"Good Morning America" host Diane Sawyer and ABC's George Stephanopoulos, a former top aide to Bill Clinton, discussed media bias on Wednesday's show. The topic, however, wasn't liberal spin. Instead, Sawyer wondered if "the media is, in general, easier on Barack Obama than they are on [Hillary Clinton]?"
After playing a clip of a February 23 "Saturday Night Live" sketch that mocked reporters for gushing over Senator Obama, Stephanopoulos came to the aid of the wife of his former boss, "I do think, though, Senator Clinton has a point. She's being treated like the front-runner, even though she's... the underdog in this race right now." Of course, while Sawyer and Stephanopoulos worried about unfairness to the former first lady, it should be pointed out, this is the same program that in early 2007 described the Clinton/Obama race as one between "hot factor" and "fluid poetry."
The "This Week" host ignored a key point in his analysis. Hillary Clinton has lost 11 straight primaries. What would have been the media's reaction if Obama had done the same thing? Would they still be seriously discussing his candidacy or would the race be dismissed as over? One could argue that journalists have kept Clinton in the race.
On another subject, Stephanopoulos went on to deride Republican presidential candidate John McCain for having a speaker introduce him who mentioned that Barack Obama's middle name is Hussein. Even though the Arizona senator apologized for radio talk show host Bill Cunningham's comments, which occurred at a rally in Cincinnati, Ohio on Tuesday, Stephanopoulos chided, "The McCain campaign, I think, did make a mistake, did fall down on the job by not vetting that introductory speaker before hand."
In a contrast, although "Good Morning America" found time to lecture McCain about his supporters, the program never mentioned the controversy, covered in NewsBusters, of a paid Obama staffer whose Texas office featured a Cuban flag superimposed with the image of murderous communist leader Che Guevara. Stephanopoulos, apparently, had nothing to say on the vetting of that particular employee.
A transcript of the February 27 segment, which aired at 7:05am, follows:
DIANE SAWYER: Let's see what George Stephanopoulos has to say. It's time for the bottom line. He's, of course, as you know, host of "This Week." And, George, good morning to you.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Hey, Diane.
SAWYER: I just want to first point out what a difference 20 debates and ten months can make. 'Cause I want to look at the very first debate and the numbers going in. At that time, ten months ago, Senator Clinton led Senator Obama, 49 to 17. As of last night, it had flipped and as of last night [sic], Senator Obama led Senator Clinton, 54 to 38. Did anything happen last night that started her closing that again?
STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't think so, Diane. When you're behind by as much as Senator Clinton is right now, when you're up against an opponent who has all the momentum, you have to strike a knockout blow. And she didn't. I think she was, as Jake pointed out, forceful last night. She pressed Barack Obama on several points. But he parried them very well. He's become a much better debater over the course of these 20 debates. And I think the impression by the end of the debate is, actually, on many issues, these candidates agree. They both agree that we should be pulling out of Iraq. They both would renegotiate the North American Free Trade agreement. Even on health care, they both say they're committed to universal care and the differences often just seem like just details.
SAWYER: Let's talk a little bit about something she raised last night. And, in fact, it was a joke skit on "Saturday Night Live," the whole question of fairness by the media and whether the media is, in general, easier on Barack Obama than they are on her? I'm going to play a little of "Saturday Night Live" and then what she said last night again.
SENATOR HILLARY CLINTON: Well, can I just point out, that in the last several debates, I seem to get the first question all the time. And I don't mind. You know, I'll be happy to field them. But I do find it curious, and if anybody saw "Saturday Night Live," you know, maybe we should ask Barack if he's comfortable and needs another pillow.
["Saturday Night Live" clip]
SNL ACTOR: Senator Obama. Are you comfortable? Is there anything we can get to you?
SNL "BARACK OBAMA:" No, thank you. I'm fine.
SAWYER: So what about this, George? In all seriousness.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It wasn't quite "Saturday Night Live" last night. I do think, though, Senator Clinton has a point. She's being treated like the front-runner, even though she's still is, as Jake pointed out, she's the underdog in this race right now. Now, that doesn't mean it makes sense to complain about it. You never get helped in a debate by complaining about the referee, but I do think she has a point.
SAWYER: All right, I want to turn now, if I can, before we leave you, to the Republicans and Senator John McCain and his carefully, cleverly-crafted detente with the conservatives, seemed to have been hit by a land mine yesterday. As we know, Bill Cunningham, who is a conservative talk show host, introduced him and didn't say things that McCain agreed with. McCain ended up apologizing. There was an eruption. Let's just hear Cunningham and McCain.
BILL CUNNINGHAM (Host, "The Big Show with Bill Cunningham"): Well, my fellow Americans, now we have a hack-Chicago-style Daley politician who is picturing himself as change. When he gets done with you, all you'll have in your pocket is change. It's going to be Barack Hussein Obama's wonderful life, a year from today. It's about February the 26, 2009. Barack Obama is in the White House.
SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: I will take responsibility and any offense that was inflicted, I apologize for --
STEPHANOPOULOS: This is only the beginning, Diane. We're going to see, I think, a lot more of this. The McCain campaign, I think, did make a mistake, did fall down on the job by not vetting that introductory speaker before hand. That kind of stuff though is going to go on behind the scenes all year long. We've already seen these e-mails all year long talking about Barack Hussein Obama. And I would expect actually that you're going to see a lot of people picking up on the moment in the debate last night. Barack Obama finally denounced and rejected that support from Louis Farrakhan. But I think you'll see more dialogue in the coming days in the general election about Louis Farrakhan, about Barack Obama's minister and he'll have to beat that back.
SAWYER: Okay, thanks to you, George. And, of course we'll also be watching to see if there was an irreparable breach with what happened when McCain apologized for the words of the conservative talk show host.