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Analysis, discussion and opinions by members of Newsday's editorial board.

CNN's mistake on Obama health care ruling historic

CNN.com screenshot

CNN.com screenshot (Credit: CNN.com screenshot)

Finally, with today’s Supreme Court decision, a decades-long battle is over: “Dewey Beats Truman,” is no longer the biggest major screw-up in American media history.

In other news, it was a pretty good day in the decades-long battle to insure lots and lots of Americans deprived of health care.

CNN, in full-throated Wolf Blitzer-mode, fell victim to the biggest fallacy of the modern news media -- that it’s really important to have the story first, even if it's only by, say, a nanosecond. The network announced that the Affordable Care Act, and the mandate that all Americans who can afford it must buy health insurance, had been struck down, the exact opposite of what happened.


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Fox News also misunderstood the ruling, and originally announced the mandate to buy health care or pony up money to the government had been struck down, but figured out the mistake much more quickly. On any other day, Fox's gaffe might have become the stuff of media legend, but CNN's goof seems to have eclipsed Fox's in the public consciousness.

Let me ask this: Do you actually know who broadcast this Supreme Court decision first? No? Do you know who broadcast any of these breaking news items first:

  • The death of Osama bin Laden?
  • The attack on the World Trade Center?
  • The death of Princess Diana?
  • The death of Saddam Hussein?

Personally, I don’t have the slightest idea, and I love media like an aerobics instructor loves boneless, skinless chicken breasts.

What matters is being right. Who the heck cares if you can be counted on to be first if you can’t be reliably accurate. Wolf Blitzer, and CNN, may have just written their own epitaphs, and those, at least, will probably recount today’s events as they actually happened.

Update:  CNN sends this message, explaining (and apologizing for) their error: "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."

Tags: cnn , media , gaffe , corrections , health care , affordable care act , supreme court

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