ABC's Robin Roberts conducted two fawning interviews with Michelle Obama on Tuesday and repeatedly reminded viewers that the First Lady would be tending to the White House garden as soon as the segment was completed. Roberts breathlessly explained, "I caught up with Michelle Obama for an exclusive interview as she was heading outside to work in the White House garden..."
In a second Good Morning America piece, Roberts reiterated, "Again, I talked to her right before she was about to tend to the White House Garden." After discussing healthy living and childhood obesity, the GMA co-host cheered, "And she was casually dressed because she was literally heading out to the garden there at the White House that she planted with kids from a local elementary school..."
In contrast, when Roberts interviewed Laura Bush on October 22, 2007, she quoted Archbishop Desmond Tutu to the then-First Lady: "Desmond Tutu went even farther, saying the generosity of Americans, that's what we should export instead of our bombs." The co-anchor, who, at the time, was traveling with Mrs. Bush through the Middle East as part of a cancer tour, also talked to women who had survived such an ailment. She awkwardly asked, "Does it help with Mrs. Bush and the United States coming here?...Or is it seen as, 'Okay, the Americans are, again, trying to force something on us?'"
On June 23, Roberts failed to press Michelle Obama, instead offering up softballs on the fitness of the first family. She lauded, "People know how healthy you are. They know how healthy the President is. They see that you all work out...How strong of a message do you think that is? As busy as both of you are, that you make it a priority in your lives?"
Tuesday's Michelle Obama segment could be a preview of ABC's June 24 primetime special on health care, airing live from the White House. However, the actual issue of health care was only lightly discussed between Roberts and the First Lady. And even then, it was whether or not reform could be accomplished: "You know that others have lived at this address. They have tried to take on health care and reform. And they have not been able to be successful. So, what's going to be different now, given that there's still the same challenges as before?"
(Thanks to MRC intern Mike Sargent for transcribing the segment.)
A transcript of the second Roberts interview, airing at 7:30am on June 23, follows:
ROBIN ROBERTS: But first, "GMA's" Prescription For America. More of our exclusive interview with First Lady Michelle Obama. Again, I talked to her right before she was about to tend to the White House Garden. We spoke about the first family's new healthy lifestyle. And she believes the lessons she's learned can help to change the way we view health care. For First Lady Michelle Obama and her family, eating right has been a daily struggle.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: [Obama at a PR event with kids.] So this is rainbow, who had rainbow?
ROBERTS: Until a wake-up call last year during the campaign.
FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: I was doing what most people were doing. I maybe cooked once a week. We were going out to dinner, for takeout, maybe two, three times a week. You know, you’ve got the quick lunch. Desserts. A lot of easy, fast foods that you could just put in a sack and go. And I saw it starting to take a toll on my kids' health. And fortunately, I had a great pediatrician, who raised the red flag and said, you may want to sort of really think through how these kids are eating. So, we, just personally, before, in the process of the campaign, we started eliminating processed foods. We ate out less. We cooked more. We added more fruits and vegetables. We took out sugary foods. And we not only saw a difference in us, ourselves, all the family, physically, but we felt better.
ROBERTS: You're very honest in saying that you had to live through it. But you had to be tapped on the shoulder and say, you know, you're going down the wrong road here. How do you get people who – it's very difficult. It's very expensive. They don't have the time. The same trappings that you fell in. Some of the same trappings. How do you grab them by the shoulders and say, this is something that is so important, you have to do this?
OBAMA: Really, in my household, it wasn’t my kids that were the problem, it was me. It was my eating habits. It was my desire to do things quickly. They were the ones who picked up on these changes and accepted them and embraced them pretty readily. So, we started thinking, why don't we start with kids? Why don't we start talking with young people before these habits are ingrained, about what it means to grow your own food? And what it means to eat something that's grown locally? Because what I found is that kids are very simple. They eat what tastes good. And if a carrot tastes good, they'll eat it.
ROBERTS: Yes, the family enjoys their ice cream and burgers. But Mrs. Obama is quick to point out that moderation is key.
OBAMA: It's really about balance and choices. That's what I'm trying to teach my kids. I love french fries. My favorite food. It's not about never ever. There's some people who make that choice. We're not one of those. I love food. Do you really need to have dessert every night? If you have dessert at lunch, do you really need it at dinner? If you're thirsty, do you really want a sugary drink? What about water? You know, those are the kind of conversations that we have. What I tell my kids they’re eating lunch at school now, is consider having a vegetable with your sandwich. Think about it. Because you're supposed to have a vegetable. And we kind of have this discussion. And many times, they don't have the vegetable. But they're thinking about it.
ROBERTS: What's their favorite vegetable?
OBAMA: Peas and broccoli. I think those are – Sasha likes peas. And Malia's a pretty big broccoli fan.
ROBERTS: People know how healthy you are. They know how healthy the President is. They see that you all work out. They see- I was over at the basketball court, and the tennis court, as well. How strong of a message do you think that is? As busy as both of you are, that you make it a priority in your lives?
OBAMA: I hope it has an effect. The truth is, people are busy. And they're stressed. And they're tired. That, I know. And far be it for me to be a part of adding any more stress to anyone's lives. Because Michelle Obama did it, that means I have to do it. I have a lot of help. I’ve got a mother here. I’ve got resources. You know, I would be remiss in not acknowledging that. But I would also urge people to think about the small things that they can do within their control. I feel more invigorated when I'm following a healthy routine. And if I feel that way, I can only imagine how my kids feel. You know? This is something that we can take on in this country.
ROBERTS: This is something that Michelle Obama is very passionate about. And she was casually dressed because she was literally heading out to the garden there at the White House that she planted with kids from a local elementary school, Bancroft, uh Brankoff, uh Bancroft Elementary school. And they were just, just beaming that day. And they had been to the White House a few times. And they were harvesting it. It was about 1,100 square feet. It cost about $200 to plant. They used a lot of organic materials. You can actually see the garden from, if you're passing by the south lawn. And that is all part of the Obama administration's health initiative, to combat childhood obesity. And a lot of these children go back to their families and they have this discussion with them.
DIANE SAWYER: And making it fun. Making it the exciting thing to do to see something grow, which I always have trouble with. But I – they're doing great.
ROBERTS: Don't have a green thumb, do you?
ROBERTS: Anyway, remember, we're going to hear from President Obama tomorrow, in an exclusive interview right here on "GMA" and Charlie Gibson and I will be moderating a discussion with the President. We're bringing in all people from all walks of life, to ask their questions of the President. Including patients. All of us. All Americans. Questions from America, Wednesday night, at 10:00, 9:00 central.