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With media flub, Obama gets 'Dewey defeats Truman' moment with health care

Initially, CNN and Fox thought the Supreme Court had struck down the individual mandate. The mix-up paved the way for a clever computer manipulation that created an instant meme.

By Staff writer / June 28, 2012

This image, created by journalist Gary He, pokes fun at CNN's misreporting of the Supreme Court's ruling on Obama's health care act.

Image courtesy of Gary He



It’s an instant meme – the “Dewey defeats Truman” of 2012.

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Staff writer

Linda Feldmann is a staff writer for the Monitor based in Washington.

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When CNN and Fox News initially misreported that the US Supreme Court had struck down the so-called individual mandate in President Obama’s Affordable Care Act – the central pillar of the law – a guy named Gary He went to work.

Mr. He, product director at Insider Images, per The New York Times, superimposed Mr. Obama’s face on the famous shot of President Truman holding up the Chicago Tribune from Nov. 3, 1948, and He posted the image on his Twitter feed. The Tribune had initially, and wrongly, reported that New York Gov. Thomas Dewey (R) had defeated Mr. Truman, based on a bad hunch by the paper’s political analyst.

The foul-up by CNN and Fox happened for a different reason. According to the Times, both news outlets had come to the point in Chief Justice John Roberts’s majority opinion declaring that the mandate was unconstitutional under the Commerce Clause, and then ran with it. In fact, the court had also ruled that the penalty for failing to buy insurance was a tax, and therefore the mandate survived.

Thus, Obama is the new Truman. And in the 2012 version, he is holding up a tablet showing the CNN home page declaring, “Mandate struck down.”


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