One of the establishment press’s favorite tactics to diminish the perceived strength of a position taken by people or companies they are inclined not to favor is to take objectively true facts and statements and reduce them to things only those people or companies “say” or “believe.”
Hobby Lobby’s court battle against the ObamaCare mandates is a perfect case in point, with both the Politico and Associated Press providing recent related examples of this fundamentally dishonest tactic. In the December 26 item at the Politico, Jennifer Haberkorn and Kathryn Smith also falsely framed the situation as an argument over “contraception” (more on that in a bit; bolds are mine throughout this post). But first, let’s look at how the pair employed the “they say” tactic:
Supreme Court denies emergency injunction in contraception case
The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday denied Hobby Lobby’s request for an emergency injunction to block the health reform law’s contraceptive coverage requirements and said it will not decide the case before lower courts have ruled.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the store owner doesn’t meet the extremely high standards required for a preliminary injunction. It’s not “absolutely” clear that they need the injunction and lower courts have been divided on whether to grant similar requests, she wrote, though she adds that the court doesn’t have much experience with similar religious-based claims for emergency injunctions.
… Sotomayor received the request because she handles issues originating in the 10th Circuit.
The court also denied Hobby Lobby’s request — joined by Christian-book company Mardel — that the court take up its entire case, in which they argue that the coverage requirement forces them to provide contraceptives and emergency contraceptives that violate their religious beliefs.
Hobby Lobby says it will face fines beginning Jan. 1 without the injunction.
No, Politico. Either Hobby will face fines or they won’t. If the fines aren’t ultimately assessed by Kathleen Sebelius’s HHS, that’s another matter. Either the ObamaCare law or the mountain of regulations issued since its passage contain provisions for fines in situations such as these or they don’t.
Well, they do, as CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor Eric Marripodi demonstrated on Friday (but then note how Marripodi lapsed into “they say” mode after getting it right):
Craft store giant Hobby Lobby is bracing for a $1.3 million a day fine beginning January 1 for noncompliance with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, dubbed Obamacare.
… The Internal Revenue Service regulations now say that a group health care plan that “fails to comply” with the Affordable Care Act is subject to an “excise tax” of “$100 per day per individual for each day the plan does not comply with the requirement.” It remains unclear how the IRS would implement and collect the excise tax.
The Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, based Hobby Lobby chain has more than 500 stores that employ 13,000 employees across 42 states, and takes in $2.6 billion in sales. The company’s attorneys say January begins a new health care plan year for Hobby Lobby and that excise tax from the IRS would amount to $1.3 million a day.
That the company faces fines of $1.3 million per day is a matter of legal fact, not something “Hobby Lobby says.” Haberkorn and Smith, either deliberately or out of laziness (though confirming the truth took me only a few minutes) make the potential fines appear to be a matter of opinion, when they are not.
Over at the Associated Press, the reporting in an unbylined December 27 item is accurate on the fines and gets the “contraception” element of the company’s argument correct, but still falls down on the science.
As to the fines, the AP dispatch correctly reports that the company is not complying “despite risking potential fines of up to $1.3 million per day.” They are “potential” fines because HHS and/or the IRS may decide not to assess them, or may assess lower amounts. (Look up one of the definition of “tyranny,” — “arbitrary or unrestrained exercise of power; despotic abuse of authority.” — and tell me why a government possessing such discretion wouldn’t be an example of it. Good luck.)
The AP item’s headline and content also get the “contraception” matter right on definition, but still misses on the underlying science. That’s an improvement over the Politico’s pair’s report, which leaves readers with the impression that Hobby Lobby opposes all forms of contraception. That is not the case, as AP explains:
ATTY: HOBBY LOBBY WON’T OFFER MORNING-AFTER PILL
An attorney for Hobby Lobby Stores said Thursday that the arts and crafts chain plans to defy a federal mandate requiring it to offer employees health coverage that includes access to the morning-after pill …
Hobby Lobby and religious book-seller Mardel Inc., which are owned by the same conservative Christian family, are suing to block part of the federal health care law that requires employee health-care plans to provide insurance coverage for the morning-after pill and similar emergency contraception pills.
The companies claim the mandate violates the religious beliefs of their owners. They say the morning-after pill is tantamount to abortion because it can prevent a fertilized egg from becoming implanted in a woman’s womb.
Thus, the controversy is over abortifacient (abortion-inducing) drugs and devices and not over all forms of contraception. But whether the morning after pill is “tantamount to abortion” is not something “they (company officials) say.” It’s a matter of scientific fact. Any drug or device which can “prevent a fertilized egg from becoming implanted in a woman’s womb” is by definition an abortifacient, no matter what the company does or doesn’t “say.”
One thing I can “say” for sure is that assigning objectively true assertions only to Hobby Lobby officials minimizes their significance. Whether the Politico and AP used the “they say” tactic to deliberately drive an agenda to obscure the truth or merely did so out of sheer laziness — or some of both — is something I can’t “say.”
Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.