Comparison: Politico Lauds ‘Forceful’ Gov’t Obamacare Argument

Warner Todd Huston | March 29, 2012 

The first arguments by the government in support of the already wildly over budget Obamacare law were heard at the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday and there is an interesting lesson in media bias that can be seen in the reporting of the day’s presentation. The difference between how the government’s opening arguments was reported by Politico and Fox News is an instructive case of media bias.

First let’s look at how Politico’s Josh Gerstein and Carrie Budoff Brown reported how the government’s arguments were received by the court.

Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr., representing the government, opened his argument Monday with a forceful and solemn plea to the court to grapple with the key questions in the case.

Well, “forceful,” and “solemn,” eh? That sure sounds like the government presented a serious and well-received argument, doesn’t it?

Now let’s see what Fox News had to say about those opening arguments.

On the first day of health care reform arguments before the Supreme Court, two justices needled a top Obama lawyer for simultaneously calling the fine that will be paid under the law for not purchasing insurance a “penalty” and a “tax.”

Wait, “needled”? Doesn’t that mean they weren’t taking Mr. Verrilli’s argument very seriously, at least in part?

Yes, yes it does…

U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli used the phrase “tax penalty” multiple times to describe the individual mandate’s backstop. He portrayed the fee as a penalty by design, but one that functions as a tax because it’s collected through the tax code.

“General Verrilli, today you are arguing that the penalty is not a tax. Tomorrow you are going to be back and you will be arguing that the penalty is a tax,” said Justice Samuel Alito, in one of the few laugh lines throughout the 90 minutes of argument Monday.

 

Well, you may ask, maybe Politico mentioned the ridicule that Verrilli suffered later in its article on the opening arguments? If you looked for it you’d do so in vain. In fact, Politico did not mention the laughter at all.

As it happens it wasn’t just Justice Alito that evoked laughter directed at the government lackey arguing before them. Justice Bryer also got some laughs at the expense of government man Verrilli.

Yet, Politico never mentioned the laughter. Not once. According to Politico it was all “forcefulness” and “solemnity” by a dutiful and serious Solicitor General. Not the bumbling, gaffe-prone performance that really seemed to occur.

You have to wonder why that is?


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