ABC's Lisa Fletcher: Can 'Small Town' Palin Deal With Putin?

Lisa Fletcher ABC's ABC reporter Lisa Fletcher interviewed friends of Sarah Palin for a segment on Monday's "Nightline" and grilled them on whether a "small town mom" will be able to "sit down with Putin and deal with foreign issues?" Fletcher, who herself was a small town reporter before joining ABC in December of 2007, mostly avoided friendly queries and instead grilled the Alaskan friends of the Republican vice presidential candidate.

At one point she asked pal Sandy Hoest, "She's spent less than two years as the governor of Alaska. Why should Americans have any confidence whatsoever that this woman can fulfill the duties of vice president of the United States?" Later on, the journalist challenged, "Is it possible to be pro-choice and vote for Sarah Palin?" When a few of Palin's friends identified themselves as pro-choice, Fletcher pounced, "Does that put a strain on your friendship with Sarah?"

A slightly alternate version of the segment aired on Monday's "Good Morning America." For that piece, Fletcher added questions such as "What percentage of Sarah Palin don't you agree with?" and "Are there major issues that you disagree with her on?"

Fletcher did let the group of friends expound on subjects such as their Christmas ornament exchange and how they all met each other. But, considering that "Nightline" has an extensive history of going very easy on the 2008 Democratic candidates, it seems remarkable for friends of a candidate to receive such a grilling.

For instance, on January 30, 2008, "Nightline" co-host Cynthia McFadden sympathetically queried Hillary Clinton, "When you lie awake at night...what worries you?" And on December 19, 2007, McFadden mused to the New York senator, "There's never a night when you go back to whatever hotel room, whatever city you're in that night, and crawl in a ball and say, 'I just, this just hurts too much?'"

Fellow "Nightline" co-host Terry Moran is perhaps best known for stopping just shy of endorsing Barack Obama on November 6, 2006. On that day he rhapsodized, "You can see it in the crowds. The thrill, the hope. How they surge toward him. You're looking at an American political phenomenon...And the question you can sense on everyone's mind, as they listen so intently to him, is he the one?"

A transcript of the September 8, 2008 "Nightline" segment on Sarah Palin follows:

TERRY MORAN: Well, for all the hoopla, our polls show, as George just mentioned there, that voters have their doubts about Sarah Palin's credentials, but one place you won't find any questions about her ability to lead is among the so-called elite six, Sarah Palin's inner circle up in Wasilla, Alaska. Her friends, they don't all agree with her politics, but they do vouch for her capability, as you might expect. Our Lisa Fletcher sat down with Palin's friends from home.

LISA FLETCHER: So tell me where the name Elite Six came from.

AMY HANSEN (friend of Sarah Palin): Well, that came because we used to have a big ornament exchange with lots of my friends from work and so there were six of us meeting at six. So it was just a joke.

PATTI RICKER (friend of Sarah Palin): We'd get together and do our aerobics and go have coffee and then the ornament exchange. It was just, we always looked forward to it. It was fun.

FLETCHER: The last time they gathered was for a baby shower just days before john McCain asked Palin to join his ticket.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: Governor Sarah Palin of the great state of Alaska.

FLETCHER: Did you sense anything different with her? Was she acting different at all?

ALL: No. No.

FLETCHER: Is that typical of her to be able to, really, compartmentalize and hide whatever-

HANSEN: Oh, yeah.

RICKER: She's our friend, you know? And business is different than friendship for Sarah.

FLETCHER: Yet questions still remain about her experience. This is a woman who spent six years as small-town mayor. She's spent less than two years as the governor of Alaska. Why should Americans have any confidence whatsoever that this woman can fulfill the duties of vice president of the United States?

SANDY HOEST (friend of Sarah Palin): Because she's the one who has executive background off all the other ones. She is very confident. She's very intelligent. And if she needs to learn something, she'll learn it.

FLETCHER: How does a small town mom with character and integrity sit down with Putin and deal with foreign issues?

HANSEN: You know, Sarah is a very, very, very good communicator. She's a very good listener. And she goes to these native villages in Alaska, which is like going to a foreign state. Some of them don't even speak English.

FLETCHER: And when it comes to the Alaska governor's more conservative stance on the issue, that's where she and some of her friends part company. Is it possible to be pro-choice and vote for Sarah Palin?

HOEST: I am.

JUANITA FULLER (Friend of Sarah Palin): Oh, I am pro-choice

RICKER: Okay, I just need to clarify something. I support Sarah as a friend. So, politically, I might not agree with Sarah, like I said. But, as a friend, I support her.

FLETCHER: Does that put a strain on your friendship with Sarah?

RICKER: No, not one bit.

FULLER: You know, this friendship is not about politics. What you believe of what you don't. We're friends because we like each other's personalities.

RICKER: Sarah wouldn't want it any other way.

FLETCHER: But politics aside, they say they'll always be friends. Can you guys tell me something about her that nobody knows?

HANSEN: She's killed, skinned and eaten moose. You already know that.

FULLER: She doesn't- well, she doesn't care for cats.

HANSEN: Oh, yeah. She's afraid of my cat.

FULLER: So she loves her hair to be done and played with.

HANSEN: She's just a really good, kind, real person that you don't always meet.

RICKER: Just like all the rest of us, except for she's got a lot more energy.

FLETCHER: This is Lisa Fletcher for "Nightline" in Wasilla, Alaska.

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