CNN and the SCOTUS gaffe

By Alex Veeneman on June 28, 2012


The Supreme Court announced it was in favor of the Affordable Care Act. But things went awry in cable news.
(Photo courtesy of the federal government)

At 10:15 in the morning Eastern time, CNN Radio reporter Lisa Desjardins tweeted from Washington DC in what could be felt as a sense of anguish. “Trying to find most appropriate way to express this,” Desjardins wrote. “Perhaps: #%*@!”

CNN committed a gaffe, reporting that the Supreme Court had struck down the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act as the hashtag #scotus was exchanged. What CNN reported was not the case. The Court decided June 28 in a 5-4 vote that the law known to some as Obamacare was upheld. The mistake was done on air and online, and through e-mail news alerts according to a report from the journalism site Poynter.

CNN however was not alone in its mistake. Fox News did the same thing, Poynter notes. But all eyes, especially on Twitter, had been on CNN and its mistake, to a point a memorandum from the Associated Press emerged asking its journalists to cease the jokes of CNN’s mistakes, according to Poynter’s report.

CNN immediately issued a statement, saying they should have waited until the full report was available. “In his opinion, Chief Justice Roberts initially said that the individual mandate was not a valid exercise of Congressional power under the Commerce Clause,” the statement read. “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.”

While CNN attempted to figure out what was next and attempted to correct a mistake (which they do happen), there was something good that came out of it, specifically for the comedian Jon Stewart, according to a later tweet by Desjardins. “YOU are having a big day,” Desjardins wrote.

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