Instead of being embarrassed by how their story generated a talking point for the President to use in a partisan political battle, ABC on Thursday night boasted of how President Obama cited Jake Tapper’s coverage to boost his argument. Anchor Diane Sawyer touted how “the President, last night, well, he noticed what Jake was saying.” Tapper recalled: “Last night on World News, we told you the story of Louisville, Kentucky's. J.T. Henderson, his wife and their adopted son, worried about not receiving the family's desperately needed tax refund because of the possible shutdown....And at least one negotiator was watching.”
That was Obama, who during comments in the White House briefing room on Wednesday night, cited the man Tapper featured a few hours earlier, the father of an adopted four-year-old from Ethiopia. Obama announced: “J.T. said if he could speak directly to all of us in Washington, he'd tell us that all of this political grandstanding has effects as it trickles down to normal, everyday Americans. There is no reason why we should not be able to complete a deal, unless we've made a decision that politics is more important than folks like J.T. Henderson.”
Tapper added: “Today, Henderson told us he appreciated the President hearing his concerns.”
In his Wednesday night story, Tapper laid out dire consequences to a shutdown, invoking not only how “landmarks will close” – citing the Washington Monument, the Liberty Bell and the National Zoo – but also “medical research and hope for desperate patients,” including “children with cancer.”
After illustrating the implication of closed landmarks with video of upset 6th graders from rural Massachusetts, one of whom proclaimed “the government is mean,” Tapper wasn’t done with his parade of victims supposedly to be hurt by a shutdown as he found a 4-year-old refugee from Ethiopia to exploit. Really. Warning that “for those who sent in their taxes by mail, tax refunds may not arrive,” Tapper relayed: “In Louisville Kentucky, J.T. Henderson and his wife had to file their taxes by mail so they could receive the adoption refund after 4-year-old Teddy, from Ethiopia, joined their family last summer.”
(On Thursday’s Good Morning America, the MRC’s Scott Whitlock noticed, ABC’s Jon Karl proudly recounted: “President Obama saw Henderson's story on World News With Diane Sawyer and singled him out last night.” An ABC graphic trumpeted: “Obama Singles Out Father: Kentucky man Counting on Refund.”)
From the Thursday, April 7 ABC’s World News, transcript provided by the MRC’s Brad Wilmouth:
DIANE SAWYER: Well, Jon, as you well know, every minute of the standoff brings millions of Americans closer to facing the real consequences of a shutdown. And Jake Tapper is on that story again tonight at the White House. And the President, last night, well, he noticed what Jake was saying. Jake?
JAKE TAPPER: Good evening, Diane. That's right. Whether or not the government shuts down tomorrow at midnight remains up in the air. Congressional leaders are meeting with President Obama this evening at the White House to try to hammer out a last-minute deal. And the clock is ticking. Last night on World News, we told you the story of Louisville, Kentucky's. J.T. Henderson, his wife and their adopted son, worried about not receiving the family's desperately needed tax refund because of the possible shutdown.
J.T. HENDERSON, RESIDENT OF LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY: If I could speak to the President or the congressional leadership, I would just tell them-
TAPPER: And at least one negotiator was watching.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: J.T. said if he could speak directly to all of us in Washington, he'd tell us that all of this political grandstanding has effects as it trickles down to normal, everyday Americans. There is no reason why we should not be able to complete a deal, unless we've made a decision that politics is more important than folks like J.T. Henderson.
TAPPER: Today, Henderson told us he appreciated the President hearing his concerns.
HENDERSON: It came as a shock. That's for sure. But it was a good thing.
TAPPER: But he would blame both sides for any shutdown.
HENDERSON: I don't hold one party responsible over the other. I think it's a case of business as usual in Washington.
TAPPER: Also worried, members of the military. Freshly back at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, from his third tour in Afghanistan, Staff Sergeant Christopher Hartoon today enjoyed a meal with his family. The government shutdown will not mean that soldiers like Hartoon stop fighting. It would mean that he and his wife, a federal employee, would not be paid.
SERGEANT CHRISTOPHER HARTOON, U.S. MILITARY: If they stop both our paychecks, that would definitely have a devastating effect on us. Just with the, you know, with children and daily lives, expenses don't go away.
TAPPER: No such problem for President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner or congressional leaders. They'll be paid no matter what, even if they cannot hammer out a deal. A cruel irony not lost on military families with loved ones in harm's way oversas.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: It doesn't effect them, it effects us, you know?
TAPPER: And, Diane, of course, both sides say a deal is within reach, but they have not yet been able to agree upon a final figure for cuts, where the cuts would come from, and, of course, those controversial provisions about abortion, National Public Radio and whether or not they should strip powers from the EPA.
— Brent Baker is Vice President for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.