CNN anchor Rich Sanchez, as part of his continuing interviews of first-time young voters, featured a Georgia Tech student on Monday’s American Morning who made a liberal statement on race that was nearly identical to one made by George Stephanopoulos over a year ago. Ben Porter, who was identified on-screen as an Obama supporter, stated that "[t]he people that can't accept a black man in the White House aren't the people who will vote for a liberal anyway in general. This is an almost-identical statement to one made by Stephanopoulos on May 13, 2007 on ABC's This Week program: "I guess I think that anyone who's not going to vote for Barack Obama because he is black isn't going to vote for a Democrat anyway."
The panel of Georgia Tech students interviewed by Sanchez all had positive views of Obama, even the one identified McCain supporter and those who were merely identified as "first-time voters" or independents. Pat Swelgin, the lone student identified as a McCain supporter, had a glowing statement about Democratic candidate’s oratory: "Barack Obama is such an eloquent speaker and very powerful, and if you see him live, you'll almost like, you want to be his best friend." On the other hand, Porter wondered about how little has been mentioned of Obama’s time as a community organizer: "You know, we've heard since he became a major national candidate that he was a community organizer in Chicago.... I haven't seen any tangible piece of what that created. You know, what did he organize?... What did he do for a long time?"
Later, Sanchez first hinted at the issue of race in the campaign: "Barack Obama doesn't look like the guy that central casting would send over if you asked them for someone to play a presidential role -- right? Everybody agree?" After a few quick responses in agreement, Swelgin became more overt about the race factor: "And still, you get a lot of older people in the South that will throw out the 'N' word all the time." Sanchez then cut to Porter’s "black man in the White House" statement.
There were actually two Obama supporters on the panel of students, but the other, Amechi Okoh, was only identified as a "first-time voter." She followed Porter’s liberal talking point by playing up the excitement factor over the Democrat: "Barack Obama has earned a lot of the young people's vote. We don't really feel that way as far as McCain.... I'm excited because of Barack Obama..." While Porter was identified by an on-screen graphic as an Obama supporter, it only appeared on-screen for four seconds, and he was identified only seven seconds later as merely a "first-time voter." The same thing happened when McCain supporter Swelgin was first identified on-screen.
Earlier in April 2008, in one of his earlier "League of First-Time Voters" segments, Sanchez asked a series of leading questions to a group of Muslim students. The same month, fellow NewsBuster Warner Todd Huston recounted how Sanchez took a confrontational stance towards conservative Penn State students he interviewed for his series.
The full transcript of Rick Sanchez’s panel discussion with Georgia Tech students, which aired 19 minutes into the 6 am Eastern hour of Monday’s American Morning program:
KIRAN CHETRY: First-time voters could have a major impact on the presidential race. CNN's Rick Sanchez has been following this group in his ongoing series, and this morning he talks to Georgia Tech students who are paying close attention to each of the candidate's strengths and weaknesses.
RICK SANCHEZ: How does Barack Obama get Americans to know him well enough to trust him, as much as they like him?
BEN PORTER, OBAMA SUPPORTER: You know, we've heard since he became a major national candidate that he was a community organizer in Chicago. But I haven't seen any of those people. I haven't seen any tangible piece of what that created. You know, what did he organize? What were the effects of that? What did he do for a long time?
SANCHEZ: That's a great point. Yes. That's a great point. I mean, it's out there and we hear it out, but it's still abstract.
PORTER: We know John McCain's background. He's been all these years in the Senate. He was in the Navy. He was a POW for all these years. We have those stories. But we hear Barack Obama was a community organizer, but we don't see any effect of that.
SANCHEZ: How about John McCain? How does John McCain break out of what he has?
PAT SWELGIN, MCCAIN SUPPORTER: I think he needs to just get -- be better at public speaking. Barack Obama is such an eloquent speaker and very powerful, and if you see him live, you'll almost like, you want to be his best friend.
SANCHEZ: But you don't think he makes as good an impression as Barack Obama?
SANCHEZ: Independents over here -- do you agree with that? Is that a problem for John McCain?
KRISTIE CHAMPLIN, FIRST-TIME VOTER: Definitely
ISIDORA ILUONAKHAMHE, UNDECIDED FIRST-TIME VOTER: Yeah.
SANCHEZ: Barack Obama doesn't look like the guy that central casting would send over if you asked them for someone to play a presidential role -- right? Everybody agree?
PORTER: His portrait is going to look really weird in the National Portrait Gallery.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
ILUONAKHAMHE: White guy, white guy, white guy, hmm?
SWELGIN: And still, you get a lot of older people in the South that will throw out the 'N' word all the time --
SWELGIN: ...Or feel that. The young voters I think don't necessarily care.
PORTER: The people that can't accept a black man in the White House aren't the people who will vote for a liberal anyway in general.
AMECHI OKOH, FIRST-TIME VOTER: Barack Obama has earned a lot of the young people's vote. We don't really feel that way as far as McCain.
SANCHEZ: You're excited because of Barack Obama?
OKOH: I'm excited because of Barack Obama, yes.
ILUONAKHAMHE: I have a poster on my bedroom wall and I have the candidates, and I add things like Michelle Obama's speech and I go on, and at the end of it, the day before, I'm going to decide who I get to vote for.
CHAMPLIN: I think this is a really exciting time, especially for first-time voters, because we've only grown up with Bushes and Clintons. So, you know, Obama represents a huge change. McCain represents an authoritative difference, and I think it's going to be really interesting to see how it turns out.