ABC's Claire Shipman Bizarrely Spins Rahm Emanuel as 'Centrist'

"Good Morning America" reporter Claire Shipman continued a time honored media bias tradition on Friday when she mislabeled Congressman Rahm Emanuel, Barack Obama's newly selected chief of staff, as "centrist." Emanuel, who was elected to Congress in 2002, has a lifetime American Conservative Union score of 13.

In 2006, his rank was only four. In contrast, the House member's average from the liberal group Americans for Democratic Action is a very high 96. And yet, Shipman erroneously asserted, "More than anything, the 48-year-old Illinois representative is a pragmatic, centrist politician who likes to get things done. Clearly, Obama wants the same thing." So, can Americans expect Obama to be the same type of "centrist" that Emanuel has been?

Shipman is not the first journalist to try and spin the aggressive Illinois congressman as a moderate. On Wednesday's "American Morning," CNN special correspondent Frank Sesno described Emanuel as someone who is seen to be "on the center to center-right."

Interestingly, the rest of Shipman's report actually featured more negative descriptions of the soon to be chief of staff. Co-host Robin Roberts commented on his "abrasive style." She observed, "He once jokingly told the Chicago Tribune, quote, 'I wake up some mornings hating me, too.'" Shipman labeled him "hard-charging" and "in-your-face." She added, "Emanuel was so abrasive early on in the Clinton White House, Hillary Clinton wanted him fired."

In what could be seen as a conflict of interest, former top Democratic aide-turned journalist George Stephanopoulos appeared in a follow up segment to talk about Emanuel, a colleague of his in the Clinton White House. He allowed that Emanuel could indeed be "abrasive at times." But he then defended his friend against charges by Republicans that Emanuel violates Obama's pledge to change Washington:

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: But, on the other hand, he's also built bridges with lots of Republicans, like John McCain's best friend, Senator Lindsey Graham. He had a working group in the House with Republican Congressman Ray LaHood where they would have a series of bipartisan dinners. So, there's two sides to that story.

Of course, there was no mention of the past association of the two.

A transcript of the November 7 Shipman segment, which aired at 7:05am, follows:

ROBIN ROBERTS: Now, to more on Obama's new chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel. He's a Democrat with a reputation for ruffling some feathers in Washington. His abrasive style has drawn some criticism, even from himself. He once jokingly told the Chicago Tribune, quote, "I wake up some mornings hating me, too." Our senior national correspondent Claire Shipman has the story from Washington. Good morning, Claire.

CLAIRE SHIPMAN: Good morning, Robin. That is classic Rahm Emanuel. And, yes, some Republicans are already grumbling that his temperament isn't exactly what Barack Obama promised when he talked about a more conciliatory style here. But the two men have been friends for years. Obama has told people privately he thinks Rahm's rough edges have been softened. And he can operate on Capitol Hill like nobody else. Hard-charging. In-your-face.

CONGRESSMAN RAHM EMANUEL: They have seen jobs be shredded.

SHIPMAN: Take no prisoners. The cliches describing Rahm Emanuel's style are stacking up fast. They may be on target, but they miss the point. More than anything, the 48-year-old Illinois representative is a pragmatic, centrist politician who likes to get things done. Clearly, Obama wants the same thing.

JOE LOCKHART (Fmr. Clinton White House press secretary): He knows the White House. He knows how the government, the executive branch works. And he knows how the hill works. Rahm is a very strong personality. But, I think everybody, you know, whether you like him or not, people respect him, because he gets the job done.

SHIPMAN: Emanuel was so abrasive early on in the Clinton White House, Hillary Clinton wanted him fired. But he later earned her respect as he helped to push up her husband's popularity and pushed through measures like welfare reform. He made millions later as an investment banker and then later ran for Congress in the same Chicago district where his immigrant doctor father used to make house calls. The Emanuel children were all expected to follow Benjamin's example of making good. The family joke is that only Ezekiel, a renowned oncologist, has gone into a respectable profession. But if art imitating life is at all a measure of success, Ari is a smooth-talking, A-list Hollywood agent. And the inspiration for Ari Gold in the hit TV show, "Entourage."

["Entourage" clip]

SHIPMAN: And Rahm's tenacious, impassioned, sometimes abrasive style, is said to have given birth to the Josh Lyman character on "West Wing."

["West Wing" clip]

SHIPMAN: Emanuel is a devout Jew and heavily focused on family. The toughest part of the decision, uprooting his family back to Washington.

EMANUEL: I've been in the White House. I used to joke in the White House that- on Fridays I would say, "It's two more work days to Monday."

SHIPMAN: Like all good characters, Emanuel has quirks to spare. And if you look closely, you'll see he's missing the middle finger of his right hand. He sliced it off as a teen, working at a fast food restaurant. But instead of going to the hospital, he went swimming. The wound became so infected, he almost died. He is also a former ballet dancer, talented enough have been offered a scholarship to the Joffrey Ballet. He had some high praise for his many talents last night from one former White House resident.

SENATOR HILLARY CLINTON: Well, I think that President-elect Obama made an excellent choice. Rahm Emanuel understands both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. He understands the private sector, where he was successful for a number of years. He gets things done.

SHIPMAN: And you can imagine, Diane, the primaries were tough for him. He had to remain very neutral between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

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