ABC Champions Democratic Women Candidates and 'Historic First Female Speaker'

ABC's Kate Snow wrapped up a Monday night story on the impact of the large number of Democratic women candidates for Congress by celebrating how if “female voters choose a lot of women tomorrow night, Charlie, there will also be another historic first as you know: The first female Speaker of the House." Anchor Charles Gibson reiterated: "She would be the 52nd Speaker of the House, but the first woman." Neither uttered the name of "that woman,” Nancy Pelosi.

Citing the words of the late left-wing activist Bella Abzug, whom he benignly described as a “New York Democrat,” Gibson had set up the story by recalling how she “famously won a congressional seat 36 years ago with the slogan, 'this woman's place is in the house -- the House of Representatives.'” Snow fondly reminisced about how “1992 was dubbed the Year of the Woman” and “tomorrow night may rival that” since “by most projections, it will be the biggest incoming class of women ever on Capitol Hill.” Snow then listed several Democratic candidates, focusing on Lois Murphy, who “ran against Republican Congressman Jim Gerlach two years ago and lost by just 6,400 votes. This, she believes, is her year." Snow touted how “of the 45 women challenging male incumbents, just 11 are Republicans, 34 are Democrats. Democrats need to gain 15 seats to take back control of the House and women could be key to that.” Ellen Malcolm of EMILY's List got air time to trumpet how the female victories “really sets the stage if we have a woman running for President in the near future." (Transcript follows)

This isn't the first time ABC's World News has trumpeted Pelosi for Speaker. An October 27 NewsBusters item, “Shipman Daydreams: 'Do You Let Yourself Think, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi?',” about the October 26 World News, recounted (with video):
ABC's Claire Shipman ended a Thursday World News profile of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi by tilting her head upward and rolling her eyes, as if imagining along with Pelosi, as she wondered: "Do you let yourself think, for example, maybe before you go to sleep at night, 'Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi?'" Pelosi denied any such daydreaming: "No. I never do. What I think before I go to sleep at night is how we can get up to 15 new Democratic seats in the Congress of the United States. And then I say my prayers."

Just before the 1994 election, ABC's Jim Wooten treated Newt Gingrich as the perpetrator in a worsening political landscape, declaring that his "slash-and-burn rhetoric against Democrats has made him the poster boy for political resentment and rage, and he's proud of it." But with Pelosi, Shipman painted her as the victim of Republican "scare tactics" and, after a soundbite from President Bush, cued her up: "What do you think when you hear him say the things he says about you?" Shipman acknowledged that "Pelosi's blunt style is polarizing," but characterized it as a positive, citing how "she's used it to pull off something nobody thought was possible: Organizing the congressional Democrats. Under her leadership, they voted as a bloc against the Republicans almost 90 percent of the time."
A transcript of the Democratic women-touting story on the November 6 World News with Charles Gibson on ABC, which I created by correcting the closed-captioning against the video:
Charles Gibson: “Even if Republicans hold the House and Senate, change is coming to Congress. The New York Democrat, Bella Abzug, famously won a congressional seat 36years ago with the slogan [text on screen], 'this woman's place is in the house -- the House of Representatives.' Well, today, there are 67 women in the House and 14 in the Senate. Those numbers are likely to increase tomorrow night. And ABC's Kate Snow is here with that story. Kate?”

Kate Snow: “Charlie, remember 1992 was dubbed the Year of the Woman. But tomorrow night may rival that. The number of women in the Senate could grow. The number in the House could grow by double digits. And by most projections, it will be the biggest incoming class of women ever on Capitol Hill. Lois Murphy, a mother of two young girls, ran against Republican Congressman Jim Gerlach two years ago and lost by just 6,400 votes. This, she believes, is her year.”

Murphy to a small group: “With your help, we're going to win.”

Snow: “This wealthy district in Philadelphia's mainline suburbs could be part of what some analysts are calling a perfect storm for female candidates.”

Snow to Murphy: “There are 139 women running this time around. What does that say to you?”

Murphy: “I think it says that voters are interest in a change of perspective.”

Snow: “Voters disgusted by the war in Iraq and sick of scandals are looking for new blood, for outsiders.”

Woman candidate before crowd: “Thanks so much for coming.”

Snow: “And women such as Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona, Christine Jennings in Florida or Kirsten Gillibrand in New York may fit the bill.”

Debbie Walsh, Center for American Women and Politics: “They don't even have to open their mouths. They are not the standard issue white man in a blue suit with a red tie.”

Professor Dennis Simon, SMU Political Science Dept.: “Women are seen as not part of the Washington inside old boy network, so they are viewed as more trustworthy when the climate is such as it is this year.”

Snow: “Of the 45 women challenging male incumbents, just 11 are Republicans, 34 are Democrats. [over video of Snow in Pennsylvania with roadside signs for Lois Murphy in the background] Democrats need to gain 15 seats to take back control of the House and women could be key to that. Of all the most competitive races in the country right now, there are 18 in which a Democratic woman stands a chance to win.”

Donna Brazile, Democratic strategist: “We've broken all the political barriers. The last major hurdle was financial. The financial hurdle. And women candidates are now able to raise as much money as their male counterparts.”

Snow: “Groups like Emily's List have actively recruited women who favor abortion rights to run.”

Ellen Malcolm, EMILY's List: “Seeing women be smart and tough and effective is going to help all of us. And I think really sets the stage if we have a woman running for President in the near future.”

Snow: “Research indicates women voters prefer women candidates. If those female voters choose a lot of women tomorrow night, Charlie, there will also be another historic first as you know: The first female Speaker of the House.”

Gibson: “She would be the 52nd Speaker of the House, but the first woman.”
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center