Network Morning Shows Mostly Ignore Gregg Withdrawal; Census Grab

CBS's "Early Show" and ABC's "Good Morning America" on Friday almost entirely ignored the embarrassing departure of yet another of Barack Obama's cabinet nominees, with only NBC's "Today" providing any real information on the event. GMA devoted a scant 15 seconds to the withdrawal of Republican Senator Judd Gregg as the President's second nominee for Commerce Secretary. (Previous choice Bill Richards dropped out for tax reasons.) Instead, the networks included segments on aphrodisiacs for Valentine's Day and how to make a flourless chocolate cake.

"Early Show" doubled ABC, managing a still insignificant 30 second anchor brief. NBC's "Today" actually featured a full report and had the most coverage, three minutes and 21 seconds. Out of a combined eight hours of programming, the total for all three came to only four minutes and six seconds. None of the coverage made any mention of Senator Gregg's opposition to the Obama administration's goal of moving the 2010 census count from the Commerce Department to the White House. (The census issue was mostly ignored on Thursday's evening news programs as well.)

Now, obviously, much of the networks' coverage revolved around the tragic plane crash that occurred in New York on Thursday night. But, that doesn't fully explain the lack of reporting. A sampling of "Good Morning America's" other stories included one on how to make affordable, romantic Valentine's Day meals. (Sam Champion created a flourless chocolate cake with cook Emeril Lagasse.) Barry Manilow also performed and a full segment was devoted to cute stories of how couples met. In total, GMA provided 23 minutes of coverage to frivolous topics, compared to their 15 seconds for the Gregg story. On "The Early Show," the CBS program touted what foods could be aphrodisiacs for Valentine's Day.

On ABC, guest news anchor Bianna Golodryga vaguely asserted that Gregg stepped aside because of "conflicts with President Obama's policies." Over on "The Early Show," Russ Mitchell simply proclaimed, "The New Hampshire Republican said he cannot support Mr. Obama's economic stimulus plan." Lester Holt, during a "Today" show new brief, cited "differences." In the program's full report, reporter Savannah Guthrie mentioned "irresolvable differences over policy." To repeat, none of the journalists specifically mentioned Gregg's opposition to the moving of the 2010 census from the Commerce Department to the White House.

A February 10 posting by the MRC's Rich Noyes explained how the networks were ignoring the census issue:

The Obama administration's decision to have the White House supervise the 2010 Census -- a response to left-wing complaints that the Census was too important to leave under the authority of Republican Judd Gregg, the nominee for Commerce Secretary -- has thus (as of Tuesday morning) far drawn absolutely no attention from the three broadcast networks, with not a single mention on the ABC, CBS or NBC morning or evening newscasts.

This would undoubtedly be a huge story if the White House were still in Republican hands and it was the GOP that was attempting to take over the Census. As the Wall Street Journal's John Fund reported on Tuesday: "'There's only one reason to have that high level of White House involvement,' a career professional at the Census Bureau tells me. 'And it's called politics, not science.'"

A round up of the February 13 coverage from ABC, CBS and NBC follows:

GMA

8:05

15 seconds

BIANNA GOLODRYGA: The Obama administration expects to name a new commerce secretary nominee soon now that Republican Senator Judd Gregg has withdrawn. Gregg stepped aside because of conflicts with President Obama's policies. The next nominee will be the President's fourth [sic] pick for the job.

The Early Show

8:05AM

30 seconds

RUSS MITCHELL: President Obama is back on the hunt for a commerce secretary, after Senator Judd Gregg pulled out. The New Hampshire Republican said he cannot support Mr. Obama's economic stimulus plan.

JUDD GREGG: I realize that to withdraw at this point is really unfair in many ways, but to go forward and take this position and then find myself sitting there and not being able to do the job the way it should be done on behalf of the president, 100% , it would have been an even bigger mistake.

MITCHELL: And Gregg will remain in the Senate.

Today

8:03

9 seconds

LESTER HOLT: Republican Senator Judd Gregg has withdrawn as commerce secretary nominee, saying he has irresolvable differences with President Obama's policies.

9:07

18 seconds

LESTER HOLT: President Barack Obama is looking again to fill the position of commerce secretary in his cabinet. New Hampshire Republican Senator Judd Gregg has withdrawn his nomination, saying he had too many differences with the President over the economic stimulus plan and other policies. Gregg is the second commerce nominee to withdraw.

7:13

2 min 54 sec

MEREDITH VIEIRA: And now to politics and another bump in the road for President Obama when it comes to his Cabinet picks. NBC's Savannah Guthrie is at the White House. Savannah, good morning to you.

[on screen headline: "Team Of Rivalry? GOP's Gregg Pulls Out Of Obama Cabinet"]

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Good morning, Meredith. For the third time, the President is looking for a Commerce Secretary after Republican Senator Judd Gregg abruptly withdrew his name. Now aides say they knew for a few days he was wavering, but didn't learn the final decision until everyone else did. The President spent the evening in Springfield, Illinois, commemorating the 200th birthday of Abraham Lincoln.

BARACK OBAMA: In 1854, Lincoln was simply a Springfield lawyer.

GUTHRIE: And trying to laugh off his latest Cabinet troubles.

OBAMA: Maybe wondering if somebody might call him up and ask him to be Commerce Secretary. He-

JUDD GREGG: Well, I want to begin by thanking the president for considering me.

GUTHRIE: Late Thursday, Republican Senator Judd Gregg abruptly withdrew his nomination to be Commerce Secretary, citing irresolvable differences over policy.

GREGG: Bottom line is, this was simply a bridge too far for me. The President asked me to do it. I said yes. That was my mistake. Not his.

OBAMA: We had, had a discussion over the last couple of days. I wasn't sure whether he had made a final decision or not.

GUTHRIE: Appearing blind-sided, White House aides were quick to say Gregg campaigned for the job, but aboard Air Force One, the President was gracious.

OBAMA ON AIR FORCE ONE: You know I'm optimistic that we're gonna be able to still work together. I've got to get my Commerce Secretary, though.

OBAMA AT WHITE HOUSE: How, clearly, Judd and I don't agree on every issue.

GUTHRIE: When Obama nominated Gregg 10 days ago, he was one of three Republicans in Obama's "Team of Rivals." Gregg now goes back to the Senate where he hasn't yet weighed in on the President's stimulus package. Now the President faces yet another headache filling the Cabinet. His first choice for Commerce, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, dropped out because of a state ethics investigation. Tax problems took out Tom Daschle, Nancy Killefer and threatened Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's nomination.

OBAMA: It is time for Congress to act.

GUTHRIE: The President is trying to keep the focus on the economy. On Thursday, he visited the headquarters of Caterpillar, a heavy machinery company that is laying off more than 20,000 workers, an example, the President said, of a company that will benefit from the stimulus package.

OBAMA: Jim, the head of Caterpillar, said that if Congress passes our plan, this company will be able to rehire some of the folks who

were just laid off.

GUTHRIE: But after the President left, Caterpillar's CEO Jim Owens hedged a bit.

JIM OWENS: The reality is, we'll probably have to have more layoffs before we start hiring again.

GUTHRIE: Well, the President is about to get a victory on his stimulus. Both houses of Congress expected to vote as early as today on the package. Final price tag, $789.5 billion, Meredith.

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