Gibson Didn’t Pound Edwards in 2004; Asked Him If GOP Attacks Made Him Mad

As Charles Gibson interviewed young vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin, some might wonder: did Gibson (then a co-host of Good Morning America) throw tough foreign-policy questions at John Edwards in 2004, since he had only four and a half years experience in public office? No.  

Gibson’s first John Edwards interview after he was nominated for vice president came on the September 2, 2004 Good Morning America, on the Thursday morning of the Republican convention in New York. Gibson didn’t ask any quiz questions about his readiness or about foreign policy. Instead, he asked six questions about how the Democrats would respond to the GOP going after the Democrats "hammer and tong last night." Gibson merely asked Edwards how he felt about it, and then demanded to know: "You speak with such equanimity this morning. Didn't they make you mad last night?" Edwards replied in part: "Oh, I thought they were over the top, completely over the top." Gibson repeated: " Did you get mad, though?"

Edwards appeared that morning on ABC, CBS, CNN, and NBC. At the time, we reported in the MRC Cyber Alert: "After being the most critical of last night's Republican speeches...ABC's Charles Gibson was the gentlest with Edwards, sticking largely to questions about the candidate's feelings. He asked if the Democrats went too easy 'not to engage as directly' in Boston....On CBS, Edwards stammered as Hannah Storm demonstrated a surprisingly hard-news approach, asking for Kerry-Edwards specifics" on counter-terrorism policy. 

The Gibson interview -- or lecture about how the Democrats failed to whip Republicans hard enough -- began with this introduction:

CHARLES GIBSON: In the first half-hour, we talked about how direct were the attacks from the Republicans on the podium last night, directed at the Democratic ticket of John Kerry and John Edwards. A response this morning from John Edwards, the vice-presidential nominee of the Democratic Party. I talked with him a few moments ago.

GIBSON: Senator Edwards, they went at you hammer and tong last night from the podium here at this Republican Convention, saying the fundamental security of this country was at stake in this election, questioning John Kerry's ability to be commander in chief. I wonder how you felt as you listened.

JOHN EDWARDS: I thought there was an enormous amount of anger coming out of the Republican Convention. The contrast couldn't have been more dramatic with our convention and what John Kerry and I talked about. We talked very specifically about our plan to keep the American people safe, to deal with the fact that five million people have lost their health insurance while John, while George Bush has been in office. That four million people have fallen into poverty and almost two million people have lost their private sector jobs, and what we're gonna do about the war in Iraq. Instead, what we heard last night was a lot of angry rhetoric.

GIBSON: Did it make you in any way second-guess the decision at the Democratic Convention not to mention George Bush from the podium so often, not to engage as directly?

EDWARDS: No. In no way. The truth is that what John and I did at the, at the Democratic Convention, which is to portray a vision and a plan of hope and optimism, it's who we are. It's what I believe the American people are, Charlie. I mean, if the American, the American people are not represented by what we heard in that room last night. I mean, that sort of anger and personal diatribe. I mean, they want something better. They believe in something better. They believe, in fact, what John and I believe, that if we're sensible and smart, that tomorrow can be better than today. And that's the kind of America that John and I want to create.

CHARLES GIBSON: You have used this line about two Americas and they have turned that from the podium night after night after night, saying, A, that there aren't two Americas, and, B, that what's really there are two of, two John Kerrys. And they get into this theme about John Kerry's conflicting votes on various issues. How are you going to answer that?

JOHN EDWARDS: Oh, very simply. They're in New York poking fun at, at the fact that there are two Americas and out here in the real world, I mean, I've been out on, meeting with people, meeting with folks who have lost their jobs. These people -across the country, they're living it. I mean, these people who have lost their, millions of folks who have lost their health insurance and whose incomes have gone down, they can't pay their bills anymore, they're struggling everyday just to get by. The millions of people who have fallen into poverty. A lot of folks who've worked hard all their lives and now have nowhere to turn. I mean, the truth is, we can do better than that, and they can make all the fun about it they want in New York, but out here in the real world, people are living it and we have a plan to make their lives better and we're going to fight for these folks.

GIBSON: This crowd was chanting "flip-flop" last night. It is this elemental issue that they're trying to make that there are two John Kerrys, citing his conflicting votes on a number of issues.

EDWARDS: Yeah, but the truth is, Charlie, I know this guy. I know him very, very well. He's somebody who's an American hero, which is actually what Zell Miller said just a couple of years ago. He's somebody that all of us look up to and respect. He's got inner strength and courage and these, these are the kinds of personal negative attacks that you see when you've got the kind of record that this administration has. I mean, the facts are overwhelming about what's happened in this country in the last four years, and what's happening on the ground in Iraq right now, and the American people are looking for an alternative and we want them to know what it is specifically we would do differently.

GIBSON: You speak with such equanimity this morning. Didn't they make you mad last night?

EDWARDS: Oh, I thought they were over the top, completely over the top. And, and actually what bothered me more than anything was in the midst of -I mean, there was, if you, if you got up and went to your refrigerator to get a Diet Coke, you would -you would miss everything Dick Cheney had to say about health care and everything he had to say about jobs. I mean, this is the first, we've had 11 straight presidents in this country, Charlie, who have created jobs. This is, until George Bush. You know, we've got all these folks who are having trouble with their health care premiums going up, 26, 27 hundred dollars, and what do they have to say about it? Nothing. I mean, don't people deserve to know from their president and vice president what it is they've done and what it is they're going to do? And instead, all we hear is a lot of rhetoric about, about their opponent. I mean, I just think leaders in this country, the American people deserve leaders who are better than that and do better than that.

GIBSON: Did you get mad, though?

EDWARDS: Oh, yeah. I was, I was, especially about the personal attacks against John Kerry, because they're false. I know this guy and I know what he's made of inside and he's ready to lead this country.

GIBSON: John Edwards, good to talk to you. Thanks very much.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis