ABC Doubles Down on 'Airplane Apocalypse,' Connects Weather Delays to Sequester

ABC won't let reality get in the way of good hype. Good Morning America on Tuesday doubled down on the "airline apocalypse" allegedly caused by sequester. Reporter Matt Guttman actually lumped in weather delays with a shortage of Federal Aviation Association (FAA) air traffic controllers. On Monday, George Stephanopoulos warned of an "airport armageddon." The next day, Gutman seemed to contradict this, admitting, "[We] didn't really find an airline apocalypse." [See video below. MP3 audio here.]

However, using a slight of hand, he quickly moved on: "But all those little delays, either caused by a shortage of FAA controllers or by the weather, started to snowball into delays of four and five hours." Using hyperbole almost identical to Stephanopoulos, Gutman hyperventilated, "But Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood warns ABC News, we might yet see an airplane apocalypse." Airport armageddon? Airplane apocalypse? The GMA journalists offered such over-the-top alliteration, despite this concession from Gutman: "So far, several hundred flights delayed. Far less than the agency's prediction of 6,700 daily flight delays."

Far less delays, but ABC continues to use the Obama administration's talking points? Isn't it the job of reporters to question spin when the facts don't measure up?

Gutman allowed no opposing voices. He only featured a clip of Secretary LaHood warning, "We did not take into account weather activities. These delays could extended beyond 60 to 90 minutes. Two additional, unidentified, passengers appeared to blame sequester for the delays.

On CNBC's Squawk Box, Jim Cramer recounted his own flying experience. Apparently, FAA officials are going out of their way to publicly assign blame for the delays and provide support for the Obama administration's agenda:

JIM CRAMER: We were about to take off and the pilot comes back and doesn't see me initially, CNBC. And says, "look, we just got word the FAA says that we don't have enough air traffic controllers to take off. It's part of the sequester." I said "Is this from Delta?" They said, "No. The FAA told us to say this. The FAA wanted to make it very clear to everyone onboard is that the reason we're not taking off is because they're shorthanded." And it was like-- Then he comes up to me and he's like, "Oh, Jim Cramer from CNBC, would you please get the word out that we're not literally taking off, even though we're supposed to take off immediately, because the FAA said you cannot come from Orlando. We're not ready. We don't have enough people." It was pretty amazing.

In contrast to GMA, CBS This Morning actually featured opposing voices. Reporter Sharyl Attkisson featured Florida's Republican Governor Rick Scott. He asserted, "This doesn't make any sense why we would be doing this. We're going to furlough these air traffic controllers – going to have an impact on delays, and impact jobs in our state."

Attkisson cited critics who "point to other areas of the FAA they say could be cut, instead of the air traffic controllers." She explained, "For example, they'd say $3 billion airport improvement funds that, so far, hasn't been touched by the budget cuts."

The idea that the President doesn't have to make these cuts, or that perhaps America isn't facing an "airline apocalypse," didn't seem to occur to ABC.

A transcript of the April 23 segment is below:


7:09 ET

ABC GRAPHIC: Airport Delays Meltdown: Controllers Taken Off Shifts

ROBIN ROBERTS: We're going to move on now, George, to the nightmare shaping up at airports all across the country. Flight delays, safety worries. The impact of those across-the-board federal budget cuts. ABC's matt Gutman did some traveling himself to investigate. And he joins us now from Miami. So, how did it go for you there, Matt?

MATT GUTMAN: Hey. Good morning, Robin. It didn't go that well. We spent 11 hours in airports and didn't really find an airline apocalypse. But all those little delays, either caused by a shortage of FAA controllers or by the weather even, started to snowball into delays of four and five hours. This morning, the sequester is walloping airports again. From Los Angeles, with more than three-hour delays overnight, to Denver, to the big apple. New York's three airports at one point averaging three-hour delays.

MAN: It's a little frustrating, especially at three, four o'clock in the morning.

GUTMAN: Some of the delays were weather-related. Among the three-hour delays, the new York to Washington, D.C. Shuttle. Not to rub salt in anyone's wounds, but the train would have gotten them there faster.

SECOND MAN: Because of sequestration, the line to take off was over an hour long.

GUTMAN: The FAA is blaming the delays on across-the-board budget cuts, which it says forced it to furlough 15,000 air traffic controllers and other administration workers, and are spacing out flights in the name of safety. So far, several hundred flights delayed. Far less than the agency's prediction of 6,700 daily flight delays. But Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood warns ABC News, we might yet see an airplane apocalypse.

RAY LAHOOD (Sec. Of Transportation): We did not take into account weather activities. These delays could get extended beyond 60 to 90 minutes.

GUTMAN: Late Monday, I decided to investigate the delays myself. Taking a round-trip from Miami– [On the plane.] So, not bad. Taking off about 25 minutes late. To Orlando. So, it looks like we're about to take off about 50 minutes late. Not too bad given the circumstances. And back. Now, a lot of folks back in there gripe that probably the airports that the politicians and Congressmen use, Washington National, probably didn't have any delays. Well, we checked. It did. Delays up to two hours. Now, airline analysts say if this persists through the summer, we could even see ticket prices start to rise. Robin?

ROBERTS: We're not going to feel too bad for you. You are in Miami. You did make it there. And Brad Garrett, who was here yesterday and was trying to get back to Washington, took him five and a half hours.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Delays up and down the east coast.

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