Fresh questions about whether the White House deceived Americans with claims they could bypass the broken HealthCare.gov website by using the phone or mailing in an application provoked an exasperated response Monday from White House press secretary Jay Carney.
"I give up," Carney told ABC News reporter Jonathan Karl, accusing the White House reporter of speaking "in tones of dramatic revelation" to inflate a story.
Meeting notes from the administration "war room" handling the rollout of ObamaCare showed that consumers who called the ObamaCare hotline or applied for insurance would still have their information eventually entered on the glitchy HealthCare.gov website, which has been plagued by technical problems since its launch on Oct. 1.
"The paper applications allow people to feel like they are moving forward in the process and provides another option; at the end of the day, we are all stuck in the same queue," one official wrote.
That prompted reporters to ask whether President Obama had been deceptive when he said during his address in the Rose Garden that consumers could bypass the website by phoning a call center or sending in a paper application.
Carney said that the White House "never pretended" that the call centers wouldn't eventually route consumer information through the website. The point, he argued, was to shift the burden of waiting for the technical glitches to be ironed out from applicants to the government.
"In terms of the user experience, the whole point was to alleviate the frustration that so many Americans were having online and to take that frustration away from them and allow a live person at a call-in center to handle their questions and their sign-ups and their enrollment for them," Carney said. "So I know it's spoken in tones of dramatic revelation, but it was a known fact at the time."
After Karl continued to press on with questions on the issue, Carney himself adopted the ABC reporter's cadence to mock the line of questioning.
"Jon. I get it. But the person who calls isn't the one who continues to wait after the application is filled, right?" Carney said, exaggerating the pauses between each word.
Later, Carney said that other reporters in the press room were "looking quizzically" at Karl because of his repeated questions.
"There's a reason to be quizzical here," Carney said. "You call up, you give your information, you get the questions answered that you need answered, and then they take over from there."
In a subsequent exchange with NBC's Peter Alexander, Carney said that "clarity in reporting matters."
"We're, you know, busting rocks every day to fix the website so that it's up and running at a standard that's acceptable for the vast majority of Americans by the end of the month," he said.