ABC's David Wright: What's Worse? Bomber Ayers or Keating 5 Scandal?

For the second time on Monday, ABC reporter David Wright continued to spin and justify Barack Obama's relationship with former terrorist bomber William Ayers. On the October 6 edition of "Nightline," he compared the McCain campaign's comments about the ex-domestic terrorist with the Obama team's new ads centering on the Arizona senator and the Keating 5 scandal. Wright (see file photo at right) wondered, "Which is worse, a radical terrorist who wanted to blow up the Pentagon 40 years ago or a crooked banker whose failed savings and loan had to be bailed out by the taxpayers 20 years ago?"

While discussing Ayers, a member of a violent '60s radical group that participated in 30 bombings, including the Pentagon, Wright made sure to point out: "Ayers was an early supporter of Obama's, but Obama has never condoned Ayers' politics." He even closed the segment by referring to the man, who said after 9/11 that he didn't do enough bombings, as "A former domestic terrorist who's now a respected professor." When discussing the Keating 5 savings and loan scandal, in which five senators were accused of intervening on behalf of businessman Charles Keating, Wright left out the fact that McCain was exonerated by the Senate Ethics Committee.

Instead, Wright darkly, and incompletely, intoned, "McCain was one of the so-called Keating 5, five members of Congress who did the bidding of one of the worst S&L scoundrels, Charles Keating, CEO of Lincoln Savings and Loan, bailed out by the taxpayers to the tune of $2 billion dollars."

As part of his moral equivalence, the ABC journalist argued, "The McCain campaign started it [the mud slinging] as Governor Sarah Palin made the rounds this weekend." McCain started it? Is Wright not aware of the nasty ad that Obama ran in September which implied that the Arizona senator is out of touch because he doesn't use a computer? Secondly, didn't Democrat-turned ABC journalist George Stephanopoulos and his colleague James Carville start the current culture of negative advertising way back in 1992 with their "war room?"

Wright filed a similar segment earlier on Monday for "Good Morning America." During that piece, he complained that GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin "not only questioned Obama's patriotism...she accused him of consorting with terrorists."

A transcript of the October 6 segment, which aired at 11:45pm, follows:

CYNTHIA MCFADDEN: Now to politics. An ABC News poll released tonight shows Barack Obama is up six points over John McCain in the battleground state of Ohio. That's bad news for McCain as no Republican has ever won the presidency while losing Ohio. As Obama's poll numbers have gotten stronger, the race has turned meaner. McCain running mate Sarah Palin drew blood over the weekend saying Obama "pals around with terrorists." But it's not just one sided as David Wright report in tonight's "Trail Mix." Which is worse, a radical terrorist who wanted to blow up the Pentagon 40 years ago or a crooked banker whose failed savings and loan had to be bailed out by the taxpayers 20 years ago? That's the choice the two campaigns put forward today as the road to the White House took a sudden swerve into the mud. The McCain campaign started it as Governor Sarah Palin made the rounds this weekend.

GOVERNOR SARAH PALIN: I'm just so fearful that this is not a man who sees America the way that you and I see America.

WRIGHT: In California-

GOVERNOR SARAH PALIN: The heels are on, the gloves come off.

WRIGHT: In Nebraska-

PALIN: They don't quite know what to make of a candidate who lavishes praise on working people when they're listening, and then talks about though how bitterly they cling to their guns and religion when those people aren't listening.

WRIGHT: And finally today, in Florida-

PALIN: You gonna have to hang on to your hats because from now until Election Day, it may get kind of rough.

WRIGHT: She told everyone who'd listen that Barack Obama pals around with terrorists.

PALIN: I'm afraid this is someone who sees America as imperfect enough to work with a former domestic terrorist who had targeted his own country.

WRIGHT: The man she's talking about is Bill Ayers, a Chicago professor who in the '60's was a member of the violent Weather Underground. Obama does know Bill Ayers. They worked together on the board of a Chicago nonprofit. Ayers was an early supporter of Obama's, but Obama has never condoned Ayers' politics.

OBAMA: The notion that somehow as a consequence of me knowing somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago when I was eight years old somehow reflects on me and my values doesn't make much sense.

DAVID WRIGHT: Hillary Clinton warned this moment would come.

SENATOR HILLARY CLINTON: I know Senator Obama's a good man and I respect him greatly, but I think that this is an issue that certainly the Republicans will be raising.

WRIGHT: Political hard ball, guilt by association-

OBAMA: They'd rather tear our campaign down than lift this country up. That's what you do when you're out of touch, out of ideas and running out of time.

WRIGHT: But the Obama campaign is not above some guilt by association themselves. Today they released this web documentary chronicling McCain's role in the savings and loan scandal.

SENATOR HOWELL HEFLIN (chairman of Senate Ethics Committee): Many of our fellow citizens apparently believe that your services were bought by Charles Keating, that you were bribed, that you sold your office, that you traded your honor and your good names for contributions and other benefits.

WRIGHT: McCain was one of the so-called Keating 5, five members of Congress who did the bidding of one of the worst S&L scoundrels, Charles Keating, CEO of Lincoln Savings and Loan, bailed out by the taxpayers to the tune of $2 billion dollars.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: I don't need lessons about telling the truth to the American people. And were I ever need to need any improvement in the regard I probably wouldn't seek advice from a Chicago politician.

WRIGHT: So why are they doing this? They each have their reasons. McCain is behind in the national polls. Behind in key battleground states, too. If the election were held today, Obama would win. But it's not today. There's still a month to knock him down a peg or two.

MCCAIN: Whenever I've questioned his policies or his record, he's called me a liar. Rather than answer his critics, Senator Obama will try to distract you from noticing that he never answers the serious and legitimate questions he's been asked.

KEN KHACHIGIAN (VETERAN GOP STRATEGIST): There's no red ribbon in the presidential race. No silver medal. He's got to win, and he found that being cautious and being more conventional wasn't working for him.

WRIGHT: And when one side attacks the other feels the need to respond in kind.

OBAMA: They plan to, and I quote, "turn the page on the discussion about our economy and spend the final weeks of this campaign launching swift boat style attacks on me."

WRIGHT: Tomorrow's debate should be lively.

KHACHIGIAN:I think Obama should be looking over his shoulder. And, you know, Satchel Paige said don't look behind, somebody may be catching up on you. But he should be careful because I think he's a little too detached, a little too cool. He's now a little too smug. And McCain just locking on that heat-seeking missile and he could win.

WRIGHT: So, pick your poison. A former domestic terrorist who's now a respected professor, or a white-collar criminal who bilked the taxpayers for billions, and hold your noses, the mud slinging has just begun. I'm David Wright for 'Nightline' in Clearwater, Florida.

MCFADDEN: And we will have a president elect in 28 days.

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