Twitter is fast, and like most fast things can be dangerous. Toss a hefty and complex legal ruling into the mix and you’ve got a good recipe for disaster, or at least confusion.
The @AJC Twitter account was among the media outlets that got the healthcare ruling wrong initially. I am told the AJC’s vaunted Lord of the Tweet was listening to CNN coverage and got a little trigger happy and hit send on this bit of embarrassment: “Breaking: Supreme Court strikes down mandate that requires individuals to buy insurance.”
CNN reporter John King, a huge Newt Gingrich fan, initially described it as “a dramatic blow to the policy and to the president, politically.”
Fortunately for Atlanta-based CNN, mortal foe Fox got it wrong too, according to Politico. Bill Hemmer was the unhappy fellow: “We have breaking news here on the Fox News Channel, the individual mandate has been ruled unconstitutional.”
In Atlanta, at the state capitol, Republicans cheered the ruling, the AJC reported. “That quickly gave way to confusion and then indignation at the decision,” writes Shannon McCaffrey.
In Washington, there was much of the same. Politico, in another article, reports “at least eight members of Congress — seven Republicans and one Democrat — jumped the gun on Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling, tweeting incorrectly that the individual mandate had been struck down as unconstitutional.”
“Let Freedom Ring,” said Dennis Ross (R-Fla.) in a tweet.
His pain, as well as ours, is still ringing around the Twitterverse as people hit “retweet.”
Why did people get it wrong? Trying to be first led to the errors, of course. And Chief Justice Roberts didn’t help. When reading the ruling he first explained the law was not constitutional under the Commerce Clause, but, as Business Insider points out, continued to say the law was constitutional as a tax.
CNN issued the following statement:
“In his opinion, Chief 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.”
Meanwhile, the Associated Press is asking its employees to “stop taunting” CNN.