While ABC Makes Excuses, Other Networks Skeptical Over Obama's Remarks On VA Scandal

It seems even the president’s most steadfast supporters in the liberal media are unsure how to react to Mr. Obama’s May 21 remarks on the Department of Veterans Affairs secret waiting-list scandal. The three major liberal news networks, ABC, NBC, and CBS, interrupted their normal programming to broadcast Obama’s first remarks on the VA controversy since the story broke almost a month ago.

ABC’s George Stephanopoulos – a former Clinton White House operative – attempted to spin the speech in a more positive light as Obama’s “most forceful sayings [sic] yet,” when, in reality, it was the president’s first and only statement on the four week old scandal. The anchors of NBC and CBS were less impressed. [See video below. Click here for audio]

NBC’s Matt Lauer ended coverage by saying, “I think a lot of people are going to have questions about his comments on Secretary Eric Shinseki,” while CBS’s Chief White House Correspondent Major Garrett introduced the segment by commenting:  

The president has not talked about this issue for the better part of three weeks. And there has, I must tell you, been a kind frantic improvisational quality of the White House dealing with this today. They added this to the president’s schedule very first this morning.

Norah O’Donnell ended CBS’s segment by wondering, “Where’s the president on this issue? Because it’s been a few days.” Despite Stephanopoulos’s attempt to portray the president in a positive light, it seems like Obama’s waffling has forced even his media counterparts to question his effectiveness as a leader, however mildly and as focused on process, rather than competence, that it is.

05/21/2014
ABC News Special Report
11:19 AM
25 seconds
  
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: President Obama with his most forceful sayings yet on the growing controversy at the V.A. Health centers. He says the allegations of misconduct are dishonorable, disgraceful, will not to be tolerated. He also, however, did deny any link between these waiting lists and the allegations especially at the V.A. facility in Arizona and any deaths. A whistle blower had alleged that up to 40 deaths had been linked to these waiting lists. The president denying any link today.
                  
5/21/2014
NBC News Special Report
11:19 AM
42 seconds

MATT LAUER: President Obama speaking at the White House briefing room on the growing scandal within the veterans administration and hospitals, some 26 now being investigated across the country. Saying some of the most searing memories of his presidency have been visiting with wounded members of our military at Walter Reed Army Hospital and saying anyone who has manipulated books at veterans affairs facilities will be held accountable and will be punished. I think a lot of people are going to have questions about his comments on Secretary Eric Shinseki. At one point praising him for the work he’s done on behalf of veterans but seemingly leaving the door open and waiting for more information as a result of this investigation as to what happens with Secretary Shinseki in the future.
 
05/21/2014
CBS News Special Report
10:57 AM
49 seconds

MAJOR GARRETT: Well the first thing we expect to hear about from the president is no announcement of Eric Shinseki having to resign, or being fired, or in any way being held immediately accountable for the problems that have arisen under his watch throughout the V.A. health system itself. The president is not going to call for Shinseki to step down but he will outline what he expects from Shinseki plus others, including his deputy chief of staff Rob Nabors, looking into the vast array of reports started most recently at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Facility. But there have been reports elsewhere about wait lists, phoney wait lists, deceiving the public about how long veterans had to wait for healthcare. And in some instances veterans dying waiting for the very health care to be administered. The president has not talked about this issue for the better part of three weeks. And there has, I must tell you, been a kind of frantic improvisational quality to the White House dealing with this today. They added this to the president's schedule very first this morning.

11:19 AM
34 seconds

CHARLIE ROSE: President Obama at the White House speaking to the growing concern about health are for veterans. The president says it is intolerable and he wants answers and he wants timely answers.

NORAH O’DONNELL: That's right. The president saying we have to uphold the sacred trust to our veterans for those who fought on the battlefield, they should not have to fight a bureaucracy, he
said. And I think he showed that -- sort of echoing some of the anger out there. Where's the president on this issue? Because it's been a few days. And him saying he was going to have a full report by next week and he will not tolerate any delays in treatment for our veterans.

ROSE:  And speaks to the specific allegations as well as the growing mission of the veterans.

O’DONNELL: Indeed.

              

Laura Flint
Laura Flint is a 2014 summer intern for the MRC's News Analysis Division.