The network morning shows on Tuesday devoted an enormous 20 minutes and 53 seconds to obsessing over a gaffe by a Republican congressman, hyping Todd Akin's comments for nine separate segments. NBC, CBS and ABC touted Democratic efforts to link the gaffe-prone representative to the GOP presidential ticket.
Former Democratic operative turned Good Morning America host George Stephanopoulos zeroed in on Akin's comments what constitutes a "legitimate rape." He breathlessly wondered, "We saw the President pounce in the White House briefing room yesterday. How are the Democrats going to try to capitalize on this today?"
After Jake Tapper pointed out that vice presidential running mate Paul Ryan and Akin both supported pro-life legislation, Stephanopoulos continued his focus on the national ticket: "But just to clarify, though, right now at least now, both Romney and Ryan are saying that they would accept abortion in the cases of rape?"
On the Today show, panelist Star Jones offered a similar talking point, saying that if Akin doesn't end his senatorial campaign, "the Romney/Ryan ticket is going to be tarred with this feather for the entire campaign."
Liberal co-panelist Donny Deutsch agreed, insisting the impact will be "devastating" to the party.
Over on CBS this Morning, Jan Crawford promoted, "President Obama, whose campaign is using the Akin comments to argue Republicans are bad for women, also weighed in."
She then played a clip of Barack Obama insisting that Akin's remarks "do underscore why we shouldn't have a bunch of politicians - a majority of whom are men - making health care decisions on behalf of women."
In a follow-up segment, reporter Norah O'Donnell echoed the conventional media wisdom, announcing, "If Akin is still running for the United States Senate, everybody is going to be asking about Akin, abortion rights, women's rights, etc., during the Republican convention."
Overall, Tuesday, the Today show offered the most coverage, an expansive nine minutes and 22 seconds over five segments. This Morning came in second with two segments at six minutes and 53 segments. GMA allowed four minutes and 38 seconds (with another two stories).
A transcript of the August 21 GMA segment can be found below:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's get more on this, now, with our senior White House correspondent, Jake Tapper. Jake, you're outside Andrews Air Force Base. The President going to campaign again today. You'll be with him. We saw the President pounce in the White House briefing room yesterday. How are the Democrats going to try to capitalize on this today?
JAKE TAPPER: Well, they're going to talk about it. And they're going to try to link Congressman Akin to Paul Ryan and to Mitt Romney. Specifically, there was some legislation dealing with abortion that dealt with not, quote un quote, "legitimate rape," as Congressman Akin described, but quote un quote, "forcible rape." And Congressman Paul Ryan was one of the 227 co-sponsors of that legislation. So, they'll try to tie him. Basically, Congressman Akin, this was an underhand, over-the-plate pitch for Democrats to try to paint Republicans as extremists. And Republicans just want him out of the race yesterday.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Boy, they sure do. And this was a race the Democrats thought they were in real trouble in before this, this turn-around. But just to clarify, though, right now at least now, both Romney and Ryan are saying that they would accept abortion in the cases of rape?
TAPPER: That's right. But the pivot that the Democrats and President Obama make is about women's health care in general and abortion in general. The Republican Party plank, the platform, does oppose abortion in all cases, including rape. So, this is an opportunity for Democrats to talk about a subject that Republicans don't want to be talking about. Generally speaking, George, as a rule of politics, if you're on the defensive and the subject is rape, you want to be talking about something else. I mean, I think it's fair to say. And generally speaking, what we have now is Republicans forced to talk about this. They don't- they want to talk about the economy or even Medicare.
TAPPER: I think that is exactly right. Okay, Jake, thanks very much.