Half a dozen videos have exploded online showing Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber calling the American people stupid, but most major media outlets are downplaying the controversy or portraying it as little more than partisan Republican noise.
Only a handful of major news organizations have devoted significant coverage to Gruber’s "stupidity" remark and his other admissions, including his saying the law’s “lack of transparency” was key to its passage by Congress and that the measure was vaguely written so the Congressional Budget Office would not score it as a tax.
The Washington Post and CBS News have published several stories on the Gruber videos, but they have also downplayed his role in writing Obamacare and focused a great deal on the GOP’s response to the controversy in partisan terms.
As a result, the Post’s reporting has included these headlines: “Did Jonathan Gruber earn 'almost $400,000' from the Obama administration?” “Obamacare consultant under fire for 'stupidity of the American voter' comment,” “Despite what Jonathan Gruber said, Romneycare didn't 'secretly' rip off Medicaid” and “GOP's anti-Obamacare push gains new momentum in wake of Gruber video.”
Kristine Coratti Kelly, Vice President of Communications for the Washington Post, said in an email to the Washington Examiner that she disagrees with the notion that the news group has focused too much attention on the GOP's reaction to Gruber's comments.
"[W]e have done a great deal of reporting on the matter covering a wide variety of angles," she said.
Meanwhile, CBS News has focused on the Republican reaction:
“[W]hen the bill was being written, the administration paid Gruber almost $400,000 for technical advice on drafting the law,” CBS reported Thursday. “Republicans, for their part, turned Gruber into an all-important player.”
ABC News’ sparse Gruber coverage included this headline: “How Little-Known MIT Professor Jonathan Gruber Shook Up Washington This Week,” which ignored Gruber’s prominent role in crafting the law.
NBC News, for its part, has all but ignored the story, with only a discussion on Sunday’s “Meet the Press” penetrating the blockade.
Coverage has also been light among the nation’s most widely circulated newspapers.
The New York Times has given the story mixed attention. The Gray Lady’s “Affordable Care Act Supporter Ignites Fury With a Word: 'Stupid' ” appeared in its Politics section, but “The Jonathan Gruber Controversy and Washington's Dirty Little Secret” could just as easily have appeared in the op-ed section as in the online Upshot column.
The New York Times’ editorial board did publish an editorial titled: “The Impolitic Jonathan Gruber,” and there was a single video report, “Economist's Inflammatory Remarks — Video.”
At USA Today, editors offered a video, “New videos fuel GOP rally against 'Obamacare' ” and a news story, “Obama team defends health law against comments by ally.”
USA Today has also published a handful of stories on White House attempts to distance itself from Gruber’s statements.
West Coast readers who depend upon the Los Angeles Times for their news might be forgiven for knowing little or nothing about the Gruber videos, as that daily has ignored the story except for this bit of commentary: “What Jon Gruber said was dumb, but the Gruber controversy is much dumber.”
The New York Daily News has very little except for a copy of an op-ed authored by conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer, titled “Obamacare at last exposed.”
Out of all these news groups, the Washington Post was the only organization to respond to the Washington Examiner’s requests for comment.
It's worth noting, though, that not every news outlet has downplayed the story.
The New York Post, for example, has offered extensive coverage of the controversy, with headlines that include “Obama praised 'bright ideas' of health-care architect who called voters stupid” and “ObamaCare architect was paid over $2M for consultation.”
Online news sites including the Daily Caller, the Washington Free Beacon, TheBlaze and the Washington Examiner have also followed the story closely, reporting on each Gruber video as it becomes available.
As might be expected, the Gruber videos have commanded front-and-center attention on Fox News, including on its daytime news segments and its evening opinion shows. Fox has featured each Gruber video prominently on its evening programs.
"Special Report" host Bret Baier noted that Gruber was "not only paid by HHS but eventually made millions from other federal agencies and states" and "has since talked often about his dealing directly with President Obama."
At CNN, Jake Tapper has reported extensively on the Obamacare architect’s remarks.
Meanwhile, MSNBC’s Ronan Farrow hosted Gruber for an interview after the first video surfaced. Gruber claimed that his “stupidity” remarks were “off-the-cuff” and “inappropriate.”
After additional footage of Gruber’s controversial Obamacare comments came to light, Farrow was forced to revisit the topic. However, rather than call Gruber back for further questioning, Farrow asked a pro-Obamacare, former HHS official to explain the comments.
This article has been updated to include comment from the Washington Post.