ABC Touts O'Donnell's Witchcraft Comments: Will Remarks Continue to 'Haunt' Candidate?

Good Morning America's George Stephanopoulos on Monday asserted that the White House wants to "deliver" the message that the Tea Party is too extreme.

He then highlighted 11-year-old comments, asking Representative Mike Pence about Christine O'Donnell's past comments on witchcraft: "She says it was just a little high school fun. Is that enough?"

In a 1999 appearance on Politically Incorrect, O'Donnell told host Bill Maher that she dabbled in witchcraft and dated a Satanist. An ABC graphic hyped, "Witchcraft Talk Haunts Candidate: O'Donnell Asked to Explain Remarks."

Playing up a Republican split, Stephanopoulos cited an unlikely expert, Karl Rove, as he interviewed Pence: "You heard Karl Rove say that Christine O'Donnell is going to have to explain the witchcraft comments."

On September 15, the GMA anchor pointed out that Rove criticized the "nutty" things the Delaware senatorial nominee has said in the past. The engineer of two presidential victories for George W. Bush isn't often extolled on Good Morning America.

Stephanopoulos, a former top aide to Michael Dukakis and Bill Clinton,  recited more Democratic talking points for the midterm election:

STEPHANOPOULOS: But, as you know, Congressman, speaking of the message, you know that the Democrats and the White House are going to try to take the position of Christine O'Donnell, Joe Miller from Alaska and say that it's signs of a radical takeover in the Republican Party. Christine O'Donnell also says that integrating women into the military institutes will cripple the readiness of our defense. Joe Miller up in Alaska says that unemployment benefits are unconstitutional. Are those provisions you're willing to run by?

A transcript of the September 20 segment, which aired at 7:09am EDT, follows:

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: But, the message is what the White House wants to deliver in this election season. Thanks, Jake. And for more on all this, we're joined by the man who beat out Sarah Palin and other Republican stars at the Values Voter presidential straw poll this weekend, Indiana Congressman Mike Pence, The chairman of the House Republican Conference. Congratulations on your victory, Congressman.

REP. MIKE PENCE: Thank you, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I know that after that you said you wanted to focus on getting back to the House for Republicans. But is it fair to conclude that your victory Saturday increases your chances that you'll run for President?

PENCE: Well, look, I was very honored and, frankly, humbled as we walked out of the Purdue/Ball State game on Saturday and received word about that affirmation from folks who attended the Values Voters Summit in Washington. But our focus, George, and I think so the focus of every American who is tired of runaway federal spending, borrowing, bailouts and takeovers needs to be on November 2nd. You know, we'll let the future take care of itself. But, for now, the reason I'm here in Michigan today- gonna be campaigning with Tim Wahlberg down in Battle Creek.. The reason we're traveling all across the country the American people won back the people's house for the common sense and common values of this nation.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Okay. So we'll have you back in November when you're ready to make the announcement. I'll invite you back then. But, let's talk a little bit about the midterms and that victory last week by Christine O'Donnell and all the comments coming out over the weekend. You heard Karl Rove say that Christine O'Donnell is going to have to explain the witchcraft comments. She says it was just a little high school fun. Is that enough?

PENCE: Well, look, I think that's up to the voters in Delaware to decide. And certainly, Christine O'Donnell, you know, has an obligation to explain those public statements. But, you know, welcome to the silly season, George. I mean, suddenly now, Bill Maher is the vanguard of religion in America. [Laughs.] Come on. You know, Christine O'Donnell's success or the success of Joe Miller in Alaska or people like Marco Rubio in Florida is less about that the messenger, it's more about the message. What's bringing everyday Americans into the streets, out to Tea Party meetings and town hall meetings is the realization that our government has run off the rails. And the American people recognize they've got to take the reins back in the government. And they're looking for men and women of courage who are willing to stand up and take on the establishment in Washington, D.C. And I expect, come November 2nd, those issues and that message is going to carry the day. And not all of this back and forth.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But, as you know, Congressman, speaking of the message, you know that the Democrats and the White House are going to try to take the position of Christine O'Donnell, Joe Miller from Alaska and say that it's signs of a radical takeover in the Republican Party. Christine O'Donnell also says that integrating women into the military institutes will cripple the readiness of our defense. Joe Miller up in Alaska says that unemployment benefits are unconstitutional. Are those provisions you're willing to run by?

PENCE [Laughs]: Nice try, George. Look-

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, what's the answer?

PENCE: Look, look, I've been traveling around the country for candidates and I've attended Tea Party rallies. Did one about a week ago in Washington D.C. with tens of thousands of Americans. But, in my town hall meeting two years ago, people poured into my home community in Columbus, Indiana because they're fed up. They're fed up with runaway federal spending in both political parties. And I think they're going to see through this typical, nitpicking, and we're going to pull things out of context. And we're going to try and put people in the worst possible light. They're going to say, "Look, just bring us men and women that are willing to go to Washington, D.C., put our fiscal house in order, get this economy moving, respect the common values of the American people." And I think that's going to carry the day on Election Day.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So, that's my last question. We only have ten seconds left. Bottom line, do you think Republicans win back the House?

PENCE: I think they have a profound opportunity. But it's up to the American people that cherish conservative values, to do everything they can between now and November 2nd to win back the people's house for the common sense and common values of the majority of this country.

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