ABC Highlights Republicans Questioning Conservative Social Views

ABC’s World News programs on Friday and Sunday highlighted "frank comments by Republicans" who indicated either an admission to having reservations over, or who called on a reversal of, the Republican party’s conservative stance on social issues. On Friday, Charles Gibson informed viewers that Sarah Palin confessed before a pro-life group to having briefly wondered about having an abortion after she discovered her son Trig would be born with Down’s Syndrome. Gibson also highlighted comments by Steve Schmidt, the former campaign manager for John McCain, as he addressed a gathering of the Log Cabin Republicans and "urged the Republican party to support same-sex marriage."

On World News Sunday, correspondent Rachel Martin filed a full story on pro-gay comments by both Schmidt and John McCain’s daughter Meghan. Anchor Dan Harris introduced the report: "There are some new and rather surprising voices wading into the debate over same-sex marriage. Last night, John McCain's daughter, Meghan, jumped into the fray, and she is not the only Republican suggesting that the party might want to reconsider its stance on this very divisive issue."

Martin began her report with a a clip of Meghan McCain boasting that she has many gay friends, and the ABC correspondent then continued: "The daughter of the GOP's most famous maverick headlined a Republican gay rights event, and, while she didn't go so far as to come out for gay marriage, her dad's former campaign manager did. ... even taking on the powerful religious right."

After a clip of Schmidt warning against the Republican party appearing to be a "sectarian party," Martin recounted recent victories for same-sex marriage in some state supreme courts and state legislatures. While acknowledging that most Americans, including many Democrats, oppose same-sex marriage, the ABC correspondent ignored past electoral defeats by the Democratic party linked to gay marriage initiatives and insisted that it is really Republicans who oppose gay marriage who should be politically afraid. Martin: "Most Americans still oppose gay marriage – Democrats and Republicans. But it's been in the GOP that the issue has recently come to the fore, with some suggesting the party must distance itself from the religious right if it's to make its way out of the political wilderness."

Back to Friday’s World News with Charles Gibson, host Gibson introduced his clip of Palin’s speech at a pro-life event: "Two frank comments by Republicans are generating a lot of discussion tonight. The Alaska governor, Sarah Palin, told an anti-abortion event that she wondered about ending her pregnancy when she learned her son Trig would be born with Down's Syndrome."

Then came a clip of Palin: "I thought, ’Wow, it is easy, could be easy to think maybe if trying to change the circumstances and no one would know, no one would ever know.’"

Gibson added: "But Palin said she realized she had to stay true to what she had long said, that life is valuable because it is ordained."

Then the ABC host quoted Schmidt’s pro-gay marriage speech. Gibson: "And the manager of Senator John McCain's presidential campaign, Steve Schmidt, urged the Republican party to support same-sex marriage. He said, quote, ‘As former Vice President Cheney observed, freedom means freedom for everybody. And I think Republicans should always be on the side of freedom and equal rights.’"

Below are complete transcripts of the relevant stories from the Friday, April 17, World News with Charles Gibson, and the April 19, World News Sunday from ABC:

#From the April 17 World News with Charles Gibson:

CHARLES GIBSON: Two frank comments by Republicans are generating a lot of discussion tonight. The Alaska governor, Sarah Palin, told an anti-abortion event that she wondered about ending her pregnancy when she learned her son Trig would be born with Down’s Syndrome.

SARAH PALIN: I thought, "Wow, it is easy, could be easy to think maybe if trying to change the circumstances and no one would know, no one would ever know."

GIBSON: But Palin said she realized she had to stay true to what she had long said, that life is valuable because it is ordained.

And the manager of Senator John McCain’s presidential campaign, Steve Schmidt, urged the Republican party to support same-sex marriage. He said, quote, "As former Vice President Cheney observed, freedom means freedom for everybody. And I think Republicans should always be on the side of freedom and equal rights."

#From the April 19 World News Sunday:

DAN HARRIS: There are some new and rather surprising voices wading into the debate over same-sex marriage. Last night, John McCain’s daughter, Meghan, jumped into the fray, and she is not the only Republican suggesting that the party might want to reconsider its stance on this very divisive issue. Here’s ABC’s Rachel Martin.

RACHEL MARTIN: Meghan McCain has a message.

MEGHAN MCCAIN: I have lots and lots of gay friends, and, yes, and I am a Republican.

MARTIN: The daughter of the GOP’s most famous maverick headlined a Republican gay rights event, and, while she didn’t go so far as to come out for gay marriage, her dad’s former campaign manager did.

STEVE SCHMIDT: -but it cannot be argued that marriage between people of the same sex is un-American-

MARTIN: Even taking on the powerful religious right.

SCHMIDT: In a free country, a political party cannot remain viable in the long term if it is seen as a sectarian party.

MARTIN: The comments come in the wake of two recent wins for the gay marriage movement – in Iowa, where the supreme court made history with the unanimous decision legalizing gay marriage. And Vermont, now the first state to legalize same-sex marriage through the legislature, not the courts. Most Americans still oppose gay marriage – Democrats and Republicans. But it’s been in the GOP that the issue has recently come to the fore, with some suggesting the party must distance itself from the religious right if it’s to make its way out of the political wilderness.

MEGHAN MCCAIN: Most of the old-school Republicans are scared [CENSORED]-

MARTIN: But those old-school Republicans are standing their ground.

WOMAN #1 IN AD: There’s a storm gathering.

MAN #1 IN AD: The clouds are dark and the winds are strong.

WOMAN #2 IN AD: And I am afraid.

MARTIN: The National Organization for Marriage released this ad warning about gay marriage.

STUART ROTHENBERG, ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT: The Republican party knows which side of the debate it comes down on there. The question is, do they talk about that? Do they tear themselves apart over that, discussing that, or do they focus on their differences with President Obama?

MARTIN: How the party answers that question could shape the face and future of the GOP. Rachel Martin, ABC News, Washington.