Good Morning America's Jake Tapper on Thursday forced a completely unrelated rant by Patrick Kennedy into a story entirely on health care. Tapper pivoted off a statement by Senator Mitch McConnell that legislation on the subject is a "farce." He then spun, "For one Democrat, the force driving that farce- the media- who earned the scorn of Democratic Congressman Patrick Kennedy for focusing away from substance."
Tapper then played a clip of the Rhode Island Representative screaming, "If anyone wants to know where cynicism is, cynicism is that there's one, two, press people in this gallery! We're talking about Eric Massa, 24/7 on the TV! It's despicable, the national press corps right now!" Watching this, viewers would be led to believe Kennedy was talking about health care. He wasn't.
The Congressman was actually yelling about a bill that was voted down in Congress which would have brought the troops home from Afghanistan. The Tapper segment even edited out the part where Kennedy's topic became clear: "We're talking about war and peace! Three billion dollars! A thousand lives!" Are journalists so interested in self flagellating over a liberal congressman's criticism that they would force Kennedy's remarks into a totally unrelated story?
Generally, reporters aren't quite so interested in the assertions of media bias, especially when they come from conservatives. On this occasion, only ABC failed to explain the context. CBS's Early Show and NBC's Today both noted that Kennedy's comments were about the war in Afghanistan.
On the actual subject of health care reform, Tapper lauded a light moment in President Obama's Wednesday speech about health care: "So on-message, he even tried to turn a sneeze into a talking point." A clip followed of Obama sneezing and then joking, "Look. Health care. This health care debate's been hard on my health. I gotta to tell you."
A transcript of the March 11 segment, which aired at 7:05am EST, follows:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Now, to the health care debate. Democrats say they are close to a final agreement on a reform bill this morning. But, many in Congress doubt that they can meet the President's March 18 deadline. And even Democratic leaders concede they still don't have the votes. A battle royale is raging behind closed doors to finally get this done. And Jake Tapper is tracking the action. Jake?
JAKE TAPPER: Good morning, George. Well, that's right. After some intense negotiations, it looks as though a compromise between House Democrats and Senate Democrats is imminent. And the next step in the process, having this compromise actually written in committee, could happen as soon as tomorrow. Late Wednesday night, Democrats emerged from a closed-door meeting, believing they were close to an agreement for an overhaul of health care. And even though not all her deputies are so confident, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the bill would pass if it came up for a vote.
HOUSE SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI: I mean, if we took it up today-
TAPPER: Elsewhere, another Democrat was raising the temperature and the volume on the issue of health care reform.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The time to talk is over. It's time to vote.
TAPPER: A fired-up President Obama in the battleground state of Missouri was trying to rally Democratic voters and lawmakers.
OBAMA: We are not backing down. We are not quitting, St. Charles. And we're going to get this done.
TAPPER: So on-message, he even tried to turn a sneeze into a talking point.
OBAMA: [Obama sneezes]: Look. Health care. This health care debate's been hard on my health. I gotta to tell you.
TAPPER: The fight is entering the final fever pitch
SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: This whole debate has devolved into a little bit of a farce. And it might actually be funny if the stakes weren't so high.
TAPPER: For one Democrat, the force driving that farce- the media- who earned the scorn of Democratic Congressman Patrick Kennedy for focusing away from substance.
REP. PATRICK KENNEDY: If anyone wants to know where cynicism is, cynicism is that there's one, two, press people in this gallery! We're talking about Eric Massa, 24/7 on the TV! [Edit.] It's despicable, the national press corps right now!
TAPPER: And, George, President Obama told Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to remove from this final compromise bill all of the special deals cut in order to get it passed by the Senate. He wants them all out for a clean up-or-down vote. George?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Jake, the leaders did seem a lot more optimistic coming out of that meeting last night. But, I spoke with a lot of Democrats on Capitol Hill yesterday who are still pushing back hard against this March 18th deadline set by the White House.
TAPPER: Yeah, that's right. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs keeps talking about the March 18th deadline. That's the day when President Obama leaves for his international trip to Indonesia and Australia. People on the House side say that's the White House's deadline, not theirs. But, the White House says they're going to keep pushing that deadline because that's the only way to get Congress to act is by imposing deadlines.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Is there any talk about postponing the President's trip for a day or two if they're not there yet?
TAPPER: I haven't heard it. Of course, that's always within the realm of possibility. But, they think they are on track to have the compromise bill ready. And to have the House pass the Senate bill and the compromised bill, have that ready, by March 18.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But, there's still a big political hurdle there, right Jake? I mean, skepticism in the House. They don't want to pass the Senate bill without knowing that the Senate is going to act.
TAPPER: That's right. It's been said on Capitol Hill that House Democrats look at House Republicans, as their opponents. But they look at Senate Democrats as their enemies. There is a lot of mistrust by House Democrats as to whether or not the Senate can actually get its act together and pass this fix. And whether or not the House will have accidentally passed the Senate Bill. So, there's a lot of mistrust. George?