ABC Spikes Michelle Obama's Gaffe, Then Declares It Unimportant

ABC's World News, which on Tuesday skipped Michelle Obama's comment that “for the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country,” on Wednesday finally got to it, but only minimally as George Stephanopoulos praised her “good damage control” and declared: “I don't think it's going to be a huge deal.” Hard for it to become “a huge deal” when a broadcast network's most-watched news program doesn't bother to report it. On Wednesday, the World News campaign stories again ignored the remark and the newscast only arrived on the story in anchor Charles Gibson's last question to Stephanopoulos.

Gibson played the comment, then explained: “Now she said today what she was talking about, or meant to say, was that she was proud of how many people are now taking part in the political process. Is this a big deal? Is it a tempest in a teapot?” Stephanopoulos was pleased by her explanation: “Ah, well that was good damage control by Michelle Obama.” He acknowledged “her first comment was a mistake,” but “as long as this isn't repeated, as long as they don't dig the hole deeper -- she did start to dig out today -- I don't think it's going to be a huge deal.”

My February 19 NewsBusters posting, “Burden on Cindy McCain Over Michelle Obama's Lack of Pride in U.S.,” recounted:
Michelle Obama proclaimed that “for the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country,” but instead of putting the burden on the Obama campaign to defend her admission of a lack of pride in her nation, NBC on Tuesday night framed its coverage around Cindy McCain's “rhetoric” in issuing a “political jab” over the remark and concern over whether that “was a knock at Michelle Obama?” But at least NBC highlighted the comment from Monday. ABC's World News didn't utter a word about it while CBS's Jim Axelrod pointed out how the Obama “campaign says don't slice apart the quote to infer she's not a patriot.”
ABC did mention the remark the next morning, on Wednesday's Good Morning America, the MRC's Scott Whitlock informed me. From a story by Jake Tapper:
JAKE TAPPER: Their wives are in a preview of that fight. Fodder was provided by Michelle Obama.

MICHELLE OBAMA: For the first time in my adult lifetime, I'm really proud of my country. And not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change.

TAPPER: That led Cindy McCain to say this.

CINDY McCAIN: I'm proud of my country. I don't know about you, if you heard those words earlier. I'm very proud of my country.

TAPPER: Obama took to his wife's defense in an interview in WOAI radio in San Antonio.

SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: What she meant was, this is the first time that she's been proud of the politics of America.
Wednesday's NBC Nightly News followed-up with Michelle Obama's clarification:
LEE COWAN: Today she was defending herself after a remark she made over the weekend that caused a stir, even among some liberals.

MICHELLE OBAMA, ON MONDAY: For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country.

COWAN: That was not a slam, she says. She explained today her pride was perfectly placed.

MICHELLE OBAMA: I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the possibilities of America. I mean, I talked about it. I mean, my father was a city worker, I went to Princeton and Harvard.
The Gibson-Stephanopoulos exchange on the Wednesday, February 20 World News on ABC, the newscast's first mention of Michelle Obama's lack of pride in her country:
CHARLES GIBSON: One other thing I want to raise: Michelle Obama said something on Monday -- the Clinton campaign trying to jump on every potential mistake that the Obama campaign makes -- Michelle Obama said something on Monday that they are talking a lot about Let’s take a look.

MICHELLE OBAMA, ON MONDAY: For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback.

GIBSON: “For the first time I am proud of my country.” Now she said today what she was talking about, or meant to say, was that she was proud of how many people are now taking part in the political process. Is this a big deal? Is it a tempest in a teapot?

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Ah, well that was good damage control by Michelle Obama. There’s no question that her first comment was a mistake and the campaign knows that. But I think voters give a fair amount of leeway to the spouses of candidates. As long as this isn’t repeated, as long as they don’t dig the hole deeper -- she did start to dig out today -- I don’t think it’s going to be a huge deal.
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center