ABC Allows a Scant 65 Seconds of Coverage for Obama's Reversal on 9/11 Terror Trials

Over two programs totaling two and half hours of air time, ABC allowed only 65 seconds of coverage for Barack Obama's decision to break a campaign promise and try 9/11 terror suspects at Guantanamo and not in a civilian court. In contrast, all the other network evening shows on Monday and morning shows on Tuesday provided full reports.

On Tuesday's Good Morning America on ABC, Juju Chang mildly explained in a news read, "Well, we begin with a legal turnaround for the Obama administration." On Monday's World News, Diane Sawyer delicately described it as a "switch in positions." Reporter Jake Tapper noted the President has "blinked" in the face of criticism and pointed out this was a breaking of a campaign promise. (This brief mention came during a larger story about the 2012 campaign.)

In contrast, CBS's Katie Couric actually provided much stronger language. She began by asserting, "In other news, a lot of people thought it was a terrible idea to put Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other men on trial here in New York City for the 9/11 attacks." Reporter Bob Orr, unlike Chang, labeled it a "stunning reversal" to try suspects at Guantanamo.

On Tuesday's Early Show, Jeff Glor used the same language, also calling it a "stunning reversal." CBS, however, did not feature any clips from Republican critics such as Pete King who called the decision long overdue.

On NBC's Nightly News, Pete Williams chided, "It's a complete turnaround for the Obama administration after the President vowed on his first day in office to shut Gitmo down within a year." He did include critics such as King and a husband of a 9/11 victim.

On Tuesday's Today, Williams interviewed Attorney General Eric Holder and pressed, "You know, some people are saying if the Attorney General had just looked at this a little  further, talked to the people in New York, he could have saved himself a lot of trouble and come to this decision two years ago."

In total, ABC provided the least amount of coverage and weak language to indicate the scope of the President's reversal and his breaking of a campaign promise.

ABC's limited coverage can be found below:


GMA
04/05/11
7:37
(20 seconds)

JUJU CHANG: Well, we begin with a legal turnaround for the Obama administration. It's giving up the fight to try 9/11 suspects in civilian court here in New York. Instead, self-proclaimed 9/11 mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other suspects will be tried before a military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay. The President will have to break his campaign promise to shut down that prison.

WN
04/04/11
(45 seconds)

DIANE SAWYER: A switch in positions on a big terrorism trial coming up. Tell us about it.

JAKE TAPPER: Well, that's right. The Obama administration had originally announced it would try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other 9/11 co-conspirators in a criminal court in Manhattan but Congress intervened, passed a law saying that he could not try any Guantanamo detainees in the United States. And President Obama signed it into law, it was attached to a pentagon spending bill, rather than have a big fight with Congress. Democrats and Republicans were against him on this. So ultimately he blinked and they'll be having a criminal - I'm sorry, a military tribunal trial for them at Guantanamo Bay, despite his promise to close Guantanamo Bay.

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