White House: Zach Galifianakis interview No. 1 health care.gov draw, doesn’t damage presidency


McClatchy Washington Bureau

President Barack Obama’s interview on the internet comedy channel, Funny or Die, drew more people to healthcare.gov today than any other source, the White House says -- as it tries new modes of reaching out to young viewers.

The interview on comedian Zach Galifianakis‘s faux show, “Between Two Ferns,” was “designed to reach Americans where they live,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said, noting that the average Galifianakis interview pulls in close to 6 million views.

“I'm convinced we're going to break that average, and in fact, as I was walking out here, I think we were close to 3 million, and that's a good thing,” Carney said, adding that the video “was causing the action that we'd hoped it would cause, which is getting folks to go to healthcare.gov and look at the options available to them and hopefully enroll.”

He noted to a briefing room of television and newspaper reporters that the interview suggests that “gone are the days when your broadcasts or yours or yours can reach everybody that we need to reach.”

The White House is putting a special effort on enrolling younger, healthier individuals who are less expensive to insure and Carney said the interview was part of a “multifaceted effort to reach communities” who can benefit from health insurance and that the White House is “looking for creative ways to do that.”

He dismissed a question of whether the White House was worried that the snarky interview had affected the dignity of the office.

“This is an interview like no other probably ever done by a president,” a reporter offered.

“Safe to say,” Carney replied.

He said the White House is “constantly looking” at different ways to reach Americans who don't necessarily get information about healthcare.gov from the evening news broadcasts or from newspapers. Some, he said, might watch the town hall Obama did last week with Spanish language networks or watch Funny or Die.

“We, obviously, assess opportunities that we have, and look at whether or not they're going to be successful and wise, and I think we made the right call here,” Carney said.

He said Obama knew in advance there’d be an opportunity to talk about healthcare.gov, but “there's a lot of ad libbing in there.”

As of 1 p.m. -- several hours after the video began circulating, the administration says were were more than 19,000 referral visits from funnyordie.com to HealthCare.gov, making it the top referral spot for the day.

Health and Human Services said the number represents “only a fraction of the people who came to healthcare.gov separately after seeing the video online or on television,” and says the agency saw “substantially increased traffic to the site overall. About 95% of these referrals were new visitors to HealthCare.gov.”

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