Fox News’ weekend special “Live Free or Die: Obamacare in New Hampshire” was a thinly-veiled gift to former Fox News contributor Scott Brown who just happens to be running for the U.S. Senate in New Hampshire this fall. The report was light on investigation and heavy with the kind of he said/she said debate that Fox is known for: with special emphasis given to the Republican side. In this case, the glowing spotlight shone on candidate and former colleague Brown.
The political framing of the special was easy to see in the beginning and ending parts of the report. The first segment focused on criticizing Brown’s senate opponent, incumbent Democrat Jean Shaheen. The show closed by showcasing Brown. Brown is still listed as a contributor on FoxNews.com although he left several months ago.
Baier camouflaged the rank politics by opening the segment and the special with the perspective of one woman adversely affected by ObamaCare. It wasn’t until later that we learned she was challenging the law in the state.
But it wasn't long before Baier began touting criticisms of Shaheen who, he said, "echoed the president when it came to the promises of the Affordable Care Act."
Baier went to a video clip of Rogers Johnson, identified as a “former Republican state lawmaker, now a health care consultant.” Baier failed to mention that Johnson is currently employed as a senior advisor to the state's current Republican gubernatorial candidate.
In the clip, Johnson used the broken promises of the Affordable Care Act to malign Shaheen's integrity: “When I know that what you’re telling me is not true, I then question the individuals who made that offer,” he concluded.
Just at that moment, a photo of Shaheen standing closely beside President Obama, both smiling, displayed on the screen. Just in case anyone missed the point.
As the camera zoomed in on Shaheen, Baier continued, “But in fact, this wasn’t the first time Jean Shaheen waded into the waters of health care reform. In the mid 90s, then state senator Shaheen led a reform effort that created a sort of prototype for ObamaCare. According to critics of Shaheen’s plan, the results were devastating. The law drove up premiums and drove insurers out of the state. These same critics now claim the Affordable Care Act, which superseded state laws, has, if anything, made matters worse. Not only is there less competition so far, but the narrow networks are even narrower than expected.
Notice how Baier only referenced anonymous “critics" rather than investigate whether those accusations have any validity?
Finally, several minutes into the segment, Baier spoke to an ACA advocate, Ron Pollack, Executive Director of Families USA (misspelled as “Familes USA” on the screen) blaming insurers for the narrow network of providers highlighted in the segment.
Again, no investigation into the veracity of that statement. Just a follow up with someone saying otherwise. And another peek at the concerns of the woman challenging the law.
That was the beginning of the program. It ended with a plug for Brown.
Baier announced that ObamaCare "could be a liability for one-term Democratic Senator Jean Shaheen whose vote ensured the bill would become law. And it may be what boosts her opponent."
Fox is certainly doing its best to make that happen. Baier said Brown's successful 2010 campaign for Massachusetts senator “was widely seen as a referendum on ObamaCare, not yet a law.” Of course, Baier never mentioned that Brown was soundly defeated by Elizabeth Warren when he ran for re-election in 2012. However, Baier did say the Act was passed “through unusual legislative maneuvers. …which may be why Brown is back on the campaign trail.”
We saw a clip of Brown talking about how he wants to be the senator that repeals ObamaCare and then helps to develop an alternate plan. We did not hear about the awkward incident in which Brown railed against the ACA to a GOP state representative only to be told the state rep's family had found ObamaCare to be a "financial lifesaver."
Baier acknowledged that “the average of the latest polls show Shaheen with a solid lead.” And he played a clip of Pollack pointing out that regardless of people’s opinions of ObamaCare, Americans do not want it repealed. But Baier didn’t investigate that, either. Maybe because he didn’t want to reveal just how unpopular repeal is.
Instead, Baier said, “New Hampshire is just part of a nationwide trend. It’s possible that the 2014 senate elections will be seen as yet another referendum on the Affordable Care Act. ObamaCare may or may not be the future. But one thing is for sure. Passing the law has not ended the debate.”
I’ve got to think that the only reason Fox News did this hour-long special was not to inform but to exploit. Which pretty much describes the bulk of Fox’s so-called news.
Watch the opening and closing below and you'll get a good sense of Fox News priorities.
And NH is hardly typical of anything except perhaps the South. It’s long been a complete anomaly in the Northeast, largely because it’s so loaded with right-wing ex-pats from Massachusetts who fled the state. (Good riddance, IMO.)