On Monday's "Good Morning America," former Democratic aide-turned journalist George Stephanopoulos downplayed the idea that both Sarah Palin and Joe Biden might be a drag on their respective presidential tickets. Responding to a question by co-host Robin Roberts about the two taking attention away from Senators Obama and McCain, Stephanopoulos opined, "But I think the bottom line here is that across all voters, across the last couple of months, Senator Biden has made voters more comfortable with Barack Obama." He added, "Governor Palin has made voters, overall, less comfortable with John McCain."
While it's true that Governor Palin's numbers have fallen in the last few weeks, it's also apparent that the ABC network has contributed to that situation by aggressively criticizing Governor Palin, while downplaying gaffes by Democratic running mate Biden. Last Monday, ABC's "Political Radar" blog broke the story of the Delaware senator suggesting that Obama would be tested by an international crisis within the first six months of his (potential) presidency. The ABC network ignored the scoop for almost 24 hours.
On the September 29 GMA, reporter David Wright asserted that Palin's advisors "are trying to lower expectations. But even among some conservatives, expectations couldn't be any lower." And at the same time, the network ignored potentially damaging Biden gaffes, such as claiming that Franklin D. Roosevelt got on television at the onset of the Great Depression to calm the nerves of Americans. (He wasn't president and there was no television at the time.) ABC also skipped footage of the Democrat encouraging a man in a wheelchair to "stand up." Monday's GMA featured a rare exception to this pattern. Correspondent Kate Snow actually wondered if Biden could be a drag on Obama's chances for victory. (This piece prompted the later question by Roberts.)
During the earlier story, Snow highlighted a new McCain ad featuring Biden's "crisis" comments, as well as a skit on "Saturday Night Live" mocking him.
And while Stephanopoulos did allow during his segment, "Well, they've [Palin and Biden] become punch lines which isn't great for either candidate," he did not speculate on the role his own network might have played in making Americans "more comfortable" with the Democratic senator.
In general, the ABC network has reiterated the idea that Palin isn't qualified. On the October 21 edition of "Nightline," co-anchor Cynthia McFadden interviewed Hillary Clinton and asked about the Alaska governor. She goaded, "But it must rankle you, I mean, to be compared to Sarah Palin." Fellow "Nightline" host Terry Moran referred to Palin as the "blunda [sic] from the tundra" on October 22.
A transcript of the exchange between Roberts and Stephanopoulos, and the previous Snow segment, which aired on October 27, follow:
ROBIN ROBERTS: Now for the bottom line as we head into the campaign's final week, our chief Washington correspondent and host of "This Week" George Stephanopoulos joins us, of course, from Washington this morning. Bottom line here, George, the running mates, getting a lot of attention good, bad, indifferent?
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, they've become punch lines which isn't great for either candidate. But I think the bottom line here is that across all voters, across the last couple of months, Senator Biden has made voters more comfortable with Barack Obama. Governor Palin has made voters, overall, less comfortable with John McCain.
DIANE SAWYER: And while the candidates are polishing their final speeches, their running mates are running off as well, stealing the spotlights somewhat in this final stretch. And "Good Morning America" weekend anchor Kate Snow has more on that from Leesburg, Virginia. Kate?
KATE SNOW: Good morning, Diane. They're lining up behind me in a soggy state park to see Sarah Palin in just a little while. She says she's been trying to ignore this whole flap over the wardrobe. She says it's ridiculous. But as attention is focusing on the veeps on both sides, it's taking attention away from the top of the ticket.
SARAH PALIN: My own jacket, yes.
SNOW: Sarah Palin made it clear Sunday that she's no longer wearing the fancy duds paid for by the Republican National Committee.
PALIN: I'm back to wearing my own clothes from my favorite consignment shop in Anchorage, Alaska.
SNOW: Oh, and her wedding ring?
PALIN: A $35 wedding ring from Hawaii that I bought myself.
SNOW: On Sunday, John McCain found himself talking fashion, explaining that about one-third of that $150,000 wardrobe was returned to stores.
SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: She lives a frugal life. She and her family are not wealthy. She and her family were thrust into this and some third of that money is given back. The rest will be donated to charity.
SNOW: Behind the scenes, things are getting ugly, all weekend, stories filled with anonymous quotes and nasty and finger pointing, charges that Palin is a diva who blames her handlers for a botched rollout and is starting to look out for her own political future.
KARL ROVE: It's a sad sight to see. Nobody makes themselves look good. And it's generally a sign that people are throwing in the towel and thinking they're going to lose.
SNOW: But the election isn't over. And Obama is also explaining for his number two.
SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: Joe sometimes engages in rhetorical flourishes.
MATTHEW DOWD: If you look at all the news reporting, Joe Biden and Sarah Palin are getting almost as much reporting as their leading nominees. And that is not a position either campaign wants to be in.
SNOW: That comment Joe Biden made at a Seattle fund-raiser more than a week ago-
SENATOR JOE BIDEN: We're going to have an international crisis.
SNOW: -is still haunting the campaign. The McCain campaign set it to sinister music.
BIDEN [in ad]: I guarantee you it's gonna happen.
ANNOUNCER [in ad]: It doesn't have to happen.
SNOW: Biden avoided questions, but "Saturday Night Live" had fun with it.
"JOE BIDEN": And when this crisis hits, and it will, we may cede Florida back to Spain! Or Alaska to the Russians!
SNOW: Sometime early this week, Governor Palin's campaign tells us they will release information about her medical history, once again drawing attention to her and away from the issues John McCain would probably have voters be focused on in these last days? Robin?