Dick Morris: Stephanopoulos Used Same Tactics Against Romney as Clinton White House Did Its Opponents
Former Clinton adviser Dick Morris took his allegation that ABC's George Stephanopoulos is a "paid Democratic hitman" further on Wednesday saying that the tactics he used on Mitt Romney during the January 7 Republican presidential debate were similar to how the Clinton White House got the media to do its bidding against its opponents.
Speaking with Fox News's Bill O'Reilly, Morris said, "I wonder why ABC has Stephanopoulos on the payroll, and I think making points for the Democratic Party might be part of why" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
BILL O'REILLY, HOST: Joining us now from Stanford, Connecticut, the purveyor of DickMorris.com, Mr. Morris. Now before we get to Romney's problems, you really let George Stephanopoulos at ABC News have it the other day on "Hannity".
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DICK MORRIS, FOX NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: You remember that ABC debate with that paid Democratic hit man George Stephanopoulos went after Romney trying to --
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: Old friend of yours, Dick.
MORRIS: -- trying to pin him down on -- on contraception?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'REILLY: Paid Democratic hit man.
MORRIS: Yes, you got it.
O'REILLY: Come on, Morris, I mean, if I was Stephanopoulos, I would slap you with the biggest lawsuit in the world. The guy works for ABC News, he does "Good Morning America". And you're accusing him of being on the pad for the Democratic Party. Back it up.
MORRIS: Yes. Well, it began. I began to connect the dots when right after Santorum won or did well in the Iowa caucuses. All of a sudden the big issue was would he permit states to ban contraception. And I'm thinking contraception who is talking about that as a political issue? Then I see George in the ABC debate ask Romney four times -- the audience was hooting, they were booing, they were laughing at him -- whether a state can ban birth control.
And Romney said George, nobody is talking about that and he said no, but I want to know if you think they can. Do you think they can? And then Obama comes in with this birth control regulation. And I think that this is all of a piece to set up contraception as the new social issue replacing abortion to separate the left and right.
MORRIS: And I was trying to figure out why Stephanopoulos was pushing like that. And I think he had been contracted by the Democrats to lay a hit on Romney.
O'REILLY: But here's what --
MORRIS: By getting Romney to admit that he -- to say that he favored banning contraception.
O'REILLY: Here is where you fall off the cliff. Your explanation is logical, all right? Certainly George Stephanopoulos is obsessed with contraception. Obsessed. And we don't know why. But he is. You're right. He asked the question. He brought it up and up and up. Ok. Fine.
And then, by coincidence, maybe, maybe by happenstance, maybe by plan, this big Catholic Church comes out. But you can't say he is on the take, he is in their pocket. You can say gee, it's an eerie coincidence and gee, he was a Democratic guy under Clinton and maybe he is getting stuff. You can't say he is in their pocket taking money from them or whatever. Come on.
MORRIS: Bill you -- Bill, you neglect to realize that he -- that I worked with him and in fact for a year he basically worked for me.
MORRIS: And we were constantly doing that. We were constantly -- somebody, Dole was going to be interviewed and we'd get with a reporter, Sydney Blumenthal was especially good at this. We would call Sydney and we would say ask Dole this and this and this. And Sydney would do it. We would film it and we would have a negative ad.
And George was doing the same thing except he is doing it as an anchor for ABC not as a -- in a debate not as a political operative when he was with me in the White House.
O'REILLY: This is not fair. You have -- you have enough knowledge about George Stephanopoulos and have put together at least a debatable theory on the contraception where it's absolutely legitimate. But you take it too far. You say now he's on the pad of the Democratic Party.
O'REILLY: You can't prove it and it's not fair to him.
MORRIS: Well, I said, I said a paid hit man.
O'REILLY: Paid. Paid. That's money. You can't say that.
MORRIS: Yes, ABC, ABC is paying him.
O'REILLY: On, no, no, no, no.
MORRIS: If they don't -- now, now if they don't reprimand him after that incredibly partially partisan performance aimed at developing material for a negative ad. And in fact, they promote him and they praise him, then I wonder why ABC has Stephanopoulos on the payroll. And I think making points for the Democratic Party might be part of why.
O'REILLY: Those are -- and if I go back on "Good Morning America" any time soon, I'll ask Stephanopoulos. But I don't think it's fair.
MORRIS: But George will never have me on "Good Morning America".
O'REILLY: Well I wouldn't -- if I were him I wouldn't either you just accused him of being -- of taking money. I know he didn't take money, I know he didn't, and you shouldn't have done it.
MORRIS: Yes, he didn't get a paper envelope.
O'REILLY: But that's what you said, paid is paid.
MORRIS: No, no, I said, paid, he's paid by ABC.
O'REILLY: That's different.
MORRIS: And ABC encourages him to do this kind of stuff.
O'REILLY: All right, all right.
Just so that people understand the timing here, according to LexisNexis, there were hundreds of news reports involving Rick Santorum and his supposed views about contraception in the week prior to January 3's Iowa caucuses.
As NewsBusters reported, substitute co-host Savannah Guthrie asked Santorum about this on the Today show December 29:
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Yeah, but, Senator, you yourself have said you will not make these social issues backburner issues. You want them to be front and center. Your views on abortion are well known. You make no exception for abortion in the case of rape or incest. Other Republican candidates have now adopted that view. But somewhat lesser known are your views on contraception. You have said it is not okay, that it's dangerous, and you've said you're the only presidential candidate willing to talk about your views against contraception. For voters not familiar with you, what are they?
This was roughly three weeks before the White House released its January 20 edict concerning contraception.
Nine days later, on January 7, Stephanopoulos grilled Romney about this issue thirteen days before the edict's release really setting ablaze a media firestorm.
Exactly why were so many members of the press suddenly pressing Republican presidential candidates about this matter weeks before the Department of Health and Human Services released its contraception ruling?
Was this orchestrated as Morris said by the White House in order to develop a narrative prior to the release of this edict, or were all these questions about a largely irrelevant issue in the campaign up to that point mere coincidence?
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