ABC Spins Elizabeth Edwards as 'Passionate Voice' for Change

During an interview with Elizabeth Edwards, "Good Morning America" co-host Robin Roberts spun the wife of the former Democratic presidential candidate as a non-partisan advocate for change on the issue of health care. She lauded her fellow cancer survivor as a "passionate voice in the debate" over the subject.

Roberts also nonchalantly explained that a new chapter in Edwards's life includes "working at the Center for American Progress [CAP]." Of course, the GMA host didn't bother explaining that CAP is a left-wing organization founded by Clinton operative John Podesta. Instead, Roberts described Edwards's advocacy for a major government take-over of the health care industry in personal and emotional terms. The ABC journalist extolled, "The idea that's become Edwards's passion: Health care reform, inspired by her own cancer and Americans she met during the campaign." Would Roberts ever characterize a pro-lifer's advocacy in terms that divorce the issue from its political context?

The GMA host did engage Edwards on the politics of health care, but only to the extent of which Democrat, Senator Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, had the better plan. More often, she simply allowed Edwards to frame the issue in a way that makes those who don't favor government control of health care to be heartless:

ELIZABETH EDWARDS: I was in Cleveland speaking at the City Club and this woman leaned over to me and said, "I'm really afraid, because I have a lump in my breast, but I can't, I can't go to the doctor." She said, "I can't go because I don't have health insurance." If it's breast cancer, and the chances if it's a lump, that she's got a pretty good chance she has got breast cancer, and she doesn't treat it, she will die...That woman who whispered in my ear will die because we don't have a system that provides for a working mother...

Again, it's unlikely that a conservative would be able to get away with suggesting that failure to adopt a certain political strategy will end up killing more people. Roberts, however, rhapsodized, "But for Elizabeth Edwards, the path seems clear, championing the causes close to her heart and teaching lessons to her children through her own brave battle." At one point, the ABC journalist even gushed, "Because you have such a strong voice, you can see why the candidates are coming to you and your husband" for an endorsement.

"Good Morning America" has a history of fawning over the Edwards family. Over a nine day stretch during the summer of 2007, GMA featured two stories about the wedding anniversary of John and Elizabeth and their much lauded "ritual anniversary Wendy's burger."

A transcript of the segment, which aired at 8:06am on April 9, follows:

ROBIN ROBERTS: Now to the re-emergence of Elizabeth Edwards. It has been three months since her husband John Edwards dropped out of the presidential race. And now she is embarking on a new phase in her life, as a passionate voice in the debate over health care. Mrs. Edwards is visiting Harvard University in Boston this week and I had a chance to talk to her about the issue and her own personal health struggle as she continues to courageously fight breast cancer.

ELIZABETH EDWARDS: I'm doing great. You know, I still have cancer in my bones. I get tested periodically. But it seems to be under control.

ROBERTS: Has it helped being off the campaign trail?

EDWARDS: It's really, pretty much the same. And, honestly, home with two children, which one is easier? I think one of the good things about being out is people would see me, just like when they see you. And you're functioning and your full of life and you're enjoying things. And people have to give a different picture to what it's like to be living with cancer.

ROBERTS: You really have changed the face of cancer. I know you have for me. And I took a page from you. I didn't-- I wanted to work.

EDWARDS: Right.

ROBERTS: I felt like I could work. So, why not? But you understand how people, they feel that, oh, my goodness, you have cancer. You need to go home and just eat bonbons and be in a corner somewhere.

EDWARDS: Right. Right. And wait for what? You know, I mean, waiting to be better? I'm not going to get better. So, I'm just going to wait to die then? So, that's not an alternative. You know, I'm going to-- I want to spend the remainder of my days living, whatever description that is.

ROBERTS: For Edwards, that includes a new chapter working at the Center for American Progress and at Harvard where she has begun a fellowship. And that's where we met up with her. The college students that you're coming into contact with, are they talking to you about the election?

EDWARDS: They're very engaged, which is great. You know, a lot of them will probe, you know, who are you for? Who are you for? And, you know, I'm for ideas that succeed and less for, you know, a particular individual. I want to see the policies that we've talked about now for so many years come to fruition. John won't be the one who makes that happen. So, if I keep talking about it maybe one of the other candidates will embrace some of these ideas.

ROBERTS: The idea that's become Edwards' passion: Health care reform, inspired by her own cancer and Americans she met during the campaign.

EDWARDS: I was in Cleveland speaking at the city club and this woman leaned over to me and said, "I'm really afraid, because I have a lump in my breast, but I can't, I can't go to the doctor." She said, "I can't go because I don't have health insurance." If it's breast cancer, and the chances if it's a lump, that she's got a pretty good chance she has got breast cancer, and she doesn't treat it, she will die. This isn't, you know, something that's theoretical. That woman who whispered in my ear will die because we don't have a system that provides for a working mother, the ability to obtain health insurance at a cost that we can afford. And now, it's finally time to fix the problem. I hope that I'm passing a message on from that woman to the people who seek to lead us.

ROBERTS: You've seen Senator Clinton's health care plan. You have seen Senator Obama's health care plan. Which of the two plans speaks more to what you think we really need to solve the problem?

EDWARDS: I do think that in order to assure that we have universal coverage, we need to say everybody has to join. So, for that reason, the mandates that Senator Clinton is talking about, I think are going to be, actually, more successful in achieving the goal. I think they both have the same goals. I just have more confidence in Senator Clinton's policies than Senator Obama's on this particular issue.

ROBERTS: Because you have such a strong voice, you can see why the candidates are coming to you and your husband and saying, in essence, endorse me, endorse me. He has said he will not run for vice president.

EDWARDS: Right.

ROBERTS: Is that nonnegotiable or--

EDWARDS: I can't imagine -- he didn't speak to me, about it, but we've talked about whether that would be something he would be interested in. And he, you know, I think people on the outside will try to guess. What did you want in exchange for your endorsement? Which, I want to make it perfectly clear: That he's not in this for any position in the future.

ROBERTS: Have they both come to you and trying to get your endorsement, your husband's endorsement?

EDWARDS: Both candidates have called John and wanted to talk to him. And we continued to talk to them about what's going on. But we think our -- what we have to offer is not so much an endorsement as a perspective on what we found as we crossed the country on what people think are important issues. And the solutions that seemed most realistic.

ROBERTS: What was it like having your husband back? I mean, after he was on the road 24/7 and then he's back. He didn't grow a beard like Al Gore.

EDWARDS: No, or Bill Richardson. No. No.

ROBERTS: He didn't do that.

EDWARDS: He does a lot of pacing. You know, he has a lot of energy. And he was very concerned at first making certain that I knew what I was going to do. Which was very sweet of him, and not unexpectedly, but very sweet. And after he thought, you know, now she's settled, now I'm going to start thinking about myself. But you could see, you know, the anxiety. What am I-- I need my next project. I need my next goal. You could see that burning in him.

ROBERTS: But for Elizabeth Edwards, the path seems clear, championing the causes close to her heart and teaching lessons to her children through her own brave battle.

EDWARDS: They have to know how to fly by themselves. They have to know what to do when the wind blows them off course. And that's what happened to me. The wind has blown me off course but I'm kind of thinking this might be it, that in bad times you still keep your eye on what it was that was important to you. And you press forward with that. And if that's all I give them, then I will have done a really great job.

ROBERTS: When the wind blows you off course. She said as a parent sometimes you worry about taking your child to use a right fork but just seeing how she's handling this crisis in her life is teaching them far more valuable lessons.

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