ABC Bizarrely Hypes Non-scandal Over Bush Dinnerware

"Good Morning America" hosts and reporters on Wednesday bewilderingly touted a total non-scandal, the "brewing brouhaha" over the new set of presidential dinnerware that President Bush and the first lady have ordered. Despite the fact that a private organization is paying the $485,000 bill, a salient point not revealed until late in the story, co-host Robin Roberts fretted, "So, why wait to give such an expensive gift right before they leave?" (If the plates are not taxpayer funded, what's the basis for the story?)

Veteran ABC reporter Ann Compton worried, "So, why is Laura Bush introducing new Bush china two weeks before they move out?" Compton even featured the Washington Post's Sally Quinn, not identified as a liberal in the report, to bash former President Ronald Reagan's china incident. Compton explained, "Washington veteran Sally Quinn recalls the furor when President Reagan was slashing the federal budget and his wife, Nancy, ordered $200,000 of scarlet china with the presidential seal in gold."

Quinn, who proclaimed herself "baffled" by the current dinnerware crisis, said of Nancy Reagan: "When she ordered all of that new china, she took a lot of heat for it, because it was very expensive." Compton did note that the plates will be used at events such as state dinners and that the set being used now had become fragile.

However, not until near the end of the segment did she reveal, "When the White House celebrated its 200th birthday, Hillary Clinton got to design a new $250,000 set, paid for by the private White House Historical Association, which is also footing the $485,000 Bush costs." Apparently, it didn't occur to Compton that her admission essentially negated any justification for the story.

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

ROBIN ROBERTS: Now, to the brewing brouhaha over the presidential plates. President and First Lady Laura Bush are leaving behind a new set of dinnerware when they leave the White House in two weeks, a set of china costing nearly half a million dollars. So, why wait to give such an expensive gift right before they leave? Well, here's ABC's Ann Compton.

ANN COMPTON: There's nothing more elegant than a state dinner at the White House. The finest food, on the finest china. Even Hollywood gushed over the elegance in the movie "The American President."

["American President" clip]

COMPTON: There's a whole room set aside at the White House for the surviving antique china from Madison, Monroe, Abraham Lincoln, the Roosevelts. So, why is Laura Bush introducing new Bush china two weeks before they move out?

DANA PERINO (White House press secretary): No time like the present.

COMPTON: The White House worried that wear and tear had taken a toll on its fragile china selection collections. And the Bushes took some time to decide on a new design.

SALLY QUINN (author and journalist): I'm baffled by this, the timing of it.

COMPTON: Washington veteran Sally Quinn recalls the furor when President Reagan was slashing the federal budget and his wife, Nancy, ordered $200,000 of scarlet china with the presidential seal in gold.

QUINN: When she ordered all of that new china, she took a lot of heat for it, because it was very expensive.

COMPTON: After the outcry, a private foundation was put together to pay for the Reagan china. When the White House celebrated its 200th birthday, Hillary Clinton got to design a new $250,000 set, paid for by the private White House Historical Association, which is also footing the $485,000 Bush costs. Normally, only two-term presidents have time to order custom china. Presidents Nixon, Carter, and Bush 41 never did. Adding to the collection is one task the new first family shouldn't have to face when they entertain. For "Good Morning America," Ann Compton, ABC News, the White House.

ROBERTS: And, again, at least it's not taxpayer money going for that.

SAWYER: $485,000? A lot of plates.

ROBERTS: I know.

SAWYER: Carry them carefully, if you ever-

ROBERTS: Don't let Malia and Sasha near them. Keep 'em away.

SAWYER: I assume they don't go in the dishwasher.

ROBERTS: No, no, no. I think that's a safe assumption.

SAWYER: Okay, a mystery almost solved here.

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