ABC, NBC Highlight Obama's Attack on GOP Over Boos in Audience

The ABC and NBC morning and evening newscasts on Sunday gave attention to President Obama's attack on the Republican presidential candidates for not scolding a couple of audience members who booed a gay solder asking a question at a recent debate. Monday's "Special Report with Bret Baier" on FNC noted that Obama has his own history of standing by without condemning inappropriate comments at public events.

ABC correspondent David Kerley filed full reports devoted to the story on both "Good Morning America" and "World News Sunday," while NBC's Mike Viqueira mentioned Obama's line of attack within other reports on "Sunday Today" and on the "NBC Nightly News." CBS's "Sunday Morning" show did not mention the story, while a Nexis search finds no sign that Sunday's "CBS Evening News," which was preempted in the D.C. area, made any mention either.

On "Good Morning America," co-host Dan Harris set up Kerley's report:

Now, though, politics and an unusually combative President Obama last night. For the most part, Mr. Obama has tried to stay above the fray when it comes to the Republican presidential candidates. But overnight, he took a hard shot at the Republicans for failing to stand up for a gay soldier who was booed during a recent debate.

Kerley recounted the boos from the audience:

Who said the election is more than a year away? A full-throated attack against all the Republican candidates who are trying to become President, and this all had to do with, as you said, that debate last week, when a video appeared of an Army soldier who said he was gay. There were boos from the audience.

And on "World News Sunday," anchor David Muir introduced the piece:

And we do move on to the presidential race this evening, and the sharpest attacks yet by President Obama against the Republicans who want his job. The President pointedly asking why none of them spoke out at that recent debate when a gay soldier asking a question was booed.

After playing a clip of the soldier being booed, Kerley added:

Not one of the candidates on the stage said anything about the booing, leaving them open to the combative chiding from the President at last night's Human Rights Campaign dinner.

It was not until this report on "World News Sunday" that Kerley eventually noted that there were only a couple of audience members who booed at the Republican debate, and that the candidates may have had trouble hearing the booing from the stage:

Some of the Republican candidates said after the debate, they didn't hear the boos. Others said they weren't given time to comment.

During the "Fox All Stars" segment on Monday's "Special Report with Bret Baier," panel member Stephen Hayes of the "Weekly Standard" argued that the audience members who booed were not representative of the general audience, and noted Obama's history of not jumping in to chide controversial comments at public events:

But really, by all accounts, the people immediately after the debate in the vicinity said there were two people who booed at the event, and that they were, in fact, shouted down and shushed by everyone around them.

He continued:

So do you really want to get in a pattern where a presidential candidate has to respond to every every heckler in every crowd? This President didn't respond to some of the hateful rhetoric that we've seen from people either working for him or campaigning for him, Richard Trumka being a recent example.

Host Baier soon added:

Here is what Rush Limbaugh has said in the blogosphere and radio show today, is that then-Senator Obama didn't respond to Reverend Wright for 20 years in that church. That's what he said. Then he said he didn't respond to James Hoffa after he spoke intro-ing him at that event.

Below are transcripts of the relevant portions of ABC's "Good Morning America," ABC's "World News Sunday," NBC's "Sunday Today," the "NBC Nightly News," from October 2, and the Monday, October 3, "Special Report with Bret Baier" on FNC, with criticial portions in bold:

#From the Sunday, October 2, Good Morning America on ABC:

DAN HARRIS, IN OPENING TEASER: Heating up: In some of his toughest words yet, the President comes out swinging at his Republican rivals, calling them out for not standing up for gay troops when one of them was booed at a recent debate.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: You wanna be Commander-in-Chief? You can start by standing up for the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States.

...

DAN HARRIS: Now, though, politics and an unusually combative President Obama last night. For the most part, Mr. Obama has tried to stay above the fray when it comes to the Republican presidential candidates. But overnight, he took a hard shot at the Republicans for failing to stand up for a gay soldier who was booed during a recent debate. ABC's David Kerley is at the White House this morning. And, David, this was a fired up Mr. Obama.

DAVID KERLEY: It certainly was, Dan. Who said the election is more than a year away? A full-throated attack against all the Republican candidates who are trying to become President, and this all had to do with, as you said, that debate last week, when a video appeared of an Army soldier who said he was gay. There were boos from the audience. Here's what President Obama had to say about that last night.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We don't believe in the kind of smallness that says it's okay for a stage full of political leaders, one of whom could end up being the President of the United States, being silent when an American soldier is booed. You wanna be Commander-in-Chief? You can start by standing up for the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States even when it's not politically convenient.

KERLEY: That speech was at the annual dinner of the Human Rights Campaign, and it sounded like a campaign speech, the President going through a litany of things he's done as far as rights and civil rights and at the end of it. As he talked about this soldier and other cases, it really did sound like a campaign.

#From the October 2 World News Sunday on ABC:

DAVID MUIR: And we do move on to the presidential race this evening, and the sharpest attacks yet by President Obama against the Republicans who want his job. The President pointedly asking why none of them spoke out at that recent debate when a gay soldier asking a question was booed. Here's ABC's David Kerley.

DAVID KERLEY: The election may be a year away, but candidate Obama went after every Republican running for President.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We don't believe in the kind of smallness that says it's okay for a stage full of political leaders, one of whom could end up being the President of the United States, being silent when an American soldier is booed. We don't believe in that.

KERLEY: That American soldier appeared on videotape at the most recent Republican debate, an openly gay soldier, who was booed by some in the audience when he asked a question.

STEPHEN HILL, U.S. ARMY: Do you intend to circumvent the progress that's been made for gay and lesbian soldiers in the military?

KERLEY: Not one of the candidates on the stage said anything about the booing, leaving them open to the combative chiding from the President at last night's Human Rights Campaign dinner.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: You want to be Commander-in-Chief? You can start by standing up for the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States, even when it's not politically convenient.

KERLEY: Some of the Republican candidates said after the debate, they didn't hear the boos. Others said they weren't given time to comment. Today on ABC's "This Week," candidate Herman Cain was asked directly if he now regrets not rebuking the boos during the debate.

HERMAN CAIN, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I did not have that luxury because I was not in control. I was not moderated.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, HOST OF THIS WEEK: In retrospect, would you have done something, given the controversy it's touched up?

CAIN: In retrospect, because of the controversy it has created and because of the different interpretations that it could have had, yes, that would have been appropriate.

KERLEY: We reached out to the other Republican campaigns looking for reaction to the strong comments by the President. None of them responded directly to what the President had to say.

#From the October 2 Sunday Today on NBC:

LESTER HOLT, IN OPENING TEASER: And fighting words: President Obama lashes out at the Republican White House candidates for not standing up for gays serving in the military. What his tough talk means for the issue and the campaign today, Sunday, October 2, 2011.

...

MIKE VIQUEIRA: And, Jenna, last night the President and First Lady Michelle Obama were celebrating their 19th anniversary here locally across the river, out for dinner in Alexandria, Virginia. It came after the President gave another fiery speech to a core constituency, a large gay rights organization known as the Human Rights Campaign. Their annual gathering was here in Washington last night. The President took those Republican candidates to task for staying silent. You remember when a gay soldier serving overseas was booed by some members of the audience at the last debate. And the President stopped short again of backing gay marriage. You know, he's opposed to gay marriage. That has been his policy, though he says his views are evolving.

#From the Sunday, October 2, NBC Nightly News :

MIKE VIQUEIRA: And last night, President Obama gave an impassioned address to a major gay rights group.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Don't Ask, Don't Tell is history.

VIQUEIRA: Mr. Obama was critical of GOP candidates after they failed to defend a gay soldier booed during a recent debate.

OBAMA: You want to be Commander in Chief, you can start by standing up for the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States, even when it's not politically convenient.

#From the Monday, October 3, Special Report with Bret Baier on FNC:

BRET BAIER: I should say that is a soldier. He is not a Marine. He is wearing an Army t-shirt. But you heard boos there. Steve, what about the President mentioning this numerous times?

STEPHEN HAYES, WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, I think it suggests that he is likely to focus on issues that don't have to do with the economy in this upcoming election because it's a lot easier. I think it's a cheap shot. I think that it would have been great if the President, the candidates on the stage that night would have said you shouldn't boo. But really, by all accounts, the people immediately after the debate in the vicinity said there were two people who booed at the event, and that they were, in fact, shouted down and shushed by everyone around them. So do you really want to get in a pattern where a presidential candidate has to respond to every every heckler in every crowd? This President didn't respond to some of the hateful rhetoric that we've seen from people either working for him or campaigning for him, Richard Trumka being a recent example.

BAIER: Juan, you're shaking your head. What about that?

JUAN WILLIAMS, FOX NEWS ANALYST: I think that's a rationalization by Steve. I think that is reprehensible. I don'' think you should be booing gay soldiers or any soldiers.

HAYES: Wait. I didn't say that and I didn't suggest that. I said I would like to have seen them condemn that, the fact that even though it was only two people. But you really start a bad precedent if you think everybody should respond to boorish behavior of a couple of people.

BAIER: Here is what Rush Limbaugh has said in the blogosphere and radio show today, is that then-Senator Obama didn't respond to Reverend Wright for 20 years in that church. That's what he said. Then he said he didn't respond to James Hoffa after he spoke intro-ing him at that event.