COMMENTARY | "The Supreme Court has struck down the individual mandate for health care."
At just a few minutes after 10 a.m. ET on Thursday morning, under a banner of "Breaking News" CNN wrote a dozen words which could be considered their epitaph. Gone is any remaining credibility for the network which bills itself as "The Most Trusted Name in News."
It only took them a few minutes to correct it, once it became clear what Chief Justice John Roberts was really saying with his ruling. But in the age of Twitter and Facebook, a few minutes are an eternity, and what is out there cannot be retracted. Retweets of the CNN misinformation will be bouncing around all day.
CNN made a decision that it was more important to be first than it was to be right. They listened as Roberts spoke harshly of the individual mandate, and the constitutionality of that section of the Affordable Care Act based on the Commerce Clause. But while he found the mandate was not supported by the Commerce Clause, it was allowable based on Congress' ability and authority to tax.
Boom! Just when CNN had figured out what they thought Roberts was saying, and where it was leading, and had gone public with the decision, Roberts threw a curve ball and upheld Obamacare in full.
Watching afterwards, it was pathetic to see John King and Jeffery Toobin try to justify the gaffe, try to make it out to be a stunner that fooled everyone. "Everyone in the room" and "everyone watching" and "everyone covering this" just kept repeating over and over again as if to somehow make the argument that because everyone got fooled by where Roberts was going that it somehow mitigated the disaster for CNN.
It does not. There are over a dozen news outlets on cable, and hundreds of news sources on the Internet. Some are certainly more credible, some less. Or so we believed before today. Credibility lies in getting it right the first time.
Would Walter Cronkite have gone on the air to report the death of President Kennedy if he were not sure the President were dead? Would he have jumped the gun based on the start of the doctor's press conference, on the description of the severity of the injuries and the magnitude of the damage? Or would he have waited until the doctor said, "President Kennedy died at 1 p.m. CST" before going live to report the news?
Character, integrity, trustworthiness, reliability, and credibility are what separate news from gossip. Being first is always a goal in news reporting. It is the second most important goal after being right. CNN got their priorities wrong, sacrificed their journalistic integrity, and made a mistake they may never recover from, all over being first by 30 seconds. I wonder if they think it was worth it.
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