The right's sad Obamacare transition: As good news rolls in, what to do?

Each week brings new data showing the law is working. Here's what you do about that if you work in right-wing media

Published May 8, 2014 4:21PM (EDT)

John Boehner                                   (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
John Boehner (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

I don’t mean to belabor this point, but the degree to which conservative media are exhibiting confirmation bias when it comes to news about the Affordable Care Act is both darkly amusing and instructive.

Yesterday’s hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee was an embarrassment for House Republicans. The insurance industry executives brought before the committee testified that premium payment rates for Obamacare enrollees ranged between 80 and 90 percent, which flatly debunked a report released last week by Republicans claiming that just 67 percent had paid. The insurance representatives “refused to go along with” Republican plans to publicly flense the ACA, noted the New York Times, “and surprised Republican critics of the law by undercutting some of their arguments against it.”

The hearing was also an embarrassing moment for the conservative media outlets that hyped the bogus Republican report on premium payments. Those same outlets covered yesterday’s hearing, but took special care to omit any mention of any of the positive Obamacare news that emerged from it.

The Weekly Standard, which excerpted and linked to the House GOP report on premium payments last week, limited its coverage of yesterday’s hearing to a one-minute video clip of the insurance executives saying the “Obamacare website is still not entirely fixed.”

National Review, which also enthusiastically covered the House GOP report and mocked people who suggested its data might not be accurate, also concluded that the newsworthy tidbits from yesterday’s hearing were the “questions about problems still facing the [sic]”

What you’re seeing here is the conservative media struggling to adapt to the changing narrative regarding the Affordable Care Act. They’re still fully invested in trying to prove that Obamacare is an irredeemable disaster. That posture that made sense a few months ago when the news about the law’s implementation was almost uniformly negative. But the last few weeks have seen a steady uptick in positive news as the law starts to work as initially intended. Rather than grappling honestly with the changing situation, they’re cherry-picking bad news wherever they can and ignoring everything else.

Also: Benghazi. They’re suddenly really eager to talk about Benghazi.

By Simon Maloy

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