I happened to turn on the Hannity show on Fox News last Friday evening. "Average Americans are feeling the pain of Obamacare and the healthcare overhaul train wreck," Hannity announced, "and six of them are here tonight to tell us their stories." Three married couples were neatly arranged in his studio, the wives seated and the men standing behind them, like game show contestants. As Hannity called on each of them, the guests recounted their "Obamacare" horror stories: canceled policies, premium hikes, restrictions on the freedom to see a doctor of their choice, financial burdens upon their small businesses and so on. "These are the stories that the media refuses to cover," Hannity interjected.
At Fox News, that means a few specific things, including an effort to convince viewers that the shutdown's effects on the U.S. economy weren't that bad, followed by an effort to -- I kid you not -- focus on another round of Benghazi conspiracy theories.
But it also means reinvesting in the crusade against the Affordable Care Act. Eric Stern has a fascinating item in Salon this morning on one Fox segment in particular.
To his credit, Stern listened carefully to the couples' stories, but noticed that they didn't sound plausible. So he tracked each of the guests down to ask some follow-up questions.
First was a North Carolina couple that said the health care law is hurting their construction business, forcing them to keep their employees at part-time status. As it turns out, what they said on the air was simply made up.
Then there was a woman who was paying over $13,000 a year in premiums, who was recently told by her insurer that her plan was being terminated. This was proof, she told Hannity, that when Obama said consumers could keep their plans if they wanted, it wasn't true. What she neglected to mention on the air is that, thanks to the law she opposes, she can sign up for coverage through an exchange and save several thousand dollars a year for better insurance.
Finally, there was a Tennessee couple who said they're facing a rate increase of 50% to 75%. Asked if they'd shopped around in the new marketplace, the couple said they refuse, which is a shame -- when Stern checked for them, he found a plan for them that would cut their health care costs by 63%.
So what are we left with? Three Fox News horror stories that really aren't that horrible after all.
Whether Hannity knew his guests were pushing bogus, politically motivated stories is unclear -- fair minded folks can draw their own conclusions -- but a related concern has lingered for quite a while. If the dreaded "Obamacare" were really so awful, and is poised to hurt so many families, shouldn't Fox and other opponents find it easier to find real anecdotal evidence?
In other words, Hannity would have us believe Obamacare victims are everywhere. If so, why can't he find real ones to appear on his show? Why mislead the public so brazenly?