The GOP voted to strip health care from millions and the media covered it like a sporting event

It’s a life-and-death matter — and not just for congressional careers.

President Donald Trump, flanked by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) , and House Speaker Paul Ryan are seen in the Rose Garden of the White House on May 4 after the House pushed through a health care bill. CREDIT: AP Photo/Evan Vucci
President Donald Trump, flanked by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) , and House Speaker Paul Ryan are seen in the Rose Garden of the White House on May 4 after the House pushed through a health care bill. CREDIT: AP Photo/Evan Vucci

On Thursday afternoon, House Republicans passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA)— a bill that stands to cost 24 million-plus Americans their health insurance over the next decade, while making coverage more expensive for people who need it the most.

But you wouldn’t know this from visiting the websites of CNN or the Washington Post in the immediate aftermath. CNN covered Trumpcare’s passage out of the House like a closely contested basketball game, with a banner on the site reading, “At last, a victory for Trump.”

New CNN editor-at-large Chris Cillizza also opted for a sports-like approach, tweeting about the vote as though it were a buzzer-beating three-point shot instead of something that will result in preventable deaths if it’s signed into law.

Things weren’t more substantive on-air, with CNN’s pundits discussing “what a big, short-term, immediate win this is for the president.”

Meanwhile, Cillizza’s former employer, the Washington Post, featured a homepage with scant coverage of how the AHCA will actually impact people. Instead, the top story was headlined, “Vote moves to fulfill a major Trump campaign promise.” But the AHCA actually breaks a number of Trump’s promises, including his vow not to cut Medicaid and to protect coverage for those with pre-existing conditions.

Further down the Post’s homepage was an article about how the AHCA treats pre-existing conditions, with this subtitle: “The GOP says people with pre-existing conditions are protected, but the reality is nuanced and complicated.” But the key point actually isn’t complicated — the AHCA will dramatically increase costs for people with pre-existing conditions.

The New York Times also focused on optics. All three homepage stories about the AHCA vote were devoted to political process rather than impact.

The day before the vote, the Times published an egregious example of false-equivalency journalism that was shared in a tweet featuring the text, “Fact Check: On pre-existing conditions, both sides are stretching the truth.” The article compares a minor misstatement by a Democratic lawmaker with bold-faced Republican lies about the AHCA, and implies they’re similarly bad.

Optics-focused coverage of the AHCA is of a piece with the mainstream media’s coverage of the run-up to it — coverage that often focused on the parochial concerns of individual members instead of the broader picture, which is that the only big AHCA winners are households with incomes of more than $200,000 that stand to benefit from a tax cut.

That reality was acknowledged, albeit unintentionally, during Fox & Friends’ Thursday morning discussion of the impending AHCA vote. Host Brian Kilmeade called coverage for pre-existing conditions a “luxury,” and co-host Steve Doocy immediately transitioned to praising the deregulation and tax cuts involved in the bill.