ABC's Terry Moran: For Obama, Presidency Is a 'Step Down'

"Nightline" co-anchor Terry Moran gave an interview on Friday to the Media Bistro's "Morning Media Menu" podcast and compared Barack Obama to George Washington. Talking to host and editor Steve Krakauer, Moran gushed, "I like to say that, in some ways, Barack Obama is the first President since George Washington to be taking a step down into the Oval Office." (For those who have forgotten, George Washington defeated the strongest military power in the world. Barack Obama was a community organizer.) [Full interview audio available here.]

Moran continued, "I mean, from visionary leader of a giant movement, now he's got an executive position that he has to perform in, in a way." [MP3 audio of just this answer, 26 seconds]

On his Twitter page later, the ABC journalist attempted to explain his over-the-top comparison. Moran, who can be seen in the above file photo, contended, "I said like only Washington, Obama came to office as more than a politician, a visionary leader for many. Now's he's got a job."

And while Moran seemed to link Obama to Washington, a man that many consider the greatest president ever, he still found time to critique other journalists. Speaking of Matt Lauer's pre-Super Bowl interview with the President, he described the NBC host's tone as "kind of, 'Hey, it must be neat to be president.'" Moran derided, "Which to me struck kind of an off-note, because you know, now he is President, and there is a necessary bit of distance there, which I detected."

Co-host Glynnis MacNicol, also an editor at Media Bistro, asked the "Nightline" anchor about journalists who have gone to work for the Obama administration and whether they're in the pocket of the Obama. Moran admitted, "I don't think its any secret, and it hasn't been for 30 plus years, that journalists in their personal views at the national level tend to be more liberal than the rest of America. And I think that every poll has basically shown that."

Moran then added that he didn't think this bias skewed coverage in the President's favor. Predicably, he offered up a common journalist canard about the Iraq war: "Many people said that the coverage of the run-up to the Iraq war was skewed to the right, rather than the left." In fact, as a study by the Media Research Center found, the media, and ABC in particular, was extremely negative and critical of the Bush's motives for going to war in Iraq.

[A special thanks to MRC intern Mike Sargent for transcribing the podcast.]

A partial transcript of the podcast interview follows:

Mediabistro.com's Morning Media Menu

2/20/2009

STEVE KRAKAUER: I want to talk about another issue, just sort of the campaign and covering Barack Obama. You know, you were on the campaign trail covering the President, interviewed him several times before he was elected, and since have sort of gone back on this trail of sorts as he tries to sell the stimulus plan around the country. And interviewed him as well last week. What do you see as the difference in coverage that he's getting since he's been in office?

TERRY MORAN: Well, now he's got the job. I like to say that, in some ways, Barack Obama is the first President since George Washington to be taking a step down into the Oval Office. I mean, from visionary leader of a giant movement, now he's got an executive position that he has to perform in, in a way. And I think that the coverage reflects that. How does he do? Uh, how does he do navigating the shoals of politics in Washington and Congress? How does he do formulating actual policy, as opposed to articulating ideals? And do we like that policy? Will it work? So he's getting more regular scrutiny, as is necessary. I also think that there's something in the White House Press Corps, which is healthy, where you're judged by your peers, to some extent, on how tough you can be. How sharp your questions are, how aggressive your coverage is, that's the standard for success among White House reporters. And I think he's essentially learning, for many White House reporters, they wake up every morning thinking 'How do I take a pound of flesh out of the President today?' And all that is healthy.

KRAKAUER: Wow. All right. When you interviewed the President last week, and you actually, also, another Twitter reference here, you tweeted about what the first question should be, what you should ask him, and (NOISE) I'm sort of thinking about this here, how did you see his demeanor, was it the same as when you've interviewed him in the past?

MORAN: Well, he had just walked out of a big rally, so he was pumped. So, that was similar. But I think there's no question that the office changes a person, and ought to. I get a sense of distance there. I think for a lot of reporters that covered him, he's a very informal man by his nature, relaxed, friendly like a lot of politicians, and I think that bred a kind of familiarity in interviews. You saw that in some ways in Matt Lauer's Super Bowl interview, that still kind of, 'Hey, it must be neat to be president.' Which to me struck kind of an off-note, because you know, now he is President, and there is a necessary bit of distance there, which I detected. He's still a genial, friendly person, but I would say that the responsibility of office removes him from being someone you can shoot the bull with, necessarily, to something else. It wasn't a huge change, I would say. I actually think that George Bush changed a lot more by the end of his presidency than Obama has so far, but yeah, there's a bit of a change.

KRAKAUER: We've got time.

GLYNNIS MACNICOL: It's strange, the blanket coverage he's getting. He's actually only been in office for less than a month, or a month today, I guess.

KRAKAUER: Yeah, a month

MACNICOL: Yeah, a month today. We've been talking a lot this week about a lot of journalists decamping to work for the administration, and a number of people have commented on that, as being a sign that Obama has the media in his pocket. I'm wondering if you think that's what it is, or if it has more to do with the terrible economy and the pain that the media industry is suffering right now?

MORAN: Well, I think it's both economic and ideological. I don't think its any secret, and it hasn't been for 30 plus years, that journalists in their personal views at the national level tend to be more liberal than the rest of America. And I think that every poll has basically shown that. I don't think that means that their coverage has necessarily been skewed. Many people said that the coverage of the run-up to the Iraq war was skewed to the right, rather than the left. And the way Bill Clinton was covered, I don't think betokens a liberal bias, necessarily. So, the one doesn't necessarily follow the other, but I think it's hard for journalists to deny, that on many social issues certainly, we tend to be more liberal. That said, I don't think Obama's going to get a pass as President, no President does, or should, as we talked about earlier. He'll get a good grilling, a good going-over. And then the economics of it, as you pointed out. This is a very, very uncertain time if you're in the journalism business. You know, what comes next? And I think a lot of people are trying to add another dimension into their career, and serve the country, let's remember that. You know, It is public service, something that is honorable and a great adventure. So I think all those things are a part of what you're seeing.

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