ABC's Cokie Roberts: U.S. Discriminates Against Catholic Illegals

ABC correspondent Cokie Roberts appeared on Wednesday's "Good Morning America" to tout Pope Benedict's views on illegal immigration and rail against the illegals who are "discriminated" against. Roberts, who rode with President Bush as he drove to meet the Pope and kick off the pontiff's American tour, played up the Pope's supposed opposition to U.S. immigration policy. She asserted, "These, you know, the people who are being discriminated against-- And the Pope has said that he's fearful that there's a xenophobia going on in America."

Continuing to blithely frame the issue as one of bigotry against illegals, Roberts continued, "And the people who are being discriminated against, the President says he doesn't think it's because they're Catholic, but they are Catholic and they're being discriminated against." Earlier in the segment, GMA news anchor Chris Cuomo continued the theme and told viewers, "More frank talk is expected from Il Papa regarding immigration. He thinks the U.S. needs to be more immigration friendly." Of course, Cuomo and Roberts actually left out a key part of the Pope's message on immigration.

As noted by the MRC's Matt Balan, in addition to lamenting the impact that sending illegals home would have on families, the Pope also suggested, "The fundamental solution [would be] that there is no longer any need to immigrate, that there are sufficient opportunities for work and a sufficient social fabric that no one any longer feels the need to immigrate." That is quite a long way from railing about "xenophobia going on in America." And it's certainly not what Pope Benedict said in his April 15 press conference while flying to America.

A transcript of the April 16 segment, which aired at 7:01am on April 16, follows:

DIANE SAWYER: But we are going to begin with the Pope's visit, his first to the United States. And as we said, Chris Cuomo live on the south lawn of the White House with our coverage. Chris, good morning.

CHRIS CUOMO: Good morning, Diane. This is a very big deal. The White House is abuzz. There's a lot of ceremony going on. It's the first Pope visit in ten years. It's the first time the President went to greet someone at Andrews Air Force Base. So, there is a lot of firsts. But this is a big deal for another reason. This is a big deal for this particular pope. Make no mistake, this is no vacation. The Pope came to America to have an audience with the world. He wants to address the U.N. He wants to have the President to himself to discuss important issues. And he wants to address the growing American Catholic flock, 70 million people. So, for all of the ceremony that is surrounding what is going on here today, make no mistake, this Pope is a man on a mission. Pope Benedict XVI arrived at Andrews Air Force Base to a personal presidential greeting. But even before his plane, Shepherd I, touched down, the Pope addressed one of the most sensitive issues in the American Catholic Church, the priest sex abuse scandal, telling reporters on a flight that the shame of the church is deeply felt.

POPE BENEDICT XVI: We are deeply shamed and we will do all that is possible so that this cannot happen in the future, because it's more important to have good priests as to have many priests.

CUOMO: While it was a novel admission for a pontiff, for many abuse victims the words won't heal the wounds.

GARY BERGERON (Victim of abuse): This is the first time in seven years that a Vatican official has said this is wrong. We're ashamed. We're embarrassed. We're going to make sure it doesn't happen again. Are they doing enough? No. They're not nearly doing enough.

CUOMO: Benedict spent last night at the Vatican embassy, where we're told they stocked up on all the Pope's favorites. Tea, orange soda, fish and a wide selection of Bavarian foods. On tap today, Benedict's 81st birthday, a private meeting with President Bush. It's only the second time in history a Pope has visited the White House. More frank talk is expected from Il Papa regarding immigration. He thinks the U.S. needs to be more immigration friendly. And regarding the war in Iraq, Benedict reportedly shouted to Vatican staffers at one recent war briefing, Basta, the Italian word for "enough." But while eager for an end to the war, don't expect the pontiff to get involved in the current presidential election.

FATHER KEITH PECKLERS (ABC News consultant): The Pope has no intention of endorsing any candidates.

CUOMO: Some 30 federal, local and state agencies will protect the Pope as he meets with religious leaders and as he greets with throngs of well-wishers looking to witness history in the making. Now, the theme of this visit is Christ, our hope. There are hopes on both sides. Both with Benedict XVI and the President. We're very lucky to be joined by Cokie Roberts this morning, not just because of reporting excellence, but you got to go in the car with the President to Andrews Air Force Base. You've been with the President many times. A little different in the car, why?

COKIE ROBERTS: He was very excited. He was very excited to be going. He, he says that this pope is the most listened to man in the world. And he wanted to show his respect, not only to the Pope but also to American Catholics. He was very clear on that.

CUOMO: Now, it's interesting, when they get together, we know that the Pope disagrees policy-wise, the Vatican does, on big issues from Cuba to the death penalty to the war. What do you think the Pope wants to talk about? What do you think the President wants to talk about?

ROBERTS: Well, the President is curious to see if he brings up Cuban because his foreign office, the Pope's foreign office, has been critical of the U.S. policy toward Cuba. But he wants to talk to the Pope mainly about interfaith dialogue, particularly with Islam. He's very interested in the historic visit of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia to the Vatican. But he also wants to explain immigration, sort of explain that the Congress did not do the right thing in his mind by way of immigration and that this is still a welcoming country. And he was really quite eloquent on that subject, that the newcomers are the soul and spirit of America, he said.

CUOMO: It's a unique opportunity, because the president is a man of faith, respecting the Pope as a man of faith. And the spin on immigration issue, you don't ever think of it as a Catholic issue but I guess if we're dealing with Mexico, much of the population-- I guess it's is the first or second most populous Catholic nation in the world. That is of concern to the Pope.

ROBERTS: Absolutely. These, you know, the people who are being discriminated against-- And the Pope has said that he's fearful that there's a xenophobia going on in America. And the people who are being discriminated against, the President says he doesn't think it's because they're Catholic, but they are Catholic and they're being discriminated against.

CUOMO: And of course, the Pope comes with the message for the Catholic flock themselves, conservative, liberal wings they're on. Do you think that there will be an impact on that level?

ROBERTS: Traditionally that has not been the case. The Pope has come and people are very excited to see them and turn up at the masses, but then go about their own lives.

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