Supreme Court Health Care Decision Really Confusing, CNN and Fox News Discover

In the race to cover the Supreme Court’s ruling on President Obama’s health care bill, Fox News and CNN found themselves on the wrong side of the story.

Both cable news networks incorrectly reported that the justices had struck down the individual mandate—the most controversial part of the bill, requiring most Americans to buy health insurance or pay fines—before reversing their decision on the decision. (The individual mandate was reportedly upheld as constiutional because the penalty amounts to a tax.)

A spokesperson for CNN released the following statement:

“In his opinion, Justice Roberts initially said that the individual mandate was not a valid exercise of Congressional power under the Commerce Clause. CNN reported that fact, but then wrongly reported that therefore the court struck down the mandate as unconstitutional. However, that was not the whole of the Court’s ruling.  CNN regrets that it didn’t wait to report out the full and complete opinion regarding the mandate.  We made a correction within a few minutes and apologize for the error.”

Other news organizations took a different tack, asking readers to stand by until they could parse the majority opinion, written by Chief Justice John Roberts.

“The Supreme Court has ruled on President Obama’s health-care overhaul, and Times reporters and editors are analyzing the decision,” wrote Times D.C. bureau chief David Leonhardt on the Times‘ live blog. “Once we are comfortable with its basic meaning, you can expect a torrent of coverage.”

“It’s very complicated, we’re still figuring it out,” wrote SCOTUSblog editor Amy Howe.

Meanwhile, AP editor David Scott emailed the news staff asking them to “please, immediately, stop taunting on social networks about CNN and others’ SCOTUS ruling mistake and the AP getting it right,” according to a memo obtained by Romenesko.

We expect to know more when this is incorporated into a plot line on Aaron Sorkin’s HBO cable news drama The Newsroom next season.

Supreme Court Health Care Decision Really Confusing, CNN and Fox News Discover