NBC, ABC Adopt Dem Talking Points, Hype Georgia Special Election as ‘Referendum’ on Trump

On Monday, both NBC’s Today and ABC’s Good Morning America used Democratic Party talking points to hype Tuesday’s upcoming congressional special election in Georgia as a “referendum” on Donald Trump’s presidency. In coverage that amounted to a DNC get-out-the-vote effort, hosts and correspondents repeated the phrase multiple times and eagerly touted how “Democrats now see an opening” in the race.

Introducing a report on Today, fill-in co-host Willie Geist proclaimed: “The White House also keeping a close eye on a special election being held tomorrow in Georgia. It’s been the most expensive House race in United States history, and viewed by some as a referendum on the President himself.”

Correspondent Gabe Gutierrez highlighted how “Donald Trump barely squeaked out a victory against Hillary Clinton in November” in the suburban Atlanta district and declared: “Democrats now see an opening and the money’s been pouring in.”

Playing a clip of himself interviewing Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff in April, Gutierrez offered this softball: “Is this special election in Georgia a referendum on Donald Trump?” While Ossoff demurred, claiming the race “is about local issues and local solutions,” the reporter asserted that “many Democrats see Jon Ossoff’s campaign as much more.”

Gutierrez also played a months-old clip of an exchange with Republican contender Karen Handel, noting that she was “blasting Ossoff for his out-of-state donors.” At the time, Handel remarked: “We don’t need the people of the California trying to dictate who our next congressman’s going to be.”

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On Good Morning America, fill-in co-host and World News Tonight anchor David Muir framed the election as a “high stakes” contest “being so closely watched by both sides of the aisle.” Correspondent Mary Bruce announced: “This is a solidly Republican district that Trump barely won by just one point, and now Democrats are hoping if they can win it will serve as a referendum on the President.” She added that the left was “betting on 30-year-old newcomer Jon Ossoff, and they’re betting pretty big. He has pulled in more than $23 million, the most expensive House race ever.”

Bruce noted that Handel was “vying for those Republican voters who may be uneasy with the President” and lamented that “if she wins, this will be a demoralizing blow to Democrats, who David, are gonna have to rethink their entire strategy heading into the midterms.”

Later in the segment, Muir again emphasized: “Mary, the Democrat here, Jon Ossoff hasn’t really mentioned President Trump in his campaigning. How concerned is the White House about how close this race is though with the Republican?” Bruce responded: “Yeah, David, there’s no question they are going to be paying very close attention to this. This race will be an indication of how the President and his agenda is resonating with voters, especially moderate Republicans.”  

Since the networks were clearly hoping for a Democratic victory, neither broadcast bothered to mention the controversy swirling around Ossoff – that he doesn’t actually live in the district he’s running to represent. On Friday, even MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle thought it was an issue as she grilled the liberal candidate and demanded that he move into the district.

While ignoring that ongoing problem for the Democrat, both morning shows did find the time to cover an ill-conceived political action committee ad using last week’s congressional shooting to attack Ossoff – an ad which both candidates have condemned. Gutierrez warned:

The fight for Price’s seat is getting ugly. A political action committee just released this stunning new ad trying to capitalize on last week’s shooting at a Republican baseball practice....Both candidates have strongly denounced the ad. Ossoff’s campaign calling it “shameful.” Handel’s office saying it’s “disturbing an disgusting.”

On GMA, Muir told viewers: “...this has been a really tough fight, but now both campaigns are speaking out against an ad that’s particularly offensive....Trying to connect or link the Democrat, Jon Ossoff, to the shootings last week in Washington...” Bruce chimed in: “...both candidates this morning are blasting this ad.”

It’s important to remember that these are the same networks that attempted to falsely blame the 2011 shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords on Sarah Palin.

The truth is, Democrats desperately need the off-year special election to be a national referendum on Trump if they hope to turn out their left-wing base in the Republican-leaning district. With only one day to go until voters head to the polls, the media were happy to oblige.   

This biased campaign coverage was brought to viewers by Ford, Sherman Williams, and Target.

Here are full transcripts of the June 19 reports on NBC and ABC:

Today
7:13 AM ET

WILLIE GEIST: The White House also keeping a close eye on a special election being held tomorrow in Georgia. It’s been the most expensive House race in United States history, and viewed by some as a referendum on the President himself. NBC’s Gabe Gutierrez is in Roswell, just north of Atlanta. Gabe, good morning.

GABE GUTIERREZ: Willie, good morning. The GOP has dominated this affluent suburban district outside Atlanta for decades. It was Newt Gingrich’s old seat. But Donald Trump barely squeaked out a victory against Hillary Clinton in November. Democrats now see an opening and the money’s been pouring in.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: ‘High Stakes’ Special Election; Most Expensive House Race Ever Seen as Trump Referendum]

This morning, the final stretch of what’s becoming the most expensive House race ever. $40 million and counting.

GUTIERREZ [TO DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE JON OSSOFF]: Is this special election in Georgia a referendum on Donald Trump?

JON OSSOFF: This election, like all elections, is about local issues and local solutions, before it’s about national politics.

GUTIERREZ: But many Democrats see Jon Ossoff’s campaign as much more. He’s 30 years old, a documentary filmmaker, and a former congressional aide.

OSSOFF: My argument is it’s time for some fresh leadership and not another career politician.

GUTIERREZ: Who’s now polling neck and neck with Republican Karen Handel for Georgia’s Sixth District.

KAREN HANDEL: Disturbingly, my opponent thinks that the answer to fighting terrorism is sending a film crew to the frontline.

GUTIERREZ: The businesswoman and long-time Georgian politician is blasting Ossoff for his out-of-state donors.

HANDEL: We don’t need the people of the California trying to dictate who our next congressman’s going to be.

GUTIERREZ: President Trump created the vacancy by picking Congressman Tom Price for his cabinet.

DONALD TRUMP: I’d also like to congratulate Karen Handel on her incredible fight in Georgia Six.

GUTIERREZ: The fight for Price’s seat is getting ugly. A political action committee just released this stunning new ad trying to capitalize on last week’s shooting at a Republican baseball practice.

NARRATOR [PRINCIPLED LEADERSHIP PROJECT PAC AD]: Now the unhinged left is endorsing and applauding shooting Republicans. When will it stop? It won’t if Jon Ossoff wins on Tuesday.

GUTIERREZ: Both candidates have strongly denounced the ad. Ossoff’s campaign calling it “shameful.” Handel’s office saying it’s “disturbing an disgusting.”

The election is tomorrow, but there’s already been a massive surge in early voting, unprecedented say local officials, for an off-year congressional race. Willie and Savannah, it’s one the entire political world will be watching.

GEIST: And as you said, an unprecedented amount of cash being thrown around there in Georgia as well. Gabe, thanks so much.

 

Good Morning America
7:14 AM ET

DAVID MUIR: We’re gonna turn more now to that high stakes special election in Georgia. It’s the most expensive House race ever, being so closely watched by both sides of the aisle. Our Congressional Correspondent Mary Bruce tracking the race from Capitol Hill. Good morning, Mary.

MARY BRUCE: Good morning, David. Well, this is a defining test for both parties, and this morning, it is still too close to call. This is a solidly Republican district that Trump barely won by just one point, and now Democrats are hoping if they can win it will serve as a referendum on the President. They’re betting on 30-year-old newcomer Jon Ossoff, and they’re betting pretty big. He has pulled in more than $23 million, the most expensive House race ever.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: High Stakes in Georgia Special Election; GOP Seat Up for Grabs in Most Expensive House Race Ever]

But this is still going to be a nail biter. He’s up against Karen Handel, who’s also vying for those Republican voters who may be uneasy with the President. And if she wins, this will be a demoralizing blow to Democrats, who David, are gonna have to rethink their entire strategy heading into the midterms.

MUIR: As you point out, Mary, this has been a really tough fight, but now both campaigns are speaking out against an ad that’s particularly offensive. We want to just show people at home what the ad was all about.

NARRATOR [AD]: Now the unhinged left is endorsing and applauding shooting Republicans. When will it stop? It won’t if Jon Ossoff wins on Tuesday.

MUIR: Trying to connect or link the Democrat, Jon Ossoff, to the shootings last week in Washington, Mary.

BRUCE: Yeah, and, David, both candidates this morning are blasting this ad. Jon Ossoff is saying it is disgraceful and he’s calling on his opponent to denounce the ad and to ask that it be pulled down. Now Karen Handel has stopped short of that, but she is also condemning the ad, calling it “shameful and disgusting.”

MUIR: Really interesting, Mary, the Democrat here, Jon Ossoff hasn’t really mentioned President Trump in his campaigning. How concerned is the White House about how close this race is though with the Republican?

BRUCE: Yeah, David, there’s no question they are going to be paying very close attention to this. This race will be an indication of how the President and his agenda is resonating with voters, especially moderate Republicans. We’ll be keeping a close eye as voters head to the polls tomorrow.

MUIR: Alright, Mary Bruce, at her post on Capitol Hill this morning. Thanks, Mary.

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