ABC Reacts to Fred Thompson Entry With Boredom, Sarcasm

On Friday’s "Good Morning America," ABC’s anchors and reporters reacted to Fred Thompson’s entry in the 2008 race with negativity and sarcasm. Co-host George Stephanopoulos asserted that the former senator’s campaign is "never going to catch up on organization." Rattling off Thompson’s problems, the former Clinton aide critiqued, "But he didn't raise as much money as he’d hoped to over the summer. His speeches were a little bit flat. He had a lot of staff shake-ups."

Earlier in the segment, reporter Dan Harris pointedly mentioned the "consternation over the very active role of his wife, Jeri Thompson, a former political consultant 24 years his junior." Both Harris and Stephanopoulos speculated over whether Thompson’s entry into the race is "coming too late."

Additionally, the journalists on GMA treated the former actor’s announcement as a relatively boring, expected event. Harris jokingly asked, "Big surprise, right?" He then went on to deride Thompson’s entry into the 2008 race as "blazingly obvious." Obvious it may be, but so was Hillary Clinton’s entry on January 22 of this year. However, anchor Diane Sawyer found the New York senator’s decision far less boring. She enthused, "We turn now to our interview with Senator Hillary Clinton, who has single handedly kicked this race into overdrive." Sawyer then proceeded to offer "an official welcome to the campaign trail."

It should be noted that during the August 31 piece, Harris did feature one somewhat positive clip from Republican pollster Whit Ayres who asserted that "there's less buzz today than there was in the spring or the summer. Nevertheless, Senator Thompson's campaign has enormous potential."

A transcript of the August 31 segment, which aired at 7:05am, follows:

Elizabeth Vargas: "And now to the race for 2008. The waiting game is over. Former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson has finally-tossed his hat into the ring. He is running for president and ABC’s Dan Harris is here with the story. Dan?"

Dan Harris: "Big surprise, right?"

Vargas: "Big surprise."

Harris: "Good morning to you. Good morning, everyone. Next week, Fred Thompson will be announcing something blazingly obvious, that he is running for president. Here is the question though: Is this move, perhaps, coming too late? After months of, quote-unquote, ‘testing the waters,’ Fred Thompson on Thursday put out this press release in which he announced that he will announce his candidacy next week. It will be done with a video on his website followed by a tour of key early states. Thompson will also appear on ‘The Tonight Show With Jay Leno,’ where he appeared in June at the start of this long flirtation with running."

Jay Leno: "Would you like the job of president of the United States?"

Fred Thompson (2008 presidential candidate): "I have never craved the job of president. But I want to do some things that only a president can do. So the answer is yes."

Harris: "Thompson quickly shot into the top tier of the Republican field, even though he's not officially in the race yet. But has this delay hurt him? He's had some trouble raising money and he's also had to shake-up his staff amid consternation over the very active role of his wife, Jeri Thompson, a former political consultant 24 years his junior. Some people are asking whether Thompson may have missed his window."

Whit Ayres (Republican pollster/strategist): "There's less buzz today than there was in the spring or the summer. Nevertheless, Senator Thompson's campaign has enormous potential."

Harris: "Thompson does have plenty of name recognition after an acting career that featured the TV show ‘Law & Order’ and a stint in the U.S. Senate representing Tennessee. Thompson is hoping attract conservative Republicans who are lukewarm about the current crop of candidates. He is anti-abortion and pro-gun. He’s for lower taxes and tougher immigration laws. And he has stood by the President on Iraq."

Thompson: "This country has shed more blood for the freedom of other people than all the other nations in the history of the world combined and I'm tired of people feeling like they've got to apologize for that."

Harris: "While Thompson does have a strong conservative record, one potential liability could be his history as a lobbyist, including some work for an abortion group. Another big challenge for Thompson, with less than four months until the first votes are cast, he does not have much of an organization on the ground and as you both know, his opponents, many of them well-financed and well organized, do have organization on the ground."

Vargas: "It is actually hard to believe that more than a year away from the election we're wondering if it is too late into the race. But there is a lot of speculation in the last few weeks about whether or not he's raising expectations too high by this dramatic late entry?"

George Stephanopoulos: "And his opponents thought he really wasted the summer. You know, you go back two months ago, and it looked like he was rocketing to be the front-runner. But he didn't raise as much money as he’d hoped to over the summer. His speeches were a little bit flat. He had a lot of staff shakeups. But I talked to a couple of people in his campaign yesterday. They say people in his campaign, they say none of that matters once you’re in. Voters make up their minds in the final days of these primary campaigns. They do know, though, that this launch next week has to be flawless. They know all eyes are going to be on him. He can’t make a mistake."

Vargas: "And, organizationally, they have to have all their ducks in a row at this point."

Stephanopoulos: "But, you know, they're never going to catch up on organization. They're hoping that this different type of campaign, going on Leno, going on the web, is going to make up in excitement what they lack on the ground."

Vargas: "Shades of a bit of McCain four years ago, in the way he ran his campaign."

Stephanopoulos: "Little bit."

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org