ABC Spins New Senate Pick as a 'Conservative Democrat'

On Friday's "Good Morning America," reporter John Berman spun Representative Kristen Gillibrand, the soon-to-be announced senator from New York, as a "conservative Democrat." Although she is only beginning her second term in the House, Gillibrand has been endorsed by the aggressively pro-abortion group NARAL. According to the New York Observer, she supports gay marriage.

Additionally, the American Conservative Union ranked her voting record as a meager eight. During the segment, Berman explained that the issue of gun rights prompted the label: "Now, the Gillibrand pick is not without controversy itself. She is a conservative Democrat, favoring gun rights. And the pick has upset some more liberal Democrats." Gillibrand also opposed the TARP bailout legislation.

Over on the "Today" show, reporter David Gregory used similar language. He asserted, "She’s demonstrated that she can win as a conservative Democrat, in more conservative part of the state." So, while a few issues may make Gillibrand a moderate Democrat for the state of New York, it seems like a stretch for Gregory, Berman or other reporters to label the new senator a "conservative Democrat."

A transcript of the January 23 segment, which aired at 7:02am, follows:

ROBERTS: But we begin with Caroline Kennedy. Before she sought the Senate seat, she was known as an extremely private, private citizen. This morning, she has returned to that role, declining to reveal the exact reason she withdrew her name. Our John Berman has the latest for us. Good morning, John.

JOHN BERMAN: Good morning, Robin. Well, we now know the identity of the next senator from New York. 42-year-old Kirsten Gillibrand. She's a congresswoman, the mother of two from upstate. What is still unknown, was she still Governor David Paterson's first choice? It's just one of the questions in the middle of the swirling, angry debate, over what really happened with Caroline Kennedy. What exactly would you call the behind the scenes, back and forth between the camps for Caroline Kennedy and New York governor, David Paterson?

FRED DICKER (NY Post): A debacle. And embarrassment, fiasco.

BERMAN: A fiasco, debacle or just plain ugly fight. Round one, Caroline Kennedy says she bowed out for personal reasons. What reasons? In the Paterson corner, sources are whispering financial concerns over taxes or nannies. There are also rumors of marital issues. Not so, says the Kennedy corner. Not taxes. Not nannies. Not marriage. But a very private family matter that came to light only this week, that made her decide to be at home, instead of in the Senate. Does that clear things up?

DICKER: Why she couldn't be more candid. If she had this personal problem, why did she get in to begin with? I mean, that's one of the questions to begin with. Why didn't the governor ask her about this a month ago?

BERMAN: Round two, was she Paterson's first choice? From Paterson's corner, whispers that he had no intention of picking her. That he was leaning in another direction and Kennedy knew it.

DICKER: It may be that she got nervous, fearing that she was going to be humiliated by being turned down. And then, rushed to a decision to get out.

BERMAN: But Kennedy's people say she was the first choice. One adviser says the two staffs were already planning the public announcement together. And that Paterson even called Kennedy Monday, to see if she was free Saturday for an announcement. You can feel the bruised feelings in this statement from a Kennedy aide. "Caroline Kennedy withdrew her name for consideration from the United States Senate for personal reasons. Any statements to the contrary are false. This kind of mud slinging damages the process and all those involved." Now, the Gillibrand pick is not without controversy itself. She is a conservative Democrat, favoring gun rights. And the pick has upset some more liberal Democrats. Even then, though, nothing could be as controversial as the six-week process to get here. Robin?

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