Only ABC Considers Obama's Hypocrisy on Johnson Worth Full Story

Of the three broadcast network evening newscasts on Wednesday, only ABC's World News judged Jim Johnson's resignation from the Obama campaign as worth a full story. CBS and NBC limited coverage to brief items that failed to inform viewers of how Obama was caught in hypocrisy. ABC's Jake Tapper, however, explained the reason for the “big headache for Barack Obama,” that “the head of his vice presidential search committee, Jim Johnson, resigned amidst criticisms that Johnson personified the very special interests and Washington insiders whom Obama campaigns against.”

Tapper played a clip of Obama's “lofty” rhetoric from February: “The stakes are too high and the challenges are too great to play the same old Washington games with the same old Washington players.” Tapper reported Obama picked Johnson while “not knowing of Johnson's ties to Countrywide Financial, a mortgage lender Obama had rallied against on the campaign trail.” Viewers then heard from Obama earlier in the campaign: “Countrywide Financial was one of the folks, one of the institutions that was pumping up the sub-prime lending market.”

Tapper outlined Johnson's insider deal: “Johnson got up to $7 million in special loans for mortgages, some below market averages, through a program for friends of Countrywide CEO, Angelo Mozilo, whom Obama has also criticized.” And Tapper had an Obama soundbite: “They get a $19 million bonus while people are at risk of losing their home. What's wrong with this picture?”

None of the newscasts highlighted Johnson on any previous night.

Wednesday's CBS Evening News limited coverage to this short item read by Katie Couric:
The man heading Barack Obama's vice presidential search stepped down today. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Jim Johnson received questionable personal loans from Countrywide Financial, a lender involved in the sub-prime mortgage crisis. Johnson says he did not want to become a distraction.
On the NBC Nightly News, Andrea Mitchell squeezed in a mention during a story on a new presidential preference poll:
In a setback for Obama today, the leader of his vice presidential search committee, Jim Johnson, stepped down, after criticism of personal mortgage loans and his work on corporate boards. The resignation was done hastily only hours after the campaign had vigorously defended him.
Mitchell's story was centered on a NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll that found Obama weak with white men and suburban women. Mitchell offered a sure-fire solution to ensure victory:
Our poll suggests Obama could win them over by putting Hillary Clinton on the ticket. With Clinton, Obama would easily defeat a hypothetical ticket of McCain and Mitt Romney [51-42%]. What is McCain's biggest draw back? According to the poll: George W. Bush....
The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video to provide this transcript of Tapper's story on the Wednesday, June 11 ABC's World News:
CHARLES GIBSON: Well, next, we're going to turn to presidential politics. Choosing a running mate is perhaps the most important issue facing Barack Obama between now and the Democratic convention in August. Today, the man Obama picked to lead his search resigned after questions were raised about his personal associations and finances. Our senior political correspondent, Jake Tapper, is in Washington tonight. Jake, good evening.

JAKE TAPPER: Good evening, Charlie. A big headache for Barack Obama. The head of his vice presidential search committee, Jim Johnson, resigned amidst criticisms that Johnson personified the very special interests and Washington insiders whom Obama campaigns against. The rhetoric is lofty.

BARACK OBAMA, FEBRUARY 7: The stakes are too high and the challenges are too great to play the same old Washington games with the same old Washington players.

TAPPER: But Barack Obama tapped consummate Washington player, Jim Johnson, the former CEO of mortgage giant Fannie Mae, to lead his vice presidential search -- not knowing of Johnson's ties to Countrywide Financial, a mortgage lender Obama had rallied against on the campaign trail.

OBAMA: Countrywide Financial was one of the folks, one of the institutions that was pumping up the subprime lending market.

TAPPER: Johnson got up to $7 million in special loans for mortgages, some below market averages, through a program for friends of Countrywide CEO, Angelo Mozilo, whom Obama has also criticized.

OBAMA: They get a $19 million bonus while people are at risk of losing their home. What's wrong with this picture?

TAPPER: Obama's campaign had criticized Hillary Clinton because her chief strategist had worked for Countrywide. But just yesterday, Obama said Johnson's association with the company was irrelevant.

OBAMA: There's a game that can be played. Everybody, you know, who is tangentially related to our campaign, I think, is going to have a whole host of relationships. I would have to hire the vetter to vet the vetters.

TAPPER: Republicans said Obama was being hypocritical. And good government groups criticized him, as well.

BOB EDGAR, COMMON CAUSE: He's got to learn that every decision he makes, he's got to do what he was mocking yesterday, and that is, he's got to vet the vetters.

TAPPER: This afternoon, Obama immediately accepted Johnson's resignation.

NORMAN ORNSTEIN, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: You've got to be careful as a candidate when you decide that you are going to throw thunderbolts at the normal ways of doing business in Washington or lobbyists that some of those thunderbolts can boomerang right around and hit you.

TAPPER: John McCain's campaign said the incident raises questions about Obama's judgment. For his part, McCain's vice presidential search is being headed by Arthur Culvahouse, who, despite McCain's rhetoric against lobbyists, is a former lobbyist, like many senior members of McCain's campaign staff. Charlie?

GIBSON: Jake Tapper in Washington, thanks.

GIBSON: One other campaign note. John McCain told an interviewer today he could not predict when the troops in Iraq will come home. "That's not too important," he said. "What's important is the casualties in Iraq." He pointed out that troops have remained in Korea, Japan and Germany, long after those conflicts ended. The Obama campaign said McCain's remarks show he's confused and lacks an understanding about the situation in Iraq.
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