ABC Hypes Gay Marriage Infomercial With Obama as a 'Historic' 'Riveting' 'Cultural Event'

On ABC's World News, Wednesday, Diane Sawyer and Robin Roberts hyped Barack Obama's endorsement of gay marriage as a "historic," "riveting" "cultural event." The exclusive interview played more as an infomercial for the President, featuring long stretches of Obama talking with no pesky, interrupting questions.

Anchor Diane Sawyer enthused, "Well, as we said this is a historic cultural and political event in this country." In the tease for the interview, Sawyer trumpeted, "Tonight on World News, a historic ABC News interview. President Obama takes a stand on same sex marriage." In the segment, Roberts didn't push the President on why his "evolution" took 17 months.

Obviously, ABC was proud of its exclusive, but the network chose to uncritically play the President's comments without interruption. This is an example of one such "answer.":

OBAMA: I've always been adamant that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly and equally. And I was sensitive to the fact that for a lot of people, the word marriage was something that evokes very powerful traditions, religious beliefs and so forth. But I have to tell you that over the course of several years, as I talked to friends and family and neighbors, when I think about members of my own staff who are incredibly committed in monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together. When I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that don't ask, don't tell is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point, I've just concluded that for me personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married. You know, it's interesting. Some of this is also generational. You know, Malia and Sasha, they've got friends whose parents are same-sex couples. You know, there have been times where Michelle and I have been sitting around the dinner table and we've been talking about their friends and their parents and Malia and Sasha, it couldn't dawn on them that somehow their friends' parents would be treated differently. It doesn't make sense to them. And frankly, that's the kind of thing that prompts a change in perspective.

Now, a follow-up segment by Jake Tapper did feature an African American barber who opposed the President. However, in a segment on Thursday's Good Morning America, Tapper let the President off the hook for the flip-flopping charge.

The journalist spun that America is in the midst of a "national flip-flop" on gay marriage. According to Tapper, this is why "the public is not regarding this as a flip-flop by the President."

Of course, considering that one of Obama's main critiques of Mitt Romney is that the Republican is a flip-flopper, this is a convenient, generous rationalization. 

On Thursday's GMA, Roberts admitted to getting "chills" from the President's declaration.

A transcript of the May 9 World News segment can be found below:


6:30 tease

DIANE SAWYER: Tonight on World News, a historic ABC News interview. President Obama takes a stand on same sex marriage.

BARACK OBAMA: I think same sex couples should be able to get married.

SAWYER: Tonight, our Robin Roberts with her interview, the reaction and how this effects the presidential race.
...

SAWYER: Good evening. We begin with a historic interview hours ago, President Obama exclusively to ABC's Robin Roberts and announcing something no US president has ever said, that he supports same-sex marriage. For years, he only endorsed civil unions, claiming his position on the polarizing question of marriage was still, quote, evolving. Then last weekend, Vice President Biden surprised everyone by seeming to endorse gay marriage. And today, the President himself told Robin how and why his own thinking has changed.

ROBIN ROBERTS: Mr President, are you still opposed to same-sex marriage?

OBAMA: I've always been adamant that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly and equally. And I was sensitive to the fact that for a lot of people, the word marriage was something that evokes very powerful traditions, religious beliefs and so forth. But I have to tell you that over the course of several years, as I talked to friends and family and neighbors, when I think about members of my own staff who are incredibly committed in monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together. When I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that don't ask, don't tell is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point, I've just concluded that for me personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married. You know, it's interesting. Some of this is also generational. You know, Malia and Sasha, they've got friends whose parents are same-sex couples. You know, there have been times where Michelle and I have been sitting around the dinner table and we've been talking about their friends and their parents and Malia and Sasha, it couldn't dawn on them that somehow their friends' parents would be treated differently. It doesn't make sense to them. And frankly, that's the kind of thing that prompts a change in perspective.

ROBERTS: Did you discuss this with Mrs Obama, the same-sex marriage issue?

OBAMA: I did.

ROBERTS: Was that something-

OBAMA: No, no, this is something that, you know, we've talked about over the years and she feels the same way that I do. And that is that in the end, the values that I care most deeply about and she cares most deeply about is how we treat other people. We're both practicing Christians and obviously, this position may be considered to put us at odds with the views of others. But, you know, when we think about our faith, the thing, you know, at root that we think about is not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf but it's also the golden rule. You know, treat others the way you want to be treated.

SAWYER: It is a riveting interview, Robin. I wondered about Vice President Biden. Everybody presumed that Vice President Biden had forced the President's hand. Did he talk about it?

ROBERTS: I did ask him about that, Diane. And the President had a big smile on his face when I brought up Joe Biden's name, and said that it was an authentic response by the vice president when he said he was absolutely comfortable, is absolutely comfortable with same-sex marriage. And the President indicated that this was a discussion that they had been having, and that they would have had perhaps prior to the election and the vice president may have had just a hand in jumping the gun just a little bit.

SAWYER: As everyone says, Biden will be Biden, right?

ROBERTS: The President said that himself, yes.

SAWYER: All right, Robin. Well, as we said this is a historic cultural and political event in this country. And head on back to New York. Great interview, thanks

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