ABC reporter Deborah Roberts interviewed Michelle Obama on Monday's "Good Morning America" and glossed over some of the more controversial statements of this "fascinating," "straight-talking," "charming" woman.
Roberts appeared comfortable repeating talking points from "the spouse of politics' newest star" and didn't challenge Mrs. Obama on her assertion, from November 2007, that it will be America's fault if her husband isn't elected. Instead, Roberts simply recited, "I asked her about race in this campaign....She and her husband refuse to dwell on it." Continuing the spin, she added, "They genuinely believe that people want to move beyond that, talk about something else."
And while Roberts claimed she "asked [Obama] about race," the ABC journalist also ignored insinuations, recounted in January by the New York Times, that the candidate's wife has made about possible assassination attempts. Wouldn't it have been valuable to have her elaborate on that? Instead, Roberts favored bland queries that included wondering, "Are you tired?" She did press Obama over Bill Clinton's comparison of her husband to Jesse Jackson, but provided a sympathetic take on that as well. After failing to goad the senator's wife into decrying Clinton's comments, she urgently derided, "But it's nasty politics."
A transcript of the segment, which aired at 7:43am on February 4, follows:
DIANE SAWYER: Well, in this race to '08, 24 hours until Super Tuesday. Every minute, every hour could change history for the campaigners. And for Barack Obama, that meant making sure speaking out are Oprah, Caroline Kennedy and joining them, a surprise, Maria Shriver, and of course, his wife Michelle And ABC's Deborah Roberts sat down with Michelle Obama, an exclusive interview coming up now.
DEBORAH ROBERTS: Fascinating woman, Diane. Critics have taken her on, as you know, for her blunt, straight-talking style. But the Obama camp calls Michelle Obama "the closer." Her husband, they say, makes a good case for his candidacy, but then she comes in and seals the deal. She's the spouse of politics' newest star, but lately, Michelle Obama is attracting a spotlight of her own, drawing big crowds at events last week.
MICHELLE OBAMA: Usually, I talk a little bit longer, but they were really right into it.
ROBERTS: And lots of folks here today.
OBAMA: Yeah. Yeah.
ROBERTS: Is that happening more and more?
ROBERTS: Okay. Are you tired?
OBAMA: Uh, not today, not yet. Talk to me at about ten.
ROBERTS: [Laughs] Okay. So, we'll see. She's hitting her stride, offering, Obama says, a distinct alternative to Bill Clinton. Hillary Clinton said when asked about this, that Barack and she both have very passionate spouses.
HILLARY CLINTON: Both Barack and I have passionate spouse who promote and defend us at every turn.
ROBERTS: Is there any comparing you and Bill Clinton and how you're approaching this?
OBAMA: Absolutely not. I'm a very different person. I don't know Bill Clinton. You know? I've never sat down and had a conversation with him. I couldn't begin to dissect who he is. But I know who I am and, you know, I don't think there are many similarities in terms of how, you know, we approach it, how, you know, we were raised, how we think about the world. I think, you know, we're very different people.
ROBERTS: Clinton, still a popular target for Obama supporters, was criticized by some for race baiting after comparing Obama's South Carolina performance to Jesse Jackson's back in the '80s. Were you angry at Bill Clinton when you came out of that?
OBAMA: You know, I don't get angry anymore. This is politics. And we've been in it. You know--
ROBERTS: But it's nasty politics.
OBAMA: It's been nasty. There's nothing new about it. There's absolutely nothing that people are saying about Barack now, that they haven't said before.
ROBERTS: But when Bill Clinton made the Jesse Jackson comment, did it upset you?
OBAMA: It didn't surprise me at all. This is-- Politics is a game. Politics is game. And if you, if you get into it with your eyes closed, then you're silly for being in it.
ROBERTS: Jumping into this race was something that Michelle Obama was initially wary of, worried how it would affect her two daughters. What do you say to them, Malia and Sasha, about all of this?
OBAMA: You know, we talk about it in bits and pieces. Malia's nine. So, she's much more focused.
ROBERTS: And does she want dad to win? Or does she realize that it would upset her life?
OBAMA: She is--Yes. Absolutely, she does. In fact, she asked Barack, would he be upset if he loses. He was like, "Oh, yeah. I'll be fine."
ROBERTS: Will he be okay if he doesn't win?
ROBERTS: And will you try this again?
OBAMA: I am not interested in putting my family through this again and again and again.
ROBERTS: So what if Senator Clinton defeats her husband, becoming the first woman nominee. Could you see yourself working to support Hillary Clinton, should she become the first woman nomination?
OBAMA: I'd have to think about that. I'd have to think about policies, her approach, her tone.
ROBERTS: So, that's not a given?
OBAMA: You know, everyone in this party is going to work hard for whoever the nominee is. I think that, you know, we're all working for the same thing. And, you know, I think our goal is to make sure that the person in the White House is going to take this country in a different direction. I happen to believe that Barack is the only person who can really do that.
ROBERTS: An opinionated and charming woman, Diane. I asked her about race in this campaign, because, as you know, so many people talk about it. She and her husband refuse to dwell on it. They genuinely believe that people want to move beyond that, talk about something else.
SAWYER: Yes. She's a Harvard lawyer herself. And he said once, but she has to leave the room during his debates, 'cause she gets way too nervous.
ROBERTS: She told me she won't watch them.
SAWYER: Too scary?
ROBERTS: She told me it's like watching a child, you know, and you want to just, like scream for them. And it makes you crazy. But she hears the replay the next day.