ABC's Claire Shipman Lovingly Compares Obama to RFK

To mark the 40th anniversary of Senator Robert F. Kennedy's death, "Good Morning America's" Claire Shipman filed a fawning report on Thursday in which she compared Barack Obama to RFK. Splicing together footage of Kennedy and Obama, Shipman noted the "similarities" and nostalgically declared, "The search to shift that mantle, futile of course. But also a quintessentially American desire for, if not a happy ending, some sense of completion."

GMA news anchor Chris Cuomo, son of former Governor Mario Cuomo and himself a member of a famous Democratic family, lauded RFK's daughter Kerry Kennedy (who was featured in the piece) as a "beautiful representative" of a "special and beautiful family." Of course, Cuomo failed to mention that he formally was the brother-in-law of Kerry Kennedy. (The ABC anchor's brother and current Democratic Attorney General of New York, Andrew Cuomo, married and then divorced her in 2003.)

At the top of the segment, Shipman cooed, "Even 40 years later, most Democrats can't utter the name 'Bobby' without a wistful, 'what if' sort of reverence." A true enough statement, but considering that the rest of the piece was all about Kennedy's greatness, what does that say about the people who produced the segment? An ABC graphic cheered, "The Vision of RFK: Honoring an American Legend." Shipman then proceeded to make her comparison clear:

SHIPMAN: Landmark crowds, striking charisma, a focus on healing the divide. -->

SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: We are the hope of the future, the answer to the cynics who tell us, our house must stand divided.

BOBBY KENNEDY: This election will mean nothing if it leaves us, after it is all over, as divided as we were before it we began.

A transcript of the segment, which aired at 8:33am on June 5, follows:

CHRIS CUOMO: This week marks a somber anniversary. Robert F. Kennedy was murdered 40 years ago by an assassin's bullet. Now, decades later, RFK is remembered, above all, for his message of hope, a message that still resonates for many people today and GMA senior national correspondent Claire Shipman has more on the story for us. Good morning, Claire.

ABC GRAPHIC: The Vision of RFK: Honoring an American Legend

CLAIRE SHIPMAN: Good morning, Chris. You know, it is striking how much Bobby Kennedy and his life, his accomplishments, how much meaning they still have for so many people. And I think especially in this dramatic, political year, Bobby Kennedy's short presidential bid is remembered with all of the excitement that it generated. Was it the man? The moment? The message?

BOBBY KENNEDY: I want the Democratic Party and the United States of America to stand for hope, instead of despair, for reconciliation of men, instead of the growing risk of world war.

SHIPMAN: Even 40 years later, most Democrats can't utter the name "Bobby" without a wistful, "what if" sort of reverence. The tone of his anti-war passion and head first dive into racism and poverty, unleashed adoration, even as it unearthed grim reality. His impromptu words in Indianapolis --

BOBBY KENNEDY: Martin Luther King was shot and was killed tonight.

SHIPMAN: --as he told his black audience what he had just learned, that Martin Luther King had been shot, weaving in Greek philosophy, was one of the most memorable speeches of the 20th century.

BOBBY KENNEDY: Against our will comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.

SHIPMAN: The public couldn't get enough. His campaign stops took on a Beatle-esque quality. These scenes, riding cavalierly in open convertibles, almost heartbreaking to watch. His daughter, Kerry was only eight when he died. She still remembers that he always brought his passion home to them.

KERRY KENNEDY (Daughter of RFK): We were all at home and eating dinner and daddy walked in and said, "I've just been to a part of our country where three families live in a room the size of this dining room" and I wanted to do something to help those children.

OLETA GARRETT FITZGERALD: We all grew up with a picture of John Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King and then on the other wall was Jesus.

SHIPMAN: Southerners Oleta Garrett Fitzgerald and Winifred Green still remember every detail of Bobby Kennedy's visits and commitment.

WINIFRED GREEN: You could really see that Senator Kennedy was doing everything he could not to cry at the plight of a hungry eight-year-old in our country. Many politicians have tried over the years [B-roll of Barack Obama] to wear the JFK mantle. Ted Sorensen has a new book out on his days advising John and Bobby Kennedy and thinks this year there's a good fit.

TED SORENSEN (Fmr. Kennedy advisor and author, "Counselor"): Barack Obama like Robert Kennedy is an inspiring speaker, an eloquent speaker. People who say, oh, that's just words. Just rhetoric. Just words. Just rhetoric is what made this country great.

SHIPMAN: Landmark crowds, striking charisma, a focus on healing a divide. -->

SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: We are the hope of the future, the answer to the cynics who tell us, our house must stand divided.

BOBBY KENNEDY: This election will mean nothing if it leaves us, after it is all over, as divided as we were before it we began.

SHIPMAN: Similarities, yes.

BOBBY KENNEDY: Now it's on to Chicago and let's win there.

SHIPMAN: In the end, though, nobody can finish that particular story. The one that ended too soon 40 years ago. Outlined painfully here in Harry Benson's book "RFK." Ethel's stricken face, pleading to give her dying husband air. The search to shift that mantle, futile of course. But also a quintessentially American desire for, if not a happy ending, some sense of completion.

SHIPMAN: And, of course, we all know that today the Kennedy family is facing another blow, Ted's brain cancer. But their facing the latest ordeal with the same courage they've shown over the last 40 years. Chris?

CUOMO: What are we hearing from them about what's going on with the senator?

SHIPMAN: Well, we did ask Kerry. And she said he is characteristically upbeat. Here's what she told us.

KERRY KENNEDY: He has a lot to teach us about how to confront this latest mountain in his way, which is cancer, and how to confront cancer with dignity and grace and love.

SHIPMAN: Always thinking about the family.

CUOMO: Always and, you know, Kerry is a beautiful representative of them. They are a special and beautiful family. Claire, thank you very much.

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