Various "Good Morning America" hosts and reporters on Monday glowingly commented on the first day of school for young Sasha and Malia Obama at posh private institution Sidwell Friends. At the same time, they ignored the contradiction of President-elect Barack Obama opposing vouchers which would allow poor inner-city children in Washington D.C. to do the same thing.
Instead, reporter Claire Shipman cooed over Sidwell Friends and the exciting opportunities awaiting the Obama children. Speaking of ten-year old Malia and the school, she enthused, "It's an award winning, entirely green building, complete with organic lunches, one of the many things that appealed to her and her family." Regarding Sidwell Friends, which costs over $30,000 a year to attend, Shipman touted, "Seven-year-old Sasha has a 25-minute trip to the lower school campus in Bethesda, Maryland where the emphasis is on Quaker values." At no time did Shipman, or any other host in the three segments that followed, mention Obama's opposition to school choice programs and vouchers.
On November 12 2008, Shipman filed a similar story on the first daughters and, just as on January 5, failed to note any Obama contradictions. Instead, she rhapsodized that "the D.C. social world is obsessed with where these new, coolest kids on the block will wind up."
In a follow-up segment at 7:30, co-host Robin Roberts played video footage of the children and haltingly worried, "Don't you- all of a sudden I'm, like, queasy just thinking about the first day of school, starting a new school. But they have a lot of support, a lot of friends there with them."
At the top of the 8:30 hour, as pictures of Barack and Michelle Obama talking to their daughters appeared on screen, co-host Diane Sawyer suggested, "They're sending them off with some advice there. Don't you think?" GMA news anchor Chris Cuomo, son of former New York Governor Mario Cuomo, speculated, "No fighting. Don't cause any trouble for us." Speaking from experience, perhaps?
A transcript of the first segment, which aired at 7:17am, follows:
DIANE SAWYER: We're all thinking of Malia and Sasha this morning. First day of school in a new place and, of course, all that attention being paid to you and we'll have a little more on that. And the President-elect said he choked up thinking about it.
ROBIN ROBERTS: Home alone in Chicago. One of Malia's friends came over and had a little scrapbook that he wanted her to deliver to his ten-year-old and he was flipping through it. And, I would imagine, got a little choked up.
SAWYER: And we turn back now to another family getting ready for their new morning in their new life. As we said, the Obamas' first day in Washington and a big day for Malia and Sasha. Malia, aged ten. Sasha aged seven heading off for their first day at school. And GMA senior national correspondent is in fact just a few feet away from their new digs in Washington at the Hay-Adams. Claire?
CLAIRE SHIPMAN: Good morning, Diane. Well, that's right. We happen to broadcast from the Hay Adams hotel. Now, we've turned an ordinary room into a studio and I think you can see why when you see the view over my shoulder. The Obamas are in a room that looks a little bit different. It is a suite. They've decided to come early to Washington because they wanted their daughters to have a smooth transition to their new school, Sidwell Friends, which starts today. It's a transition that would be tough for any kids, president's daughters or not. New school, new teachers, new friends. Ten-year-old Malia makes the 15-minute drive to Sidwell middle school campus in Washington where she will be in fifth grade. It's an award winning, entirely green building, complete with organic lunches, one of the many things that appealed to her and her family. Seven-year-old Sasha has a 25-minute trip to the lower school campus in Bethesda, Maryland where the emphasis is on Quaker values. She'll be in second grade there. The family has asked for as much privacy as possible. What they want to avoid is scenes like this. Amy Carter's first day at school under siege by reporters.
SALLY QUINN (The Washington Post): Amy Carter had a really terrible time in the beginning because she went to a public school and the public schools were just not really equipped to deal with a child of a president.
[brief "Saturday Night Live" clip]
SHIPMAN: "Saturday Night Live" had great fun imagining a day at school trailed by Secret Service agents.
["Saturday Night Live" clip]
SHIPMAN: While it is the case that Secret Service protection will always be nearby, sometimes in the classroom, the agents know from experience how to blend in and give kids the space they need. From all accounts, Chelsea Clinton who also went to Sidwell managed to have a surprisingly normal existence.
LISA CAPUTO (Fmr. Press secretary for Hillary Clinton): What I saw with Chelsea Clinton was the development of such amazing friendships, friendships that she forged that are very strong to this day. When she was the first daughter attending school in Washington, her friends were very protective of her.
SHIPMAN: Obama aides say the girls were especially drawn to Sidwell because they'll have ready-made friends. The Biden grandchildren also go to school there and the Obama girls apparently bonded with them on the campaign trail. Ahh, the quest for a normal life. It will certainly be hard but they will get an adventure. At least the girls will get a chance to play Eloise here at the Hay-Adams for a couple weeks. Diane and Robin?
SAWYER: Yeah. Staying up late dialing room service, I hope. I hope they get to.