Good Morning America's George Stephanopoulos on Friday moderated a group of mostly liberal voices to sympathize with Democratic Congressman Patrick Kennedy and, at times, former Representative Eric Massa. Speaking of the politician who spent the week talking about naked showers arguments and tickle fights, Stephanopoulos fretted, "Too much time on Eric Massa?"
The former Democratic operative turned journalist's liberal guests included DailyBeast.com editor Tina Brown and former Playboy CEO Christie Hefner. (Republican strategist Kevin Madden was the lone conservative.)
Speaking of Massa's now infamous Glenn Beck interview, Hefner tried to highlight the positive: "...I actually thought the most thoughtful thing that Massa said on the Glenn Beck show, was in response to the question of, what would you fix? And he started talking about campaign finance reform."
Stephanopoulos quickly agreed, "That's true." Hefner is now the director of the board of directors for the left-wing Center for American Progress Action Fund, a point which the ABC host failed to mention and was noted only in an onscreen graphic. Fellow liberal Brown defended Patrick Kennedy's rant on the floor of the House. She said of his screaming fit over the war in Afghanistan: "But, Patrick Kennedy's outburst, actually? I was sympathetic because he did it amazingly."
The ex-New Yorker editor applauded, "In fact, give him a TV show, I say." Brown later wondered, "But, don't you think Kennedy's eruption, though, represented a decent frustration overall?" "From the heart," echoed Hefner, the former porn CEO.
This weekly Good Morning America segment, entitled Morning Mix, seems to evoke comparisons to the panel segment of Stephanopoulos' old show, This Week. Like many mainstream media segments, this piece featured three liberals and only one conservative.
A transcript of the March 12 segment, which aired at 8:15am EST, follows:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Congressman Patrick Kennedy's broadside against the national press over that Eric Massa mess. And this new futures market, betting on the box office. Here to weigh in on all that: Tina Brown, founder of the Daily Beast.com. Christie Hefner. You ran Playboy Enterprises for, what, 26 years?
CHRISTIE HEFNER (Director, Center for American Progress): Yep.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Wow. Long time. And Republican strategist, Morning Mix regular, Kevin Madden. Let's start out with Congressman Eric Massa, the man who was forced to resign from Congress this week over some harassment allegations. He did not go quietly. Went on Glenn Beck for a full hour, Larry King Live as well. And then there was forced to, there was a vote yesterday in the Congress, forcing this to be investigated again. Some complaints that Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker, covered up this mess. This has got Patrick Kennedy, Congressman Patrick Kennedy irate. Watch him on the House floor just a couple days ago.
REP. PATRICK KENNEDY: The press of the United States is not covering the most significant issue of national importance. And that's the laying of lives down in the nation for the service of our country. It's despicable, the national press corps right now.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Too much time on Eric Massa?
TINA BROWN: Wow. Well, certainly too much time on Eric Massa. Of course, the great thing about Eric Massa, the great question. Does he need media help? Or mental help? I mean, the guy is- it's like a slow-moving car crash on every TV show he's on.
HEFNER: It's sad.
BROWN: It's very sad. Every time he comes on, I want someone to take him home and give him a nice cup of tea. But, Patrick Kennedy's outburst, actually? I was sympathetic because he did it amazingly. In fact, give him a TV show, I say.
HEFNER: Well, with a doff of the hat to Tina, the media is a hungry beast. It was true. We just had 24/7 cable. It's certainly true with the internet. So, we have a kind of attention deficit disorder media that's going to glom on to cases like that. But, I also think, to be fair to the media, the decision whether or not to send troops to Afghanistan was very substantively covered over those periods of deliberation in the White House. So, it's a little disingenuous to suggest that the story and the substance of that story has not been probed.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yeah. That debate that he was talking about was on a resolution to pull out the troops, which had very, very little support in the House. But, right now, what you did see yesterday in the House, Kevin, is this move by the House Republicans to investigate again because they say the Democratic leadership should have known about this. Knew something about it. But didn't follow-up.
KEVIN MADDEN: All the shades of 2006, when I worked on Capitol Hill during the Mark Foley scandal. It's a classic Washington question. What did House leadership know? And when did they know it? So, what I think you're seeing is obviously a lot of politics at play. It's also emblematic of what's wrong with Washington is that here we have something as simple as misconduct by a congressman. Not having adequate attention to it paid by House leadership. And if they can't do that right, what can they do right? So, I think there is, you know, an certain important news edge to this, beyond what Eric Massa continues to feed with his interview round-robin.
HEFNER: But, to your problem about what's wrong with Washington, I actually thought the most thoughtful thing that Massa said on the Glenn Beck show, was in response to the question of, what would you fix? And he started talking about campaign finance reform.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That's true.
BROWN: Yeah, but that wasn't the venue for it.
HEFNER: And he was actually very thoughtful on it. If you were really serious- No, but if you're really serious about trying to fix it, we would be having a substantive conversation about redistricting
STEPHANOPOULOS: It was hard to pay attention after all of the talk about tickle fights.
HEFNER: It wasn't the right context.
BROWN: But, don't you think Kennedy's eruption, though, represented a decent frustration overall?
HEFNER: From the heart.
BROWN: I just think it was from the heart. I just think it's so hard to keep anybody's attention span on anything for long.
MADDEN: No, you're right. The fact-
BROWN: This whole Massa thing is derailing things. I mean, health care and jobs. And Afghanistan. And everybody's on Massa.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Except that most of the studies have shown there have been flooding, a flood of coverage of health care, of all of the substantive issues.
MADDEN: A front page of the New York Times today has an article on Iraq.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The elections this week.
MADDEN: It's not as if it's not being covered. But, again, I think Tina's right. If there's a frustration out there right now, that this is not what is important. You have all of the economic anxieties. You have the anxiety about conflicts overseas and this is what people are talking about.