ABC's George Stephanopoulos Grades Obama's Press Conference an 'A'

Journalist George Stephanopoulos appeared on Monday's "Nightline" to offer high grades for Barack Obama's first primetime press conference. He awarded the President an A for overall performance at the event and a B for Obama's bipartisan efforts. During the presidential campaign, Stephanopoulos was consistent in giving high marks to the then-Democratic candidate, announcing that Obama won all his debates against Republican John McCain and that Joe Biden bested Sarah Palin.

Speaking to "Nightline" anchor Terry Moran, the "This Week" host enthused, "Well, I think he got an A on this, Terry...He had the long answers, five-minute mini-essays or speeches all about the economy, able to explain from his perspective how bad the situation is, how we got into this mess and how his stimulus package will fix it." On the subject of reaching out to Republicans, Stephanopoulos asserted, "I think on that you give him a B." After allowing that the President hasn't been able to obtain GOP support for the stimulus bill, he spun, "He was able to make his points tonight, how, basically, that isn't his fault. That's what he was trying to say tonight. He has reached out, he hasn't had a response from the Republican side."

The only grade that failed to elicit a top score was when Moran queried how Obama has done overall. Stephanopoulos responded, "You know, it's just impossible to give a grade on that in first four weeks, Terry. I think you have to give him an incomplete."

As the MRC's Brent Baker noted in an October 16, 2008 NewsBusters posting, Stephanopoulos repeatedly appeared on ABC's post-debate coverage during the fall and declared Obama the winner every single time. If one were to include the vice presidential debate, where he announced Joe Biden the victor, it was a four-for-four sweep by the Democratic ticket.

Host Moran also gushed over Obama during a previous "Nightline" segment. Regarding a question the President received on baseball player Alex Rodriguez and steroids, the anchor enthused, "But this President offered a glimpse of the values he brings to the tasks in an answer to a question about the revelation that baseball star Alex Rodriguez used steroids." Moran then played a clip of Obama's answer.

In contrast, during a "World News Tonight segment on January 21, 2004, in response to then-President Bush's condemnation of steroid use in baseball (in his State of the Union address), Moran derided the speech as "marked by relatively minor but politically appealing initiatives: $23 million for drug testing in schools, $135 million for abstinence education, $300 million for post-release assistance to ex-convicts and a call to end steroid use in pro sports, which cost nothing ." [Emphasis added.] However, Moran should be given credit for at least playing a clip on Monday night of a woman at an Obama event challenging the President over the tax problems that a number of his cabinet nominees have had.

To read the MRC's new "Profiles in Bias" section on Stephanopoulos, click here.

Partial transcripts of the February 09 segments follow:

TERRY MORAN: Tonight in the east room, the questions were, for the most part, more respectful and several focused on Washington and the partisan sniping and division that already marks this presidency.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Old habits are hard to break and we're coming off an election and I think people want to sort of test the limits of what they can get. You know, there's a lot of jockeying in this town and a lot of whose up and who's down and positioning for the next election. And what I've tried to suggest is that this is one those times where we've got to put that kind of behavior aside. Because the American people can't afford it. The people in Elkhart can't afford it. The single mom who's trying to figure out how to keep her house can't afford it.

MORAN: President Obama, who has hosted Republican senators and members of Congress at the White House for drinks and had several over for the Super Bowl, he said he'll keep trying.

OBAMA: I am the eternal optimist. I think that over time people respond to civility and rational argument. I think that's what the people of Elkhart and people around America are looking for and that's what I'm- there's the kind of leadership I'm going to try to provide.

MORAN: So it's going to be a long, hard struggle to turn the economy around, to turn Washington around. But this president offered a glimpse of the values he brings to the tasks in an answer to a question about the revelation that baseball star Alex Rodriguez used steroids.

OBAMA: Our kids hopefully are watching and saying you know what, there are no shortcuts. That when you try to take shortcuts, you may end up tarnishing your entire career.

11:44pm

TERRY MORAN: So how did the president do in his primetime debut? George Stephanopoulos, host of "This Week" and our Chief Washington Correspondent is here for the "Nightline" report card. With his take on President Obama.. So, George, first, let's take a look at the sale. This is what he wanted to do, sell the stimulus package. How'd he do?

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I think he got an A on this, Terry. The President was able to spend most of an hour talking to most of the country, mostly about the economy. He had the long answers, five-minute mini-essays or speeches all about the economy, able to explain from his perspective how bad the situation is, how we got into this mess and how his stimulus package will fix it. So I think from that perspective he was able to really get his message across tonight and of course, that bully pulpit he has tonight is something his opponents just can't match.

MORAN: He steps out there and he owns it. So the second topic, reaching out. There's been no honeymoon it seems. This is all about the question of partisanship, bipartisanship. How did he do on reaching out?

STEPHANOPOULOS: I think on that you give him a B. I mean, if you look at the course of the last four weeks, the President has been able to pick Republicans for his cabinet, but he's certainly hasn't achieved the goal of getting majority Republicans support - 80 votes for his stimulus package. He was able to make his points tonight, how, basically, that isn't his fault. That's what he was trying to say tonight. He has reached out, he hasn't had a response from the Republican side. But I think what you really saw tonight, Terry, is that there's a real tension, an inherent tension between the President's promise of bipartisanship, of reaching out to the other side and his promise of fundamental policy change. And he didn't really sugarcoat the differences tonight that he and the majority of Republicans have over how to address this economic problem right now. And I don't think that these are issues and he certainly expressed this tonight, that can be bridged by cocktail parties or phone calls on your cell phones.

MORAN: Well, he says he'll stick at it. Now, it's been just three weeks since there were a million and a half people on the Mall, President Obama took office. And overall now, take a step back, overall what kind of grade do you give him so far?

STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, it's just impossible to give a grade on that in first four weeks, Terry. I think you have to give him an incomplete. The President has been able to make his case I think in these first four weeks. Also had the kind of stumbles that post presidents have in the early days. Lost the cabinet appointment of Tom Daschle as secretary of Health and Human Services. But how he's doing, how he will be seen is all dependent on two things that are likely to unfold later this week. Number one, is he actually successful in passing the stimulus package, and getting it through the House and the Senate, signing it into law by that deadline he set on Presidents Day and of course, will it work? And secondly, something happening tomorrow. He said today he didn't want to preempt his treasury secretary, Tim Geithner who is coming out tomorrow and announcing the next phase of this financial rescue, financial stabilization plan. That probably has as much to do with his ultimate success as the stimulus package does. And the president even acknowledged tonight that he can't even say yet whether he's going to have to come back and ask the country for more money, whether this is gonna work. And you're not gonna be able to come up with a grade for this first month until you know how those two big questions, how those two big programs work out.

MORAN: So, incomplete on overall, but this is a front loaded administration, that's for sure. George, thanks very much for that.

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