GMA, Early Show Tout Immigration Bill as ‘Historic Day’

On Friday, both CBS and ABC skewed their coverage of the Senate’s immigration bill to the left. Neither network featured a conservative talking head that opposed the legislation, instead "The Early Show" and "Good Morning America" simply referred to the "critics" who believe the bill would amount to amnesty for those who came to the country illegally. However, while both networks also interviewed Senator Ted Kennedy, ABC anchor Diane Sawyer actually pressed the liberal legislator with several conservative points.

GMA used flowery language to discuss the Senate’s action, describing the legislation as "landmark." Co-host Sawyer asserted, "It was a historic day to see Republicans and Democrats coming forward on something together." ABC even queried illegal aliens as to what they think of the Senate’s action:

Diane Sawyer: "Everyone taking sides. [sic] But sometimes it’s good to hear the voices from the people who are at the center of the debate. And some of these illegal 12 million have been phoning in to Talk Back, which is our website. Here's one woman who partially hid her face."

Unidentified female Illegal alien: "Don't make us live in fear of being ripped away from our family and friends and the things that we live for. Please, give us a chance. Give us papers so that we can stay here. Let us become legal immigrants."

Earlier in the segment, ABC anchor Robin Roberts introduced the piece by describing how the legislators presented a "unified front" by "coming together to make this deal work," Reporter Martha Raddatz began by featuring clips of only those who favored the immigration deal:

ABC Graphic: "Historic Immigration Deal: Bush: ‘It Will Treat People With Respect’"

Martha Raddatz: "Good morning, Robin. The plan is already being criticized but this is a major step forward. For the illegal immigrants already in the country, the change would be historic."

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina): "The people will get to participate in this program will get a chance to be American, on our terms, not theirs."

Raddatz: "These are the terms: The roughly 12 million illegal immigrants who entered the U.S. before January 1 of this year would be issued what's called a Z visa to live and work here legally. To keep the status, they would have to pay a $5,000 fine over eight years and heads of household would have to return to their home countries to obtain another visa stamp. Reentry would be guaranteed."

President George W. Bush: "People who live here in our country will be treated without amnesty, but without animosity."

Considering that Congress passed a very similar amnesty bill in 1986, It’s odd to repeatedly refer to the Senate’s legislation as unique or "historic." Raddatz proceeded to feature a clip of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi praising the bill and only offered brief, text quotes of opposition from conservatives such as Newt Gingrich, Tom Tancredo and Mitt Romney.

Over on CBS, "Early Show" reporter Sharyl Attkisson continued the theme of highlighting only those talking heads who support the liberal legislation:

Sharyl Attkisson: "After weeks of marathon meetings, an eclectic group of negotiators, both Democrats and Republicans, worked out a compromise on immigration reform with the president's stamp of approval.

Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA): "In the agreement we just reached is the best possible chance we will have in years to secure our borders, bring millions of people out of the shadows and into the sunshine of America."

Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA): "It is not amnesty. This will restore the rule of law. Without legislation, we will have anarchy."

Attkisson went on to cite Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein and quickly mentioned that "critics are already labeling the compromise amnesty."

However, GMA's Diane Sawyer should be given credit for pressing Senator Ted Kennedy, a guest on the two shows.

Consider these conservative-leaning questions by the ABC co-host to the liberal legislator:

Sawyer: "But the fact is, [illegal aliens] broke the rules. And is this fair? At the end of the day, however practical, is it fair?"

Sawyer: "And yet, all that is being done is adding 300 miles of fence to a 2000 mile border. And I've heard people say, you know, it's only 15 feet high in places, and people can buy ladders that are 16 feet high. How is this going to stop more illegal immigrants from coming in?"

Sawyer: "So you're assuring Americans that after this, there will be no more illegal immigration across the Mexican border, across the southern border?"

In comparison, "Early Show" co-host Hannah Storm asked only two questions about the legislation, with one being a softball question as to whether "this is the last best chance to strike a deal on immigration."

A transcript of Senator Kennedy’s interviews on the two networks, which aired during the 7am hour, can be found below:

GMA

5/18/07

Diane Sawyer: "Everyone is taking sides. But sometimes it’s good to hear the voices from the people who are at the center of the debate. And some of these illegal 12 million have been phoning in to talk back, which is our website. Here's one woman who partially hid her face."

Unidentified female Illegal aliens: "Don't make us live in fear of being ripped away from our family and friends and the things that we live for. Please, give us a chance. Give us papers so that we can stay here. Let us become legal immigrants."

Sawyer: "So, let's turn now to a powerful force behind this deal, Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy who joins us this morning. And thank you Senator Kennedy. You know, everyone listens to a young woman like that and feels the yearning to live in America. Who wouldn't want to live in America? But the fact is, she and 12 million broke the rules. And is this fair? At the end of the day, however practical, is it fair?"

Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Massachusetts): "Well, the way that this legislation has been fashioned, I believe that it's a fair, and it’s basically humane. You know, you have to start at the very beginning, and that is we have broken borders and have to have a secure border system. That is very important and that is a very key part of it. Secondly, we have to have adequate enforcement of the changed laws. And this legislation has that. But at the end of the day, what we're saying is all of those who are in application now to come into the United States to be a part of their family, and that list can go up to 40 or 50 years in the future. All of those will be able to come in here over the period of the next eight years, and then, and only then, only then, can these individuals who are here now and undocumented can begin their path towards the citizenship after paying a fine, demonstrating their working, and people who want to be a part of the American dream. This legislation has a variety of different dimensions. It hasn’t, as you heard earlier in the program, going to have uniformity in terms of support. But this system is broken now. This is our last, best chance. And we have a real opportunity to get a hold of this issue that’s clearly in our national interest. And I think it's also a reflection of our fairness in terms of how we're going to treat people."

Sawyer: "You mentioned securing the borders Senator Kennedy, and so many people have said, you know, at the very least make sure that no additional illegal immigrants are coming in before you do this. And yet, all that is being done is adding 300 miles of fence to a 2000 mile border. And I've heard people say, you know, it's only 15 feet high in places, and people can buy ladders that are 16 feet high. How is this going to stop more illegal immigrants from coming in?"

Kennedy: "Well, first of all, we’ve had extensive hearings. The fence, as you point out if it's 40 feet high, it can always be over 41 feet high. The fence itself is only a small fraction of the total kind of security aspects that are established. There’s a wide variety of different kinds of use of modern technology on the border, and a very important kind of impact on it. We had very extensive testimony to that. And I think the fact is, that, I think that it's, it’s going to be put in place and we've had extensive hearings on it. We can secure our borders and we plan to do so."

Sawyer: "So you're assuring Americans that after this, there will be no more illegal immigration across the Mexican border, across the southern border?"

Kennedy: "That's always going to be a challenge when you have people, 500 individuals last year, that died in the desert because they were so desperate to get in here. You’re going to have people that are still going to try and risk this. But what we are saying is that for the first time in American history, first time in our history, we're going to have the secure borders. This is a mix of strong borders, strong local law enforcement, and a sense of humanity and decency. People were drawn here. Who are these individuals here? Most of them, they're coming, they want to work hard. They want to have their future for their family. The motivations that bring these individuals here to the United States, very much the motivations that brought my great grandparents here to the United States from Ireland. They want to be part of the American dream They want to make a difference and contribute to this country. They shouldn't be given amnesty, they're not under this legislation. I'm surprised my friend Mitt Romney calling it that, because he supported our bill the last time and now I guess he's changed his position. But, so be it. But this is a good program, it’s a down payment. We have Republicans and Democrats alike. We’re going to try and make it work. It’s going to be complex. I hope for the nation's, for the nation’s interest, we can make it work."

Sawyer: "Well, if nothing else, it was a historic day to see Republicans and Democrats coming forward on something together."

The Early Show

05/18/07

Hannah Storm: "As Sharyl reported, the most significant factor is the immigration bill's bipartisan support. Massachusetts Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy was a key figure in bringing the sides together. Senator Kennedy, good morning."

Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA): "Good morning."

Storm: "You've been in office 45 years. Can you put this bill in perspective in terms of what kind of window of opportunity Congress has right now? Do you agree with Senator Lindsey Graham's assessment that this is the last best chance to strike a deal on immigration?"

Kennedy: "Well, I agree with Senator Graham. Our borders are broken. Americans all over this country say that Congress should take action. We need to take action to secure our borders. We need to take action to stop the exploitation of workers all over this country. And we need to provide a pathway for those that have come here, worked hard, played by the rules, willing to pay a fine, go to the back of the line, and then have an opportunity to earn the American dream by, by citizenship and full participation in this, in this situation. This is a situation, an issue about our humanity, as well as about our security. And it's a divisive issue. It's an emotional issue. People on all sides of the political spectrum have strong ideas. You can have a viewpoint on immigration very quickly in the day and people have strongly held views, and we've been able to try to bring those together, we're going to debate those on the floor of the United States Senate. And hopefully, do for the first time in more than 40 years, and do what the Congress should do, work together to try and deal with a national problem."

Storm: "Some conservatives are critical of this bill. They say it grants virtual amnesty to those who have entered the country illegally. Is this amnesty?

Kennedy: "No, that's sort of a slogan and a cliche you're going to hear a great deal about. The 1986 bill was an amnesty bill. I actually voted against it. It said that if you are here, you actually have the opportunity to become citizen. This does not do it. What this legislation does, it says, we have a backlog of family members that are out there that have waited a long time and gotten in line. All of those individuals over the period of the next eight years are going to be able to come into this country. Meanwhile, for those individuals that are here, to come out of the shadows, they're going to have to demonstrate that they have been working hard over those eight years, that they've been playing by the rules, and they're going to have to pay a fine. And if they meet all of these criteria, then they can go to the back of the line and begin the pathway towards citizenship, if they are going to be good citizens. This is an earned legalization. And it's going to bring people out of the shadows. Avoid the kinds of exploitations which have taken place. Complex issue, but a fair issue, and we hope to be able to get the strong support in the Senate and House and have the President sign it."

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