ABC Puzzles Over 'Obsession' With Flag Pins; Notes Nixon Wore One

On Friday's "Good Morning America," ABC reporter David Wright narrated a sympathetic look at Barack Obama's decision not to wear an American flag lapel pin and asserted that this country's "obsession with flag pins is relatively new." To further defend the Democratic presidential candidate, Wright pointedly noted that liberal bogeyman Richard Nixon wore such a pin. He observed, "Ike didn't wear one. JFK either. Nixon did wear the flag as he told the American people he had nothing to do with Watergate."

Of course, Wright himself was not wearing a pin with the U.S. flag on it. As the MRC has previously noted, ABC President David Westin banned on-air talent from having such pins adorn their lapels. In 2003, he deemed it the "patriotic duty" of reporters not to display the flag. At a journalist conference, he elaborated that "after 9/11, the question came up and we, as a matter of policy at ABC News, tell our people on the air, you shall not wear an American flag or any other symbol on the air."

In a brief follow-up piece, "This Week" host George Stephanopoulos criticized Barack Obama for his explanation surrounding the controversy. He derided the Illinois senator's claim that the pins are a "substitute for... true patriotism," calling that a "mistake." Stephanopoulos asserted, "The problem for him is, in that first answer, he seemed to slam people who did wear the pin as we were moving towards war in Iraq and he was suggesting this was a protest on his part and that was a mistake for Barack Obama."

The ABC anchor predicted the gaffe could "limit his gains further on down the road." Of course, viewers should probably attribute the harshness of Stephanopoulos's statements not to objectivity, but to a continuing loyalty to the Clintons. Just last week, the network host touted talking points e-mails he received from the Hillary Clinton camp during the midst of a debate. On Sunday, the MRC's Brent Baker covered the sycophantic interview Stephanopoulos gave his old boss, Bill Clinton. He cheerfully asked if Clinton would be "okay" with being known as the "the philanthropist who happened to be President."

A transcript of the segment, which aired at 7:05am on October 5, follows:

ABC Graphic: "Politics of the Pin: Why Won't Obama Wear Flag?"

Chris Cuomo: "And let's take a look at the race to '08 and why presidential contender Barack Obama won't wear an American flag lapel pin. His answer? Obama told an ABC affiliate that they've become a substitute for true patriotism and that's why he declined to wear one. But the story will not end there. David Wright has more."

David Wright: "After 9/11, the red white and blue lapel pin became the fashion accessory of choice for politicians, but not all of them."

Unidentified reporter: "You don't have the American flag pin on. Is this a fashion statement?"

Wright: "This week, a reporter for ABC's Cedar Rapids affiliate was the first to notice."

Senator Barack Obama (D-ILL): "You know, the truth is that right after 9/11, I had a pin."

Wright: "But Obama said he eventually decided to stop wearing the pin."

Obama: "That became a substitute for, I think, true patriotism which is speaking out on issues that are of importance to our national security. I decide I won't wear that pin on my chest."

Wright: "The comments kicked up a hornet's nest."

Sean Hannity [from radio show]: "Why do we wear pins? Because our country was under attack."

Wright: "The obsession with flag pins is relatively new. Ike didn't wear one. JFK either. Nixon did wear the flag-"

Richard Nixon: "Well, I'm not a crook."

Wright: "-as he told the American people he had nothing to do with Watergate. Turns out, Senator Obama is in pretty good company in this campaign. Most of the other candidates for president this year don't wear the flag pin. John Edwards also wears his late son's outward bound pin. Hillary Clinton often goes pinless out on the campaign trail."

Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY): "I think there are so many ways Americans can show their patriotism."

Wright: "Of all the candidates this year, only Rudolph Giuliani is rarely seen without his flag pin."

Obama: "I'm less concerned with not what you wear on the lapel, but what's in your heart."

Wright: "A fashion statement that could provoke plenty of debate. For 'Good Morning America,' David Wright, ABC News, Washington."

Cuomo: "Now joining us live with the bottom line is ABC's chief Washington correspondent George Stephanopoulos. George, thank you for joining us this morning as always. Tricky politics here for Barack Obama. When you're playing with the American symbol, the flag. How does this go for him?"

George Stephanopoulos: "Well, listen, the problem is not the fact that he's not wearing a flag pin As David Wright pointed out, a lot of candidates aren't wearing the pin. The problem for him is, in that first answer, he seemed to slam people who did wear the pin as we were moving towards war in Iraq and he was suggesting this was a protest on his part and that was a mistake for Barack Obama. He fixed it yesterday. I don't think this is going to be a huge problem for him going forward. In fact, it probably appeals to some in the Democratic base who are very much anti-war, but it could limit his gains further on down the road."

Cuomo: "All right, let's take a look at the other side of the aisle now. Senator Larry Craig has said he's going to serve out his term even though the judge refused to vacate his guilty plea. What do you think the Republican Party will have to do about him now?"

Stephanopoulos: "Well, there's not much they can do and that's the problem, uh, Chris, right now. His Republican Senate colleagues are just livid about this. You saw the head of the Republican campaign committee, John Ensign, and several others came out yesterday and say they wish he would stick by his original decision and just retire, just resign from the Senate, but Craig is determined to stay right now and there's not much Republicans in the Senate can do. They could vote to expel him, although that's a hard row to hoe. They could threaten him with public hearings in the Ethics Committee, but then it just has a huge public spectacle that will reflect badly on all of Congress."

Cuomo: "You think it hurts them in trying to control Congress next election around?"

Stephanopoulos: "It certainly doesn't help. And we all remember last year, Chris. The Republicans were tarnished by the Mark Foley scandal in the Congress and other ethical questions. But, bottom line here, I think there's a very decent shot Larry Craig can finish out his term."

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