ABC Spins Rosie’s Terrorist Comments as a Kitchen Table Debate Across U.S.
On Thursday’s morning shows, all three networks covered the dust-up between Rosie O’Donnell and Elisabeth Hasselbeck on "The View," but only ABC’s "Good Morning America" framed the shouting match as "a debate that is playing out over kitchen tables across the country."
Really? Americans are having spirited discussions during supper over "who are the terrorists?" Because that’s what "The View" co-hosts were debating, Ms. O’Donnell’s insinuations that the U.S. is responsible for the deaths of Iraqi civilians and, therefore, an enabler of terrorism, at the very least.
GMA co-host Robin Roberts began the May 24 segment by asserting that O’Donnell’s over-the-top comments had larger implications:
Robin Roberts: "I'm going to turn now to what's being called the war over the war, a war of words that erupted between Rosie O’Donnell and Elisabeth Hasselbeck on the ABC show ‘The View.’ The trigger point? America's involvement in the war in Iraq. A political sparring match that turned personal and one that's sparking a larger debate about what we can and cannot say about the war. And ABC's Dan Harris has more on that. It got really ugly yesterday."
Dan Harris: "You don’t expect to see it on ‘The View,’ do you? Robin, good morning. On some level, this may be a conflict between two people who have, shall we say, a tense personal relationship. But this is also a debate that is playing out over kitchen tables across the country. Here’s the question, how far can you go in criticizing the war without insulting the troops?"
After showing several clips from Wednesday’s shout-fest and the comedienne’s comment’s from the previous week that precipitated it, reporter Dan Harris expounded on the larger implications:
Harris: "This is the latest example of how difficult it is to strike a balance between criticizing the war and supporting the troops."
David Gergen (Kennedy School of Government): "There are no clear lines about how far you can go in criticizing a government during times of war, but there are customs. One custom is you can criticize the president, you can also criticize the generals but you can't criticize the troops."
Harris: "In the presidential race, both Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama have had to backtrack after saying the lives of soldiers were, quote, ‘wasted’ in Iraq."
Noticeably absent from Mr. Harris’ list was John Kerry. In 2005, he told Bob Schieffer on "Face the Nation" that U.S. soldiers shouldn’t be "terrorizing" Iraqi children. Perhaps this could be an example of the type of kitchen table debate that Robin Roberts referred to?
It should be noted that ABC, which also airs "The View," was the only network to attempt to draw a bigger meaning out of O’Donnell’s assertions. "The Early Show" on CBS simply replayed the juiciest moments while anchors Julie Chen and Hannah Storm looked on and ate popcorn. Over on NBC, the "Today" show did much the same. However, co-host and former "View" alum Meredith Vieira made sure to mention that she is out of the loop and doesn’t "get involved" in disputes between her former colleagues.
Finally, ABC even compared this situation to former on-air battles, such as William F. Buckley’s famous 1968 verbal smackdown of author Gore Vidal:
Harris: "In every war, there's conflict between the hawks and the doves. Check out this Vietnam-era exchange between liberal Gore Vidal and conservative William Buckley."
Gore Vidal: "And the only, sort of, pro-war crypto-Nazi I can think of is yourself. Failing that, I will only say that we can’t have–"
William F. Buckley: "Now, listen you [Bleeped]. Stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I'll knock you in the [Bleeped] face and you'll stay plastered!"
Rosie O’Donnell is scheduled to remain on "The View" for three more weeks. Perhaps she’ll expand on her other theories, including the ones that include bizarre 9/11 conspiracies. Maybe GMA will be able to tell viewers what "larger debates" they are sparking.