After Much Obama Boosting, ABC's Moran Finally Quizzes Barack
"Nightline" host Terry Moran appeared on Monday's "Good Morning America" with a segment in which he repeatedly quizzed Senator Barack Obama on the subject of his relationship to indicted political operative Tony Rezko, now facing corruption charges. Moran persistently asked the Democratic presidential candidate if he would release all information relating to the role Rezko played in a house purchase by Obama.
After several evasive answers, Moran scolded, "...You call yourself a reformer? You talk about your judgment?" He then bluntly followed-up by wondering, "And yet, how could you enter into this transaction with a long-term contributor who, at that time, was known to be under investigation for corruption? What does that say about your judgment?" This is quite a change for the anchor, who, in 2006, skipped Rezko and gushed over Obama as "an American political phenomenon" and someone who might be "the savior of the Democratic Party."
During a January 29, 2008 piece for "Nightline," Moran also lauded the Illinois senator as someone who makes "connections" and believes that "divisions are artificial and can be overcome by an act of will and of imagination." And although co-anchor Martin Bashir promised that Moran, who interviewed Obama at a restaurant, would dish out "tough chili and tough questions," the subject of Tony Rezko never came up. (A truncated explanation of the controversy: The owner of a Chicago property also possessed the next door lot and wished to sell both. Rezko's wife bought the adjacent land for full value. The new senator then purchased the other property for $300,000 less than the asking price. This all occurred on the same day.)
For a November 6, 2006 piece, Moran famously provided this hyperbolic description of Obama:
TERRY MORAN: "You can see it in the crowds. The thrill, the hope. How they surge toward him. You're looking at an American political phenomenon. In state after state, in the furious final days of this crucial campaign, Illinois Senator Barack Obama has been the Democrat's not-so-secret get-out-the-vote weapon. He inspires the party faithful and many others, like no one else on the scene today...And the question you can sense on everyone's mind, as they listen so intently to him, is he the one? Is Barack Obama the man, the black man, who could lead the Democrats back to the White House and maybe even unite the country?"
And, even though outlets such as the Chicago Sun Times were already investigation Obama's connection to Rezko, Moran, again, never mentioned it.
In 2008, Moran's tone began to become sharper. For a February 25 report, he even noted that Obama is a liberal who tends to favor raising taxes.
However, during his March 3 appearance on GMA, despite the tough queries, the ABC journalist did occasionally lapse back into rhapsodizing about the senator. According to Moran, the real trouble may not be Rezko, "but sustaining his remarkable run. The crowds, the enthusiasm, the hope." After wondering if Obama will be able to maintain that enthusiasm from his audience, he queried, "Do you see this almost rock star quality in the crowds?"
A transcript of the March 3 segment, which aired at 7:04am, follows:
CHRIS CUOMO: Now, let's move over to Senator Obama. Terry Moran, anchor of "Nightline," has been with Barack Obama on the campaign trail in Ohio and sat down for an exclusive interview with the senator in these final hours before the big primary voting. Good morning, Terry.
TERRY MORAN: Good morning, Chris. Columbus, Ohio, one of the last, perhaps, front lines in this battle between Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. And you spend a little time with the Barack Obama campaign, you can feel this is a candidate and a campaign deeply confident. They think they're on the verge of nailing this thing down and they're increasingly focusing on John McCain. Of course, Hillary Clinton isn't going anywhere yet. And Barack Obama still has a real struggle on his hands. After 11 wins in a row, these are good days for Barack Obama. You having fun?
SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: Of course, I'm having fun.
MORAN: And with polls showing Obama virtually tied with Hillary Clinton in Ohio and Texas, after being down by double digits just two weeks ago, this candidate smells victory. If you win Ohio and Texas on Tuesday, is that it? Is it over? Is it time for Hillary Clinton to get out?
OBAMA: Well, I think that will be up to Senator Clinton. But if we do well in Texas and Ohio, I think the math is such where it's going to be hard for her to win the nomination. And they'll have to make a decision about how much longer they want to pursue it.
MORAN: But Hillary Clinton is still coming after Obama with this ominous ad calling into question his readiness to be president in a crisis.
HILLARY CLINTON CAMPAIGN AD: It's 3:00am and your children are safe and asleep. Who do you want answering the phone?
MORAN: What do you think of that?
OBAMA: Well, I think she's got a little desperate towards, towards the end of this campaign and I think has been a lot more aggressive in her negative attacks. And as I pointed out, we've actually had a pretty significant moment in the last several years that called people judgment into question. And that was the war in Iraq. And she had a lot time to consider it and made the wrong call, just as Senator McCain did.
MORAN: What's the one thing in your life that you think prepares you best for that moment?
OBAMA: I'm not sure it's one thing. I think it is a matter of temperament. You know, one of the things that I've known about myself for a long time, and I think that most people who have gotten to know me come to realize is that in difficult or stressful moments, I don't get rattled. And I don't get rattled during campaigns.
MORAN: The Clinton campaign is also trying to rattle Obama by talking about Tony Rezko, Obama's longtime friend and fund-raiser who goes on trial for corruption this week. Obama bought his house at the same time Rezko's wife bought a piece of the same lot. And that's raised a lot of questions. The Clinton campaign has now called on you to release all of the material, the e-mails, the correspondents, surrounding the purchase of your home on Rezko's purchase of that lot. Will you do it?
OBAMA: Well, look, Terry, this is a story that has been going on for a year and a half. We have seen more than 200 articles written about it. And we in fact released an e-mail just recently from the seller of the home that confirmed that Mr. Rezko had nothing to do with the price that I got for my house. He got into trouble. That was completely unrelated to me. And the trouble that he's in right now is completely unrelated to anything that I have done.
MORAN: Will you release that material?
OBAMA: There isn't much material to release.
MORAN: E-mails, correspondence?
OBAMA: We have provided people with all of the information that's needed to make an assessment.
MORAN: Is that enough?
OBAMA: Terry, we have released all of the information. I don't know what information the Clinton campaign is referring to.
MORAN: I think the bottom-line question for voters on this issue might be, you call yourself a reformer?
MORAN: You talk about your judgment?
MORAN: And yet, how could you enter into this transaction with a long-term contributor who at that time was known to be under investigation for corruption? What does that say about your judgment?
OBAMA: Well, I think, understand, Terry, that this is a transaction that was completely above board. That was a standard real estate transaction. And there's-- I've already said that this was a mistake. And I've never made a claim that I've never made mistakes.
MORAN: Obama's real concern may not be Tony Rezko, but sustaining his remarkable run. The crowds, the enthusiasm, the hope. Enthusiasm is a transitory thing. Is it possible that it could evaporate? Are you concerned about that?
OBAMA: No, no.
MORAN: Do you see this almost rock star quality in the crowds?
OBAMA: This is what people have been saying for months. This is what people said when I first announced. They said, "Oh, you know, it's a flash in the pan. It will fade." I don't have a bunch of romantics here. I mean, there are a whole bunch of people in this crowd who have lost jobs, lost health care. They're not in it out of infatuation. They think this is now we're going to change the country and I think they're right.
MORAN: Confidence, it's never been in short supply on the Obama campaign. One final note, we asked Senator Obama about the portrayal of him on "Saturday Night Live" by Fred Armisen. He said it was fine. He said his wife thinks it shows he needs to smile more, because Armisen's is a very somber Obama. Chris?