Claire Shipman Skips Voucher Question in Fawning Story on Obama Kids

In a story about what private school President-elect Barack Obama will send his children to, "Good Morning America" reporter Claire Shipman on Wednesday mostly glossed over the obvious point that the Democrat likely won't be putting his daughters through the D.C. public educational system and also ignored his opposition to vouchers. Instead, she fawned that "the D.C. social world is obsessed with where these new, coolest kids on the block will wind up."

The only mention of public schools came when Shipman asserted, "Whenever there's a new first family with young children, the question always comes up, public or private? And with Washington, D.C. schools still struggling, it can be an especially difficult decision." She then played a clip of Washington Post reporter Jay Matthews explaining the woeful state of D.C.'s public schools. But, nowhere in the piece did Shipman mention the contradiction between Obama's opposition to school choice programs that allow low income students to use vouchers to attend private institutions and the fact that the President-elect and his wife have no intention to send their children to some of those very same schools in Washington.

Cybercast News Service editor-in-chief Terry Jeffrey wrote about the apparent hypocrisy in a November 12, 2008 column on the Townhall website:  

In October, in the last presidential debate, Obama specifically attacked McCain's support for the school-choice program in Washington, D.C., which gives 1,900 lower-income students a voucher worth up to $7,500 to attend the private school of their choice -- and which McCain wanted to expand to include more students.

...

When Michelle Obama visited Washington this week, she toured only two prospective schools for her daughters: Sidwell Friends, where lower-school tuition is $28,442; and Georgetown Day, where tuition is $27,445 for grades 1-5.

In the 2008 campaign, Obama was endorsed by the National Education Association and other liberal teachers unions. And yet in her report, Shipman simply reiterated a history of what past presidents have done with their children, giving Obama a complete free pass on the issue of vouchers.  

A transcript of the November 12 segment, which aired at 7:17am, follows:

DIANE SAWYER: And according to People magazine, friends of the Obamas say that the number one job for Michelle Obama is finding the right school for her girls. Everyone can respect how difficult it is. Imagine how much more difficult by being in the spotlight of the White House. Here's GMA senior national correspondent Claire Shipman.

CLAIRE SHIPMAN: Michelle Obama has already looked at a few D.C. schools. And aides say she'll look at many more. She knows that a good fit for Malia and Sasha will make all the difference in the enormous upheaval they're about to experience.

LISA CAPUTO (Former press secretary, Clinton White House): As the first family, you going to want to work with the school that the children attend to ensure that the school protects the children's privacy.

SHIPMAN: Jackie Kennedy was so focused on that issue, she chose to bring the school to her young children.

SALLY QUINN (Washington Post): Jackie Kennedy had a little nursery school in the White House. And my God, you would think it was the A-list party- A-list of the city.

SHIPMAN: President and Mrs. Ford's youngest child, Susan, spent her high school years in Washington. And invited her entire senior class to the White House for prom where she and her date showed everyone- remember this- how to do that popular '70s dance, known as "The Bump." Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter sent their 9-year-old daughter Amy to public school. Who can forget how she arrived for her first day with a Snoopy book bag and a throng of photographers in tow? The Clintons opted to send 13-year-old Chelsea to the highly competitive private Sidwell Friends school. Whenever there's a new first family with young children, the question always comes up, public or private? And with Washington, D.C. schools still struggling, it can be an especially difficult decision.

JAY MATTHEWS (Education reporter, Washington Post): In terms of achievement rate, dropout rates, test scores, they're really scraping the bottom of the barrel.

SHIPMAN: The Obama girls now attend the prestigious and private University of Chicago Lab School. And if they do go private here, there are excellent and expensive options. The Maret School, where several Obama advisors send their children, might be appealing with its small size and single campus. Georgetown Day School is also popular for the children of top Obama advisors. And Sidwell Friends is not only Chelsea's alma mater, but the school Joe Biden's grandchildren attend. Malia and Sasha would, of course, be a feather in any school's cap. So, while the political world focuses on the parlor game of cabinet appointments, the D.C. social world is obsessed with where these new, coolest kids on the block will wind up. For "Good morning America," Claire Shipman, Washington.

SAWYER: And quite a block that is they're on.

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