ABC’s Stephanopoulos Attacks Thompson Again: Campaign Must Be Perfect

For the third time in less than a week, ABC anchor and former Clinton aide George Stephanopoulos appeared on "Good Morning America" to dourly assess Republican Fred Thompson’s 2008 chances. On the Thursday edition of GMA, the host of "This Week" attempted to set an impossible bar for the former senator. "...He can't make a mistake," Stephanopoulos breathlessly claimed.

Earlier in the segment, the ABC host negatively spun Thompson’s standings in the polls. Some might compliment the performance of a candidate who, upon entering the 2008 race, is only narrowly trailing the front-runner. Not Stephanopoulos. After claiming that many thought the former actor would surge into first place early in the summer, he critiqued, "That hasn't happened. Most of the latest polls show that he's in second place behind Rudy Giuliani....He hasn't quite rocketed out the way he expected."

Despite Stephanopoulos’s inference that Thompson has entered the race too late, it should be noted that his former boss, Bill Clinton, didn’t announce for the 1992 Democratic nomination until the previous October.

Stephanopoulos’s comments on Thursday are only a part of his week long attack on Thompson. On Tuesday, he claimed the candidate "frittered away some excitement" this summer and only has "about a week" to show his strength. Last Friday, he derided the ex-senator’s speeches as "flat" and prognosticated that Thompson would never "catch up on organization."

A transcript of the September 6 segment, which aired at 7:12am, follows:

Robin Roberts: "Now to the latest on the race to ‘08. After months of speculation, hints and, well, downright teasing, it's finally official. There is a new Republican contender in the race. Former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson made the announcement on ‘The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.’"

Fred Thompson: "I’m running for president of the United States."

Jay Leno: "All right! There you have it!"

Thompson: "Thank you. I don't think people are going to say, you know, that guy would make a very good president but he just didn't get in soon enough. It's a lot more difficult to get on ‘The Tonight Show’ than it is to get into a presidential race."

Leno: "Exactly! Exactly!"

Roberts: "Well, joining us now from Washington with the bottom line, ABC's chief Washington correspondent and the host, of course, of ‘This Week,’ George Stephanopoulos. Okay, bottom line here. He's in the race. What does this mean for the rest of the field, George?"

George Stephanopoulos: "Well, earlier this summer, when he was talking about it, it looked like he was going to rock up [sic] to the top of the field like a bullet. That hasn't happened. Most of the latest polls show that he's in second place behind Rudy Giuliani, ahead of Mitt Romney, John McCain. That's what most of the polls have shown over the summer. He hasn't quite rocketed out the way he expected. And all of the other candidates last night were at that Republican debate in New Hampshire and they took the opportunity to poke some fun at Fred Thompson. Mike Huckabee said he was so much happier to be in New Hampshire than Hollywood. And then all the others piled on with a smile."

Senator John McCain (R-AZ): "That's a decision that Fred should make. Maybe we're up past his bedtime. But the point is–"

Mitt Romney: "The only question I have for Senator Thompson is why the hurry? Why not take some more time off?"

Rudy Giuliani: "I like Fred a lot. I think Fred is a really, really good man. I think he's done a pretty good job of playing my part on ‘Law and Order.’"

Stephanopoulos: "George, I think you said it right about them piling on last night. But now that he is in the race and there's been a lot of talk about, oh, he's waited too long because the others have been in for eight months, okay, that being said, what does he have to do, Thompson, right now?"

Stephanopoulos: "Well, number one, take advantage of this media attention he's going to get over the next several days. He's going to be in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina. And he can't make a mistake. Number two, he's got to do better at raising money. He didn't raise as much money as he'd hope over the summer. He’s going to have to fill up his coffers right now. Number three and maybe most important, he's going to have to build real ground organizations in those three key early states, Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina."

Roberts: "Yeah, that's key. So, while he was on ‘The Tonight Show last night, the rest of the field, of course, had the debate. And it seemed, again, George, Rudy Giuliani, again, was the, was the focus of attention."

Stephanopoulos: "He's the front-runner and they get that. The front-runners always draw the fire. He drew some fire from Mitt Romney on the issue of immigration and whether he allowed New York City to become what is so-called a sanctuary city for illegal immigrants. He fought that back. He also faced inevitably these questions about his personal life and I think what you saw last night is a formula that Mayor Giuliani is going to try and stick with throughout the rest of the campaign. Take a look."

Giuliani: "I certainly haven't lived a perfect life. I'm not running as the perfect candidate for president of the United States. I'm running as a human being who has been very successful as a leader and had definable results in a situation in which people thought it was impossible to accomplish these things."

Stephanopoulos: "That was a formula, Robin, that did work for President Clinton in the late stages of his presidency. Rudy Giuliani thinks it will work for him as well."

Roberts: "I know. He’s counting on that. George, thanks for giving us the bottom line. And you were talking about the national attention for Thompson. Tomorrow morning, the former senator and now presidential candidate, Fred Thompson, will join us live for his first network news interview. "

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