Paper apologizes for slanted ObamaCare testimonials

The executive editor of the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram wrote an apology to readers on Wednesday for not divulging the conservative connections of sources quoted in a November story about people who had bad experiences signing up for ObamaCare.

Over the weekend, healthcare blogger Maggie Maher uncovered either Tea Party connections or strong conservative biases of three people in the story who said their lives have been negatively impacted by the Affordable Care Act.

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In addition to questioning the sources’ political motivations, Maher said their claims about paying higher premiums and deductibles didn’t match with what HealthCare.gov was offering.

Jim Witt, the Star-Telegram’s executive editor, said he stood behind the details in the story, but that the paper “neglected to investigate the background of the people we quoted.”

“Although I believe she overemphasized some aspects to make it appear that we were part of a conspiracy to paint the Affordable Care Act in a negative light, her main point hit the mark — we did not do our job completely and therefore let our readers down,” Witt wrote.

The Star-Telegram story went viral.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) pointed to it as an example of how ObamaCare is harming the middle class, and Fox News personality Sean Hannity had one of the sources, 26-year old Whitney Johnson, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, on his prime-time cable news show.

Johnson has been published on Tea Party websites, and her mother formed the Parker County, Texas, chapter of the Tea Party. She has since found affordable coverage through the exchange.

“Overall I believe the Star-Telegram has done a good job of educating readers about the good and the bad of ObamaCare — but not in this instance,” Witt continued. “I apologize for that and promise we’ll do better going forward.”

The dearth of hard data in the early stages of the law has provoked Republicans and Democrats to seek out anecdotal stories from individual consumers.

While Republicans have been soliciting stories about those who had their plans cancelled, the Obama administration has sought to highlight the experiences of those who obtained coverage for the first time under the law.