Network Morning Shows Trumpet 'Historic,' 'Landmark' Nuke Treaty, Only ABC Allows for 'Controversy'

The network morning shows on Thursday trumpeted Barack Obama's nuclear weapons treaty with Russia as "historic" and "landmark," with only Good Morning America allowing that the reduction plan could be "controversial." However, ABC's George Stephanopoulos also enthused, "But, [Obama and Russia's President] are here first and foremost to make history..."

Reporting live from Prague, Stephanopoulos was mostly light on details. He did explain that the treaty's goal is to cut "nuclear arsenals by about 30 percent over the next seven years." And while the ex-Democratic aide allowed that "critics call [the treaty] utopian and dangerous," he didn't explain why.

Co-host Robin Roberts announced, "George Stephanopoulos is there in Prague for the historic moment." She later teased, "George is traveling, of course, with the President, who just signed a landmark treaty."

Roberts labeled the agreement a "controversial arms control agreement," a term not used over on CBS's Early Show. Substitute new anchor Betty Nguyen described the treaty as a "new start" between Russia and the U.S.

Early Show reporter Chip Reid just regurgitated White House talking points: "President Obama arrived in Prague Thursday morning to sign what the White House calls a historic agreement with Russia on reducing nuclear arms."

He parroted, "White House advisers say a full year of intense negotiations has also helped foster better relations with Russia and with President Dmitry Medvedev."

On NBC's Today, Meredith Vieira hailed, "And one big step. President Obama and his Russian counterpart sign a landmark treaty overnight to slash both countries' nuclear arsenals." Co-host Matt Lauer proclaimed, "It's a major move in his push for a nuclear-free world."

Unlike Stephanopoulos, Chuck Todd, to his credit, provided more detail in explaining exactly what is in the treaty:

CHUCK TODD: The treaty limits deployed nuclear warheads to 1,550 total for each country, a cut of 30 percent from the last treaty in 2002. Long-range nuclear weapons are limited to 700 for each country. Combined, the two countries account for 90 percent of the world's nuclear weapons with seven other countries accounting for the other 10 percent. Experts say this treaty is only be a success if it leads to the Russians agreeing to even more cuts.

But, just as with the Early Show, the reporters and hosts on Today did not hint at any controversy.

A transcript of the April 8 GMA segment, which aired at 7:02am EDT, follows:

7am tease

ROBIN ROBERTS: This morning, breaking news. The President signs a controversial arms control agreement with Russia. George Stephanopoulos is there in Prague for the historic moment.

7:01

ROBERTS: And we know that George is traveling, of course, with the President, who just signed a landmark treaty- there's George- to reduce the two countries' nuclear weapons by a third. It comes almost exactly one year after President Obama pledged to put an end to cold-war thinking. But, it sparked heated debate here at home. And we'll get the latest from George in Prague in just a moment.

7:02

ROBIN ROBERTS: But, of course, we begin with the historic signing of the nuclear arms reduction treaty. George is in Prague, capital of the Czech Republic, where the signing just took place. Good morning, George.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning, Robin. That's right. Except the two Presidents are running late because they had a very long business meeting, dealing with the situation in Iran. Also that unrest in Kyrgyzstan. But, they are here first and foremost to make history, by signing the most significant arms reduction treaty in two decades. The President was welcomed to Prague this morning with pomp and circumstance. After meeting Czech President Vaclav Klaus, Obama got down to business with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. High on the agenda, confronting Iran's nuclear program. Then, the main event. The two Presidents signed a landmark treaty that will reduce their nuclear arsenals by about 30 percent over the next seven years. An important step in the relationship between the U.S. and Russia. And a significant down payment on the ambitious nuclear agenda, critics call it utopian and dangerous, that Obama first outlined a year ago here in Prague.

BARACK OBAMA: So, today, I state clearly and with conviction. America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Now, the President said today that is the work of a lifetime, maybe even beyond. But he's taken important steps. Announcing earlier this week, he would put new restrictions on the use of U.S. nuclear weapons. And he's invited 47 world leaders to Washington on Monday for a nuclear security summit. Robin?

ROBERTS: All right, George. Now, the treaty is signed. It has to be ratified, of course, by the Senate. Expect a fight there at all?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Oh, there's no question there's going to be a fight, Robin. Remember, a treaty takes 67 vote in order to get ratified. That means the President is going to have to get at least seven Republicans. He's already gotten criticism from Republicans who worry that this treaty may restrict U.S. missile defense programs. And the Russians have said that as well. But the White House officials tell us they expect this to get ratified this year.

ROBERTS: This year. Well, you alluded a moment ago to the unrest in Kyrgyzstan. And it's such an important ally in the war against Afghanistan, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That's exactly right. The President seems to have been ousted in Kyrgyzstan because he wanted support for a United States base in Kyrgyzstan, that's used to resupply Afghanistan. White House officials say that this base is still running, despite the fact that the President has left the capital. And this interim leader, this opposition leader who seems to have taken over in Kyrgyzstan, says there will not be any interference with the operation of that base.

ROBERTS: Such troubling situation in that region over there. I know you said the President is running a little bit late. But you have some time with him in just a little bit. Much to talk to him about, as always, right, George?

STEPHANOPOULOS: So much to talk to the President about. Of course, coming off the signing, we're going to talk to him about whether he can convince the Russians and the Chinese to really crack down on Iran's nuclear program. We also might get into the situation in Kyrgyzstan, the unrest in Afghanistan. There's so much to talk to the President about. And then Tomorrow, we move on to Russia. We'll talk to the Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev. And we'll broadcast from St. Petersburg tomorrow and Moscow on Monday.

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