Warren Buffett and Obamacare: A case study

Updated
 
Warren Buffett and Obamacare: A case study
Warren Buffett and Obamacare: A case study
White House photo

Rep. Jim Jordan, a far-right Ohio Republican, told reporters this week that the anti-healthcare forces have the wind at their backs. “All the momentum is in our direction,” he said. “Warren Buffett said yesterday, ‘Scrap the bill.’”

Jordan’s point, in all likelihood, is that if Buffett, an ally of President Obama, was willing to condemn the Affordable Care Act on Tuesday, shortly before the House’s 42nd repeal vote, then the White House’s position must be in real trouble.

But did the Sage of Omaha actually say “Scrap the bill” this week? Wouldn’t that have been a pretty big story? Jon Chait took a closer look.

It turns out a right-wing site called Money Morning quoted Buffett saying the following: “ ‘What we have now is untenable over time,’ said Buffett, an early supporter of President Obama. ‘That kind of a cost compared to the rest of the world is really like a tapeworm eating, you know, at our economic body.’”

The quote was picked up by Jeffrey H. Anderson of the Weekly Standard – “You know things are bad for President Obama when even Warren Buffett has soured on Obamacare and says that ‘we need something else’ ” – and ricocheted around the conservative-news world, implanting itself in Jordan’s mind as yet the latest evidence that even supporters of Obamacare recognize it is doomed to failure.

A series of conservatives sites trumpeted Buffett’s alleged anti-Obamacare comments, with something called Newsbusters demanding to know, “Will the media report it?”

Actually, no, that rascally media held off, not because there’s a liberal conspiracy, but because the quote was taken out of context from something Buffett said in 2010. In fact, he actually supports Obamacare with a fair amount of enthusiasm. He said what Americans “have now is untenable” three years ago in reference to the health care system before the Affordable Care Act.

But wait, it gets funnier.

Eventually, the Weekly Standard realized it had made a mistake, and published this update:

“It appears that Buffett made his anti-Obamacare comments in 2010, thereby showing that he, like most of the American people, has opposed Obamacare since even before it was passed.”

Except, the correction needs a correction – Buffett didn’t oppose the reform law in 2010 and doesn’t oppose the law now. Indeed, he even spoke out this week to reiterate, “I support it. It relates to providing medical care for all Americans. That’s something I’ve thought should be done for a long, long time.”

This is a terrific example of the conservative media at work. A prominent conservative outlet gets a story wrong. Presented with reality, the same outlet clarifies matters, but gets the story wrong again, while hoping to pretend it was right.

All the while, Republican lawmakers hear the bogus claim but not the correction, which in turn helps the lie live on.

Soon, the “fact” that Buffett criticized the Affordable Care Act – even though he didn’t – will be one of the basic truths that conservatives “know” to be true, and they’ll assume the rest of the country is unaware because the darned “liberal media” refused to get the word out. All of this is necessary, of course, because of the right’s zeal to convince themselves that a moderate health care reform law built on ideas Republicans used to like is destroying America from within.

Warren Buffett, Affordable Care Act, Obamacare and Conservative Media

Warren Buffett and Obamacare: A case study

Updated