ABC Gives Jerry Brown Platform to Declare Whitman Dangerous, ‘Soul of California is at Stake’

ABC anchor Diane Sawyer greeted Meg Whitman’s victory in California’s Republican gubernatorial primary by putting forward Democrat Jerry Brown as the savior protecting the nation against Whitman becoming Governor. “Jerry Brown told us today, he wants the country to know that he sees this as an epic duel in California between the politics of ideas and the power of money,” Sawyer warned from Los Angeles in setting up an interview with Brown aired on Wednesday’s World News. Sawyer later relayed how Brown “believes the soul of California is at stake.”

Condemning Whitman’s spending on ads, Brown charged “it's almost like a ministry of information in a totalitarian country,” before he offered up pablum, unchallenged by Sawyer, about how he’ll solve the Golden State’s $20 billion shortfall by telling “legislators you have to get did of your cars, get rid of your perks.”

Sawyer fondly recalled: “For 40 years we watched him – the son of a political family who studied to be a Jesuit priest, then turned Buddhist seeker. When he became governor, he lived in one room, bed on the floor, and rode around in his own Plymouth.” Now, “he says it's a singular time for a man who believes the soul of California is at stake. He remembers studying Buddhism in Japan.” Brown got the last word in ABC’s infomercial for him: “‘Life and death is a serious matter. Time waits for no man. Do your best.’ And that, I think, could be the spirit of this campaign.”

From the Wednesday, June 9 World News, transcript provided by the MRC’s Brad Wilmouth:
DIANE SAWYER: And, as you know, we are here in California, a state reeling from debt, with no easy solution in sight. And come November, former Democratic Governor Jerry Brown has decided to ride into the race for governor again. For the Republicans, as we said, the head of eBay, the former head of eBay, Meg Whitman, who spent $80 million of her own money and has plenty more to spend. She won a decisive primary victory last night. Well, Jerry Brown told us today, he wants the country to know that he sees this as an epic duel in California between the politics of ideas and the power of money.

SAWYER TO BROWN: You say we're talking about a "billionaire's demolition derby"?

FORMER GOVERNOR JERRY BROWN (D-CA), SPEAKING TO CROWD: A billionaire's demolition derby.

BROWN: Well, the ads. I think each day there are 500, 600 commercials throughout the state. It's almost like a ministry of information in a totalitarian country.

SAWYER: Do you really feel that this is changing us fundamentally in some big brother way?

BROWN: No, what I, I didn't mean, it's not big brother, it's that when you can dominate the airwaves, radio and television, and in the mail, just by buying it, not just for a few weeks, but for months on end, that is unprecedented. It's an unprecedented control of the channels of communication in a free society. And, yes, that is different. And it is ominous.

SAWYER: So far Meg Whitman spent about $80 million of her own money. How much money do you have to spend on ads?

BROWN: Well, I have $22 million in the bank, and I'm saving my pennies so hopefully we'll have more by the time we get to September.

SAWYER: 12.6 percent unemployment rate, $20 billion deficit in California. And California, as we know, drives a lot of the national economy.

BROWN: No, we're in trouble, and the country's in trouble.

SAWYER: But she has said specifically she's going to do it, she's going to give tax breaks to corporations and get them in by the boatloads into California to get the jobs back.

BROWN: She also said she's going to cut all the taxes on the rich. That will increase and exacerbate the gap. We got to cut that budget. We have to do it in a way that will bring the legislators on board.

SAWYER: But how can you cut it to $20 billion deficit? Are there enough cuts in the-

BROWN: You have to start. I'm going to start with the governor's office cutting. I'm going to tell those legislators you have to get did of your cars, get rid of your perks.

MEG WHITMAN, CALIFORNIA REPUBLICAN GUBERNATORIAL NOMINEE, SPEAKING TO CROWD: And I'm ready to give Jerry Brown the toughest election fight he's faced in his 40 years of politics!

SAWYER: Meg Whitman has said – in fact, she said last night, "I'm ready to give Jerry Brown the toughest election fight he's faced in his 40 years of politics."

BROWN: Well, I like the compliment that she notices that I have been around for awhile.

SAWYER: For 40 years we watched him – the son of a political family who studied to be a Jesuit priest, then turned Buddhist seeker. When he became governor, he lived in one room, bed on the floor, and rode around in his own Plymouth.

BROWN: I am frugal. I take care of my money very carefully. And I think people can understand, I'll take care of their money the same way.

SAWYER: And it's hard to believe that if he's elected, Jerry Brown will be the oldest governor in the nation, 72. You're up this morning already, you ran a mile?

BROWN: I've already run, yeah, did some chin-ups. I'm trying to, you know, keep in shape here. I've got a very tough competitor.

SAWYER: But he says it's a singular time for a man who believes the soul of California is at stake. He remembers studying Buddhism in Japan.

BROWN: Someone would intone, "Life and death is a serious matter. Time waits for no man. Do your best." And that, I think, could be the spirit of this campaign.

SAWYER: And, as we said, a critical election for California coming up. We asked Meg Whitman, by the way, for an interview today as well. She declined our request. We hope to speak to her soon.
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