Cynthia McFadden: Reporters Saw Obama as 'Bright Hope in the Distance'

According to "Nightline" co-anchor Cynthia McFadden, during the 2008 presidential campaign "many in the media" saw Barack Obama as a "bright hope in the distance." The ABC journalist made that admission during a "Morning Media Menu" podcast interview with TV Newser editor Steve Krakauer on Tuesday. In a justifying tone, she quickly added, "It's also clear that a lot of Americans thought that." McFadden didn't explain if she felt it was the role of journalists to simply reflect public will. [click play button in embed at right for audio excerpt]

The discussion on Obama media bias was prompted by Krakauer's mention of the new Bernie Goldberg book on the same subject, "A Slobbering Love Affair." Defending fellow co-anchor Terry Moran, McFadden asserted, "Anyone who knows Terry and his work would say there's nothing slobbering about him. I mean, he's as tough as they come. I think he brought a very jaundiced eye to the campaign." In actuality, with a few notable exceptions, Moran frequently slobbered over Barack Obama.

On November 6, 2006, he famously gushed that Obama was "an American political phenomenon" and, perhaps hopefully, he wondered, "Is Barack Obama the man, the black man, who could lead the Democrats back to the White House and maybe even unite the country?"

On January 29, 2008, Moran promised "Nightline" viewers a "tough" interview with the Democratic presidential candidate. That apparently included lauding Obama's ability to make "connections." The co-anchor went on to coo, "That's what is at the heart of Obama's politics, the notion that divisions are artificial and can be overcome by an act of will and of imagination."

After Obama's election, on the November 5, 2008 show, Moran described the victory celebration: "No one who was in Grant Park in Chicago last night will ever forget it. The jubilation. The emotion. The pride."

As noted earlier, there are exceptions. On February 25, 2008, Moran challenged Obama and noted that the politician was a "reliable liberal Democratic vote" in the state legislature. He pointed out that Obama supported numerous tax increases and partial birth abortion. The journalist also highlighted how often the then-state senator often voted present and Obama's relationship with convicted Chicago businessman Tony Rezko. On another occasion, Moran pressed Obama on his former preacher Jeremiah Wright. These interviews, however, were not the norm.

In McFadden's podcast interview, she knocked the John McCain campaign for being "hard to cover" and not providing access. It's not hard to see why. On September 18, 2008, Moran slammed McCain for being hypocritical. He assailed, "Make no mistake, John McCain very well may defeat Barack Obama. But to do so, has he compromised principles in the style that got him this far?" On October 13, he asked Joe Biden if the rhetoric of McCain's running mate, Sarah Palin, made the senator "concerned" for "Senator Obama's safety."

McFadden, who touted the fairness of "Nightline" while talking to TV Newser, also has a history of boosting a Democratic presidential candidate: Hillary Clinton. On two separate occasions, starting on December 19, 2007, she asked Clinton variations on this question: "There's never a night when you go back to whatever hotel room, whatever city you're in that night, and crawl in a ball and say, 'I just, this just hurts too much?"

A transcript of the relevant portions of the podcast interview follow:

Morning Media Menu


11:27 into 15 minute interview

STEVE KRAKAUER: What do you think of the argument that Bernie Goldberg is making here?

CYNTHIA MCFADDEN: Well, you know, I haven't read the book, so I- But to the general proposition, I think, I feel I'm in the best position to comment about the way 'Nightline' covered Barack Obama. And I have to say, my colleague Terry Moran did, I believe, more interviews with Barack Obama in the course of the last year than any other journalist, extensive sit down interviews. But, I think maybe the final total was, maybe, six or seven. Anyone who knows Terry and his work would say there's nothing slobbering about him. I mean, he's as tough as they come. I think he brought a very jaundiced eye to the campaign. He's a seasoned political reporter. And I think that, at least on 'Nightline,' Barack Obama got fair but tough coverage. We tried to balance it out. I was on the Clinton campaign during the primary and think I did, probably, six or seven interview pieces with Clinton through that process. And then in the general, we worked hard to cover the McCain campaign. The McCain campaign was hard to cover. It was hard to get access to them during the general as has been widely discussed and reported. But, I think at least at our shop, we tried very hard to bring the same kind of scrutiny to Barack Obama's campaign as we did to John McCain. So, it's the broader principle. I haven't made a study out of how the media covered Barack Obama. Is it clear that- Is it clear that a lot of people in the media business thought he was a, you know, bright, bright hope in the distance? Yeah. It's also clear that a lot of Americans thought that. Were they prejudiced in his favor? You know, I don't feel I'm in a good position to answer it. I didn't- I must say, I didn't feel like there was a lot of slobbering at ABC. I thought, if anything, people were trying to bend over backwards to be tough. Certainly Jake Tapper, who covered him for us.


MCFADDEN: Nothing slobbering about Jake. So, in fact, I can't wait to ask Jake about this, actually, when we get off this. I'm calling Jake next when we get off the call here. You know, so, I don't know. I guess I'm punting on this one. I can only say from the world in which I'm inhabiting, ABC News, I don't think there was slobbering going on. I'm anxious to read the book and see what he has to say. But, you know, it's quite a title, let's say that.

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