ABC Highlights 'Palin Problem;' Has Ignored Biden Gaffes

"Good Morning America" reporter David Wright on Monday highlighted the specter of the "Palin Problem" for John McCain and asserted that Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's advisors "are trying to lower expectations. But even among some conservatives, expectations couldn't be any lower." Yet, while the ABC morning show mentioned the supposed struggles of the Republican vice presidential candidate, the program has ignored embarrassing gaffes from Senator Joe Biden.

Wright played clips of "Saturday Night Live" mocking Palin for discussing the proximity of Alaska and Russia. Placing great weight in comics, he intoned, "... The comedians have their doubts" about Palin. However, GMA has failed to report on Joe Biden's doubly inaccurate assertion last week that "When the stock market crashed, Franklin D. Roosevelt got on the television" to calm people down. (There was no television at the time and FDR wasn't president.) The morning program has also ignored video of the Delaware senator telling a disabled man in a wheelchair to "stand up."

Instead, in a very condescending tone, Wright explained, "Sarah Palin has been trying hard to prove herself. Hobnobbing with world leaders at the U.N., sitting down with influential anchormen and women." An ABC graphic warned, "The Palin Problem: Is VP Candidate Trouble for Ticket?"

Wright also played the classic media game of highlighting conservatives attacking each other. He first mentioned dissension "even among some conservatives" and later exclaimed, "This weekend, even Fox News raised questions." Wright featured BeliefNet and Dallas Morning News columnist Rod Dreher deriding, "It's going to be very, very hard to erase the impression she's given in the network TV interviews that she is in way, way over her head and she's not ready for prime time." A Nexis search for ABC finds only one other interview with the columnist. Apparently attacking a fellow conservative is the way to get on "Good Morning America."

And although Wright was very critical of Palin, he has practically gushed over Barack Obama. On a February 19, 2008 "Nightline" report, he cooed that the senator's rallies are like "Springsteen concerts, but the tickets are free." During the same segment, he fawned, "...Everyone waited patiently, because inside...they felt the warm glow of hope."

In a follow-up piece on Monday's show, former Democratic operative-turned journalist George Stephanopoulos called Palin "a problem for Senator McCain" and complained, "...The buzz on Sarah Palin has gone all bad. When you become, as you know, Robin, when you become a punch line in politics, it's one of the worst things that can happen."

A transcript of the David Wright segment, which aired at 7:08am, follows:

ROBIN ROBERTS: And now, those that will inherit this economic mess, the race for the White House. Both campaigns revving up for the stop later this week in St. Louis, where on Thursday, the one and only vice presidential debate between Senator Joe Biden and Governor Sarah Palin, who went jogging yesterday in the Philadelphia area, that will take place in St. Louis. On the latest for this, we go to ABC's David Wright who is in Washington. Good morning, David.

DAVID WRIGHT: Good morning, Robin. Sarah Palin has a relatively light schedule over the next couple of days as she prepares for that big debate. That video that you just rolled there of her jogging through the streets of Philadelphia, looking a bit like Rocky Balboa. Her advisors are trying to lower expectations. But even among some conservatives, expectations couldn't be any lower.

ABC GRAPHIC: The Palin Problem: Is VP Candidate Trouble for Ticket?

WRIGHT: Sarah Palin has been trying hard to prove herself. Hobnobbing with world leaders at the U.N., sitting down with influential anchormen and women.

KATIE COURIC: You cited Alaska's proximity to Russia as part of your foreign policy experience. What did you mean by that?

GOVERNOR SARAH PALIN: That Alaska has a very narrow maritime border between a foreign country, Russia, and on our other side, the land boundary that we have with Canada.

KATIE COURIC: Well, explain to me why that enhances your foreign policy credentials?

PALIN: Well, it certainly does because our next door neighbors are foreign countries. They're in the state that I am the executive of.

WRIGHT: Judging from "Saturday Night Live," the comedians have their doubts.

[SNL sketch clip begins.]

"KATIE COURIC:" You went to the U.N. For the first time. How was that experience?

"SARAH PALIN:" Oh, you know, it was just amazing. So many interesting people. Though, I have to say, I was disheartened by how many of them were foreigners.

[SNL sketch clip ends.]

WRIGHT: Some voters we've met have their doubts, too.

CINDY HABLE (Colorado voter): Can they do this? Can they be the president if something happens to John McCain? That's my question.

WRIGHT: This weekend, even Fox News raised questions.

BRET BAIER: Coming up on the Grapevine, are some Republicans turning on Sarah Palin?

WRIGHT: Highlighting conservative critics of Palin.

ROD DREHER (Dallas Morning News/Beliefnet): It's going to be very, very hard to erase the impression she's given in the network TV interviews that she is in way, way over her head and she's not ready for prime time.

WRIGHT: At an Irish public in Philly, the crowd watching the debate with her was friendly. But outside not so much. John McCain told George Stephanopoulos he's not concerned.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: They can complain all they want to. I'll rely on the American people. The American people have responded to her in a way that's been wonderful.

WRIGHT: But how will Palin fare in a 90-minute debate with Joe Biden?

KEVIN MADDEN (political analyst): Sarah Palin has to get through this debate by avoiding a really big mistake, by looking unready to assume the office.

WRIGHT: Now, Palin's advisers tell us they're not worried one bit. They are reportedly bringing in the heavy-hitters to give her the last-minute coaching tips. They know that she needs to address the question of experience and they tell us, she's looking forward to it.

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