ABC's One-Sided Take on Wisconsin Protests Includes an Interview With Top Secret, Hidden Democrat
Good Morning America on Friday spun the protests in Wisconsin from the perspective of the unions and Democratic lawmakers who oppose Republican efforts to reform collective bargaining. Co-host George Stephanopoulos even interviewed a Democratic lawmaker from a top secret location outside the state.
Correspondent Chris Bury's piece on the protest featured five clips of those protesting the efforts by Republican Governor Scott Walker to make government employees contribute to their retirement plans. He allowed just one in support.
The reporter narrated, "Last night, more public workers, including these firemen, poured into the capitol. Some families camping out overnight, in a last-ditch effort to protest budget cuts they fear would cripple their union rights."
Bury only included Walker as the voice speaking out for the reforms. In contrast, he highlighted one woman fretting, "I want to do everything in my power to raise awareness that this can't happen!" Another protester complained, "This is about stripping away our rights to have a union."
After weighting the first report heavily against Walker and the Republicans, Stephanopoulos then interviewed yet another Democrat. Talking to State Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller, a hidden Democrat who fled the state, the co-anchor explained, "He joins us from a location we cannot disclose. We know where you are, obviously, senator."
Stephanopoulos did actually ask some adversarial questions, wondering, "So, do you have an alternative? Do you have a way to close the deficit if you don't like the governor's plan?"
But, wouldn't it have been more balanced to feature the Republican perspective of this story?
A transcript of the Bury segment, which aired at 7:02am EST on February 18, follows:
ABC Graphic: Rage in America
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And this morning, high-stakes battle the heartland. Thousands converge on Wisconsin's capital, camp-out overnight, to protest the governor's budget cuts. Teachers call in sick. And Democrats escape the state to prevent a vote. Is your state next?
ROBIN ROBERTS: And, George, let's begin by talking about the massive gatherings that we've seen in Wisconsin. A really dramatic political confrontation going down there, where tens of thousands of teachers, students, prison guards, descending on the state capitol, to protest a budget package that would strip most public workers of collective bargaining rights and cut benefits. And as George said, Democratic legislators even went into hiding to delay a vote. Chris Bury is there and has all the details for us this morning. Good morning, Chris.
[Signs that can BRIEFLY be seen on camera: "Scott Mubarak: Get Out!", "King Walker, Union Buster" Hitler signs.]
CHRIS BURY: Good morning, Robin. It's been a wild week here at the state capital. Some protesters are still camped out inside the building and a dramatic political showdown is under way. Last night, more public workers, including these firemen, poured into the capitol. Some families camping out overnight, in a last-ditch effort to protest budget cuts they fear would cripple their union rights.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I want to do everything in my power to raise awareness that this can't happen!
BURY: On Thursday, Republicans were sent to pass a budget requiring state workers to pay more for pensions and health care. But what really has them steamed is a dramatic move by the Republican governor to eliminate union bargaining on everything from wages to work rules.
DEBORAH CALDWELL: He wants to dictate what we'll do, when we'll do it, how it will be done.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: This is about stripping away our rights to have a union.
BURY: So, Senate Democrats, more than a dozen, fled the state, to prevent a vote and keep Wisconsin police from rounding them up.
STATE SENATOR JON ERPENBACH (D-WI, 27th District): The state police jurisdiction stops at the Wisconsin border. So, that's why we had to leave the state. It's not like we wanted to do this.
ST. SENATOR JIM HOLPERIN (D-WI, 12th district): We feel that by delaying the vote for a while, the people of the state will have more opportunity to talk about this issue.
WISCONSIN GOVERNOR SCOTT WALKER: I think it's time for them to come home and do their job.
BURY: Wisconsin's new governor, Scott Walker, faced with a $3.6 billion deficit, denies he's trying to bust the unions.
WALKER: The bottom line is we're broke. We can't negotiate for something we don't have the ability to give on.
BURY: Meanwhile, the historic standoff continues, until at least one Democrat returns to the state senate. Once the Democrats do come back here, they are very likely to lose. And other governors facing similar budget crises are watching Wisconsin very carefully. George?
— Scott Whitlock is a news analyst for the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.