient as we work through this. Then when we heard and read, that the mandate could be upheld under the government’s power to tax, we reported that as well—all within two minutes.
By contrast, one other cable network was unable to get their Supreme Court reporter to the camera, and said as much. Another said it was a big setback for the President. Fox reported the facts, as they came in.
And here’s CNN’s:
In his opinion, Chief Justice Roberts initially said that the individual mandate was not a valid exercise of Congressional power under the Commerce Clause. CNN reported that fact, but then wrongly reported that therefore the court struck down the mandate as unconstitutional. However, that was not the whole of the Court’s ruling. CNN regrets that it didn’t wait to report out the full and complete opinion regarding the mandate. We made a correction within a few minutes and apologize for the error.
I’ve written before on the salient features of an apology: The words “I’m sorry” or similar are essential. Anything else is justification. In a correction, there’s room to explain a mistake, and both organizations do that in their statements, even if both are a little skimpy about accepting blame.
But Fox’s statement says it “reported the facts” when in fact Fox, like CNN, misinterpreted the facts. CNN owned its error when it said it leapt from reporting Roberts’ words to “therefore the court struck down the mandate as unconstitutional.” Fox is saying its interpretation was a fact. Not quite.