On Tuesday’s "Good Morning America," anchor Chris Cuomo used a none-to-subtle visual aid to continue the program’s campaign to have Attorney General Alberto Gonzales fired over the Justice Department’s dismissal of eight U.S. Attorneys. Early in the 7am hour, co-host Robin Roberts introduced Cuomo, who stood at the news desk with stacks of paper, meant to represent the 3000 pages of documents released on the case, piled half way to his shoulders:
Roberts: "Look at all that you have there, Chris." [Roberts points to a huge stack of papers that Cuomo has piled on his news desk.]
Chris Cuomo: "You see this stack of paper? Very relevant today. Good morning to you and good morning, everyone. The number of the day is 3,000. That's how many pages, just like this, the Justice Department handed out overnight. They offer an up-close look inside the controversial firing of eight federal prosecutors."
It’s more than a little odd to turn a news segment into show-and-tell.
The piece, which aired at 7:03am on March 20, featured an onscreen graphic wondering if the documents represented a "smoking gun," the third time in less than a week that GMA used such a phrase. Reporter Pierre Thomas, who last week hyperbolically described the Attorney General as "hunkered down with his closest advisors," and in "a fight for survival," reported on the story:
Diane Sawyer: "Overnight news, too."
Robin Roberts: "Yes. 3000 new e-mails released by the Justice Department. A trail showing just how far reaching the concern was inside the Justice Department over those firings of U.S. Attorneys. More bad news for the Attorney General."
Sawyer: "But let’s begin the morning’s news with Chris Cuomo at the news desk."
Roberts: "Look at all that you have there, Chris." [Roberts points to a huge stack of papers that Cuomo has piled his news desk.]
Chris Cuomo: "You see this stack of paper? Very relevant today. Good morning to you and good morning, everyone. The number of the day is 3,000. That's how many pages, just like this, the Justice Department handed out overnight. They offer an up-close look inside the controversial firing of eight federal prosecutors. Pierre Thomas joins us from the Justice Department now. Pierre, tell us about it."
ABC Graphic: "New Docs in Atty Firings: Is There A Smoking Gun?"
Pierre Thomas: "Hi, Chris. Those e-mails provide some insights into why those U.S. Attorneys were fired. But it is unclear whether they will help the Attorney General keep his job. Late last night, roughly 3,000 pages of Justice Department documents about the firing of U.S. Attorneys were provided to congressional investigators. The e-mails show one of the men at the center of the controversy appeared very concerned about Senators wanting to investigate the matter. Kyle Sampson, the Attorney General's former chief of staff, allegedly wrote this e-mail about whether fired U.S. Attorney Bud Cummins should testify before Congress. Cummins was replaced as a U.S. Attorney in Arkansas by an associate of White House advisor Karl Rove. Sampson wrote, ‘I don’t think he, Cummins, should testify. How would he answer? Did you resign voluntarily? Were you told why you were being asked to resign?’ The documents suggest Gonzales was generally aware of the plan to remove U.S. Attorneys, but he maintains he was not intimately involved."
Norm Ornstein (American Enterprise Institute): "The Attorney General was in a position where either he lied directly about his involvement or he was clueless about what his own chief of staff was doing right underneath his own nose."
Thomas: "The e-mails also make clear that, at least initially, the fired U.S. Attorneys were given no justification for their dismissals. Margaret Chiara, the U.S. Attorney for the Western district of Michigan, at one point wrote, ‘I need to know the truth to live in peace with the aftermath.’"
Victoria Toensing (Fmr. Assistant Deputy Attorney General): "To mess this up by smearing the reputations of people who have dedicated a certain amount of years to public service is inexcusable."
Thomas: "Justice officials say the e-mails show that the firings were legitimate. But sources say the documents also show that some prosecutors were ranked based on loyalty to President Bush."
It’s also interesting to note that Victoria Toensing appeared in the piece to criticize Gonzales. Yet, last week, when Toensing testified against Valerie Plame in the CIA leak case, GMA simply ignored her. Perhaps GMA found criticism of a Republican administration more palatable than that of a liberal icon such as Plame.