ABC Loses It Post-Obama ‘Sermon on Democracy’; ‘Song of Hope’ Showing ‘What’s Possible’

My friends, it’s happened. Following President Obama’s farewell address on Tuesday night, ABC poured out warm fuzzies for the President as the assembled liberal journalists bowed down to his “sermon on democracy” doubling as a “song of hope” of “what can look like that we are now a diverse nation.”

While chief anchor and former Clinton administration official George Stephanopoulos led the charge from the start, it was the final set of comments by Nightline host Byron Pitts that was the gushiest comments of the night. 

Pitts seemed to be choking up when he compared Obama to trailblazing British runner Sir Roger Bannister:

President Obama changed the psyche of America. George, consider this. Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile in 1954. Never happened prior to that. Within a year, 24 runners had done this. In the eight years, President Obama has shown America what’s possible, what can look like that we are now a diverse nation, from top to bottom.

Going back to Stephanopoulos, he set the tone from the first words out of his mouth after the President stepped away from the podium. 

“Closing on that song of hope that brought him to the White House. President Obama giving his last formal address as president, putting his stamp on an American tradition,” Stephanopoulos began. 

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The Good Morning America co-host continued with this gooey endorsement: “His farewell address unlike any other we’ve ever seen before. A hybrid really. Part campaign speech, part State of the Union, sermon on democracy. A song of gratitude and hope.”

Tossing to chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl, Stephanopoulos added that “this speech [was] so distinctly Obama, and in some ways, a bookend to that first speech he gave at the convention — Democratic Convention introduced him to so many in 2004 where we talked about the values that bind us together” but “[t]his one included a strong warning of the forces that drive us apart.”

While nowhere near as fawning as Stephanopoulos, Karl admitted that “you heard Obama the optimist, Obama of hope and change” and it's Obama’s wish “that this one sentence historians will say about him or he hopes is he believed deeply in American democracy.”

Just over two months after she cried on Election Night, chief global affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz swooned:

This, George, to me, did not seem like a farewell address. You called it a hybrid. It was more of a rallying cry. He was preaching to the choir in that room, but those admonishments to those who are not in the room were quite clear. It was a different speech than George W. Bush in 2009, his farewell address from the East Room. President Obama had a lot to say, and feeling there was a lot more to accomplish. 

Stephanopoulos concurred, opining that it was a “[v]ery different speech...from when Ronald Reagan gave when he was leaving the stage where he said he was leaving the White House in very good hands.”

With the rest of ABC’s characters in New York (and perhaps Washington), correspondent Tom Llamas was the network’s lone representative in Chicago. Stephanopoulos went to him later in the network’s post-speech coverage and Llamas remarked that “this room was electric” with “[p]eople are on their feet” and “crying.” 

“The crowd here hanging on his every single word and I got to tell you, George. The lines that got if most applause were the lines that were directly to President-elect Trump’s policies...Clearly, the energy was felt in this room and, George, I spoke to a couple of supporters that said this type of energy was lacking with the Democratic Party in this last campaign,” Llamas concluded.

Meanwhile, NBC’s coverage was more tame but it nonetheless featured Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd stating the following: 

I think it’s a remarkable moment in our history and it underscores the tumultuous times we live in, the President of the United States, the outgoing president, felt the need to use his farewell address to not just make the case are for democracy for the world to hear, but to remake the case for democracy for Americans to hear. I think that was, in part, obviously a response to what we are seeing right now in our politics but also an attempt to serve as a beacon, really, for the Democratic Party going forward and his supporters going forward, which is why he ended on an upbeat note. But let's not forget the meat of this speech. This was, in many cases, a president lamenting the state of our democracy right now in his farewell address. 

Fresh off his interview with the President, NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt later revealed that, during this setting, “he [Obama] talks about that moment, but he had to wake up the next day and, of course, go in and talk to his staff and he has tried to take the high road in this, but he's clearly hurting.”

In contrast, CBS offered no post-speech analysis with CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley reminding viewers to tune in at 11:00 a.m. Eastern on Wednesday for a Trump press conference.

Here are the relevant portions of the transcript from ABC’s coverage of President Obama’s Farewell Address:

ABC Presidential Speech
January 10, 2017
9:54 p.m. Eastern

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Closing on that song of hope that brought him to the White House. President Obama giving his last formal address as president, putting his stamp on an American tradition. His farewell address unlike any other we’ve ever seen before. A hybrid really. Part campaign speech, part State of the Union, sermon on democracy. A song of gratitude and hope. The President alone on that stage now, he’ll soon be joined by — there’s Malia right there and the First Lady. Most emotional moment of the speech, when he thanked the First Lady for the example she has set, saying he’s proud of her, and the country should be proud of her. Joe Biden. His friend and Vice President Joe Biden. What a pair they have been. Opposites really, but a team in many ways as well. And  Bruce Springsteen in the background and Jon Karl, this speech so distinctly Obama, and in some ways, a bookend to that first speech he gave at the convention — Democratic Convention introduced him to so many in 2004 where we talked about the values that bind us together. This one included a strong warning of the forces that drive us apart. 

JONATHAN KARL: Yeah, in the end, you heard Obama the optimist, Obama of hope and change. The Obama of 2004 and 2008, but through much of the speech, you heard Obama the realist. He told you last week, George, that this one sentence historians will say about him or he hopes is he believed deeply in American democracy. In this speech, you saw he also believes right now in American democracy is under assault and it was part warning. Warning of racial division, economic inequality, of political polarization. 

STEPHANOPOULOS: You talk about that realistic vision, Byron Pitts, he also said that vision of a post-racial America that many had when he got elected was not realistic and you see — you saw an edge there when he talked about race. You saying he believes that race relations are better in American right now than they have been in the last 10, 20, 30 years. As you know, many Americans — the majority of African-Americans right now — don't believe that. 

(....)

MARTHA RADDATZ: This, George, to me, did not seem like a farewell address. You called it a hybrid. It was more of a rallying cry. He was preaching to the choir in that room, but those admonishments to those who are not in the room were quite clear. It was a different speech than George W. Bush in 2009, his farewell address from the East Room. President Obama had a lot to say, and feeling there was a lot more to accomplish. 

STEPHANOPOULOS: Very different speech also, Jon Karl, from when Ronald Reagan gave when he was leaving the stage where he said he was leaving the White House in very good hands. The President said he was leaving the nation in good hands, in the hands of his young supporters. 

(....)

TOM LLAMAS: Oh, this room was electric. It still is electric. People are on their feet. Some people are crying. Many of them are cheering, and I have to agree with Martha Raddatz. This really felt like a rally of sorts. The crowd here hanging on his every single word and I got to tell you, George. The lines that got if most applause were the lines that were directly to President-elect Trump’s policies. Lines like that’s why I reject discrimination against Muslim-Americans, if we decline to invest in the children of immigrants, it will not work because those brown kids will represent a larger share of America's work force. Those types of lines got standing ovations here. Clearly, the energy was felt in this room and, George, I spoke to a couple of supporters that said this type of energy was lacking with the Democratic Party in this last campaign.

(....)

BYRON PITTS: President Obama changed the psyche of America. George, consider this. Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile in 1954. Never happened prior to that. Within a year, 24 runners had done this. In the eight years, President Obama has shown America what’s possible, what can look like that we are now a diverse nation, from top to bottom.

Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck is the Managing Editor of NewsBusters for the Media Research Center