ABC Grills McCains on Abortion; Skipped Issue with Obamas

"Good Morning America" host Diane Sawyer on Wednesday grilled Cindy and John McCain about differences in the couple's position on abortion and the subject of overturning Roe V. Wade. And yet, when co-anchor Robin Roberts talked to Barack and Michelle Obama in May, she didn't raise the issue, instead wondering if the Illinois senator would be prepared for all the negativity he would surely face as Democratic nominee.

In fact, on at least seven appearances in 2008, no GMA host asked Barack or Michelle Obama about abortion and that includes skipping issues such as the senator's controversial opposition to a bill that would have offered protection to babies who survive botched abortions.

On Wednesday, Sawyer cited a CBS interview in which Mrs. McCain stated her opposition to overturning Roe V. Wade. The journalist then interrogated, "And yet, Senator McCain you have indicated in previous interviews that you would like the repeal of Roe versus Wade so that the states can make their decisions. What's the difference in the two of your view of the issue?" Sawyer followed up, But, Mrs. McCain, do you oppose the repeal of Roe versus Wade? Was that report correct?"

Sawyer could argue that she was simply trying to get a clarification from the potential first lady. But in a similar joint appearance by the Obamas, GMA reporters displayed no interest into delving into either the candidate or the spouse's position on abortion. During the May 19 interview, Roberts tossed softballs such as "What have you learned about yourself since that night in Iowa?" She also sympathized with Michelle Obama's attitude towards political attacks: "I like how you said people make things up and things that you go, like, huh?" (Barack Obama appeared by himself on Monday's show. The issue wasn't discussed then either.)

In February, GMA reporter Deborah Roberts also skipped the issue of abortion and celebrated Michelle Obama as "the spouse of politics' newest star." During the February 4 piece, she enthused that the couple "genuinely believe that people want to move beyond that [negative attacks], talk about something else."

Going all the way back to January of this year, when the presidential primaries were in full swing and voters could have been educated as to the nuances of differences between Obama and his opponent Hillary Clinton, GMA continued to ignore the issue of abortion while interviewing the Illinois senator.

On January 3, Sawyer focused instead on the issue of racism and wondered if, in Iowa, "people have shown they are willing to look beyond race in this country. Has that victory been won, whatever happens tonight?" Later in the month, on January 23, Sawyer continued didn't mention this important social issue and plead for calm between Obama and his primary opponent: "We have heard a lot of people say they are exhausted by this charge, counter charge."

Perhaps, since the militant abortion group NARAL (National Abortion Rights Action League) has given Barack Obama a 100 percent lifetime voting record for his time in the Senate, "Good Morning America" could ask him if his stance on the issue is in sync with the rest of the country.

A transcript of the September 17 segment, which aired at 7:42am, follows:

ROBIN ROBERTS: We are back in Gustavus, Ohio. It is our whistle-stop tour, day three. And good enough to join us, Republican presidential candidate John McCain and his wife Cindy McCain. And it was cute when Diane asked you how many days left until -- you were quick, 48 days.

CINDY MCCAIN: 48 days. Who is counting?

ROBERTS: Everyone seems to be counting. You're never far from your husband's side. Does he confide with you? Does he talk with you about the major issues and get your advice on some things?

CINDY MCCAIN: Certainly at the end of the day the issues are not what we're talking about. We usually are checking in with our children and things like that but certainly we talk, absolutely.

JOHN MCCAIN: I think we should have full disclosure. There is a critique.

CINDY MCCAIN: There is a critique. That's true. I was trying to be nice.

JOHN MCCAIN: Performance and those kinds of things.

DIANE SAWYER: How does she think you're doing?

JOHN MCCAIN: Sometimes I get mixed reviews and sometimes I deserve them.

SAWYER: If I could ask about one issue because we are here in the heartland and we keep hearing about a lot of social issues as we travel around here. And I wanted to clear up something, if I could. Because Mrs. McCain, CBS reported on Roe versus Wade that they had contacted your staff and that you had said that you do not, as Mrs. Bush has said, in fact, does not want the repeal of Roe versus Wade so that some states with outlaw abortion. And yet, Senator McCain you have indicated in previous interviews that you would like the repeal of Roe versus Wade so that the states can make their decisions. What's the difference in the two of your view of the issue?

JOHN MCCAIN: Well, let me just say this is all about courage and compassion. It's about changing the culture of America. I am pro-life and I support that position, and I know that Cindy does too and we need to ask young American women who are faced with this terrible decision that we will help them have the courage to bring a baby into this world and we'll have the compassion and help them in every way that they can address it. And it will be if Roe V. Wade is overturned, go back to the states and the states will make the decisions about it. So that's the issue here as to how we treat the issue of human life in America and it's got to be done with courage and compassion. And that's both of our positions.

SAWYER: But- But, Mrs. McCain, do you oppose the repeal of Roe versus Wade? Was that report correct?

CINDY MCCAIN: You know, there are people that are without jobs, that are hurting whose businesses have collapsed, who don't know where they're going to find money to feed their families. This is not the major issue on people's minds right now. What concerns me is when I talk to people like people today on this farm, people we had dinner with last night, they're having trouble making ends meet. A difference in how we stand on abortion or things like that are not what's foremost in the voters' mines right now, at all.

JOHN MCCAIN: So, look, this is an issue that we have to change the culture of America, those of us who respect the rights of the unborn. That's the thrust of our effort, and I'm happy to know -- to note that we are adoptive parents and it's enriched our lives and we hope that will also encourage others to do the same.

ROBERTS: You talked about that people don't want to get into personal issues. That doesn't help them. That they want to talk about the issues, but it has gotten very personal this particular time around, the campaign, on both sides. And a lot of people thought it was refreshing on 9/11 that no negative ads, you both, you and Senator Obama appeared at the presidential forum on community service, and can we make that kind of commitment? Why does it have to -- how does it serve anybody when it becomes so bitter?

JOHN MCCAIN: It doesn't. But I can tell you one way it makes it a lot better because I've been in previous campaigns. Have Senator Obama come to a town hall meeting with me. Let's go to town haul meetings all over America. Both of us stand before the American people. That's what Barry Goldwater and Jack Kennedy had decided to do. And I've asked time after time.

SAWYER: Does it feel like-

JOHN MCCAIN: Senator Obama, come to the town hall meetings with me. Have the people ask, we respond. I guarantee you that changes the tone of the campaign, because then people pay attention to the candidates. Not the back and forth. Not the surrogates, not the 527s and so I asked Senator Obama again. We've got 49 days left.


ROBERTS: She's critiquing you, 48.

JOHN MCCAIN: 48. Let's go to the town hall meetings and then the American people will be focused on that. I don't know why he's refused to do that. Because when first asked he said he would go anywhere, any time so I hope that he will take up that request and I look forward to it. I'll fly with him. I promise not to fly the airplane.

SAWYER: Senator, the computer is going to cut us off in just a minute. We want to thank you so much for this morning and we have frozen you to death, Mrs. McCain we owe you one on that. We really do.

JOHN MCCAIN: Appreciate it.

SAWYER: It's great to see you.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the associate editor for the Media Research Center's site.