Of the three morning shows on Wednesday, only "Good Morning America" highlighted the growing controversy regarding the disclosure that PBS reporter Gwen Ifill, the moderator of Thursday's vice presidential debate, has authored a supportive book about Barack Obama and other African American politicians. CBS's "Early Show" and NBC's "Today" both skipped the subject.
GMA news anchor Chris Cuomo mentioned the book during the 7am hour and actually observed that it "has some conservatives claiming she will be biased tomorrow night." The ABC journalist added, "Ifill has said, though, she's only concerned about getting straight answers from the candidates." And although Cuomo did not repeat the story during the 8am news brief, at least ABC brought the issue up.
[UPDATE, by Brent Baker: Wednesday evening, of the broadcast network evening newscasts, only the NBC Nightly News mentioned Ifill. Andrea Mitchell ended a story by citing an unidentified "one conservative critic" and how colleagues and McCain say she's not biased:
As the stage is set for tomorrow night, one conservative critic challenged the moderator, Gwen Ifill of PBS because Ifill is writing a history of a generation of black politicians titled Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama. Palin said tonight that's motivating her to work harder. Ifill's colleagues and the McCain campaign say she is a respected professional.]
Friday’s Washington Post carried an ad from PBS touting their two TV debate moderators: "Objective. Impartial. Independent. The NewsHour’s Jim Lehrer and Washington Week’s Gwen Ifill bring PBS’s tradition of integrity to the most important conversations in America – so you can make up your own mind."
Sadly, that ad is not accurate. Even before addressing whether "independence" is demonstrated by Ifill writing a new book celebrating Barack Obama’s bold "Breakthrough," Ifill’s questions in the vice presidential debate in 2004 displayed an undeniable bias against Vice President Cheney.
There's one good reason Gwen Ifill, the host of the PBS show Washington Week, is moderating the vice-presidential debate: she has a forthcoming book about Barack Obama (and other black Democrats) called The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama. Ifill talks about the book project on YouTube here.
In addition to her portrait of Obama, Ifill will also investigate Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, a close friend of Obama's; Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who Ifill describes as "very charismatic" in the video; and Rep. Artur Davis of Alabama. "They all chose to get into politics for the most upstanding of reasons, and they all have achieved much more than their parents could have hoped." It doesn't hurt that it's made Obama a mega-best-selling multi-millionaire author.
Live from Denver, Colorado, on Monday, Brian Williams hosted the 1 p.m. hour of MSNBC's "News Live" and featured guests Gwen Ifill of PBS and Michele Norris of NPR to talk about Michelle Obama’s upcoming primetime speech at the Democratic National Convention. The segment turned out to be a love-fest of Michelle Obama and her humble roots.
Williams started off the segment by asking the typical question of "what does Michelle Obama have to do tonight in this hall?" Ifill immediately went into gushing mode, first about Senator Ted Kennedy and then about Obama:
Michelle Obama has to find a way to be more amazing and more emotional than Ted Kennedy. If it looks like Ted Kennedy actually walks across that stage tonight and appears in some fashion in person and speaks, it’s gonna be an emotional highpoint. Michelle Obama, however, also has to deal with preconceptions about who she is. A lot of people have never seen anything that looks like a Michelle Obama before. She’s educated, she’s beautiful, she’s tall, she tells you what she thinks and they hope that she can tell a story about Barack Obama and about herself.