ABC: Cheney is Playing Into Perception That He's a ‘Shadowy Super Villain'

On Tuesday’s "Good Morning America," reporter David Wright narrated a sarcastic segment about Vice President Dick Cheney and his refusal to hand over classified documents to the National Archives. In order to amplify the portrayal of Cheney as dark and scary, Wright featured clips from liberals such as Jon Stewart, left-wing blogger Ana Marie Cox and the Comedy Central program "Lil Bush." The GMA reporter helpfully added that "the Vice President's noncompliance plays right into the perception that he's some sort of shadowy super villain." Video: Real (1 MB) or Windows (1.25 MB) plus MP3 (176 KB)

Of course, Wright never identified the liberal, anti-Cheney leanings of the above individuals. Instead, he framed the Vice President’s refusal to hand over the documents as indicative of an out of control politician who won’t listen to anyone:

David Wright: "Quick civics quiz for you: Is the Vice President part of the executive branch of government? You might think the answer is obvious, but apparently not to the Vice President. The man who is a heartbeat away from the Oval Office thinks that some of the rules that apply to everyone else who works here do not apply to him."

Whatever one thinks of the contention that the VP is not part of the executive branch, wouldn’t it make sense to have some sort of balanced discussion about the issue? Instead, Wright chose to highlight silly and childish attacks on Cheney from Comedy Central programming:

Wright: "On Comedy Central's ‘Lil' Bush,’ Lil’ Cheney is the spawn of Darth Vader. Jon Stewart casts him simply–"

Jon Stewart: "Don't you know I'm exempt? Waaa! Waaa! Waaa!"

Wright: "– as Batman's nemesis, the Penguin."

This isn’t the first time that GMA has touted "Lil Bush." On June 14, reporter Dan Harris previewed the show’s Move-On style characterizations of conservatives:

Dan Harris: "That's Lil' George, the leader of the gang. There's also Lil' Rummy, Lil' Cheney, who barely talks and chews the head off chickens, and Lil' Condi, who has an unrequited crush on George."

Clearly, this is a program that piqued the interest of those inside ABC.

Finally, Wright’s segment looked at legislation being crafted by Democratic Congressman Rahm Emanuel that would cut funding to Vice President Cheney’s office. The ABC reporter treated the bill seriously and failed to note that it has zero chance of becoming law. It wasn’t until the next segment, with political correspondent George Stephanopoulos, that this salient point was mentioned:

Juju Chang: "Let's start with the bottom line. Is this just political theater, a political stunt, or will it really have an impact on the Vice President's power?"

George Stephanopoulos: "Oh, he's not going to lose funding for his office. Even if this passes the House, it wouldn't get through the Senate. The President would never sign it into a law."

In 1993, then First Lady Hillary Clinton had some executive branch issues. The major networks certainly didn't resort to citing cartoons to portray her as a power mad politician.

A transcript of the David Wright segment, which aired at 7:12am on June 26, follows:

Juju Chang: "We turn now to Vice President Dick Cheney, who is under fire in a high-stakes showdown with the Democratic Congress. One powerful Democrat is proposing a drastic and unprecedented measure, pulling the plug on the Vice President's budget, cutting his allowance of taxpayer money to zero. ABC's David Wright is at the White House with more. Good morning, David."

ABC Graphic: "Dems Move to Close Cheney’s Office: Battle Over Funding This Week"

David Wright: "Good morning, Juju. Quick civics quiz for you: Is the Vice President part of the executive branch of government? You might think the answer is obvious, but apparently not to the Vice President. The man who is a heartbeat away from the Oval Office thinks that some of the rules that apply to everyone else who works here do not apply to him. So almighty and elusive is this Vice President, the New Yorker once ran a cartoon in which theologians debated the existence of Cheney. Now, the White House is having its own bizarre version of the same debate."

Martha Raddatz: "Does the President believe he's part of the executive branch?"

Dana Perino (White House Deputy Press Secretary): "Look, I think that that is an interesting constitutional question and I think that lots of people can debate it."

Wright: "At issue, Cheney’s refusal to comply with a request from the National Archives to hand over certain classified documents. The Vice President insists that, unlike every other employee of the executive branch, the rule does not include him or his staff."

Ana Marie Cox (Washington Editor, Time Website): "Perhaps next he'll just say he's not subject to the laws of gravity either. He'll just float away to his undisclosed locations."

Wright: "The Vice President's noncompliance plays right into the perception that he's some sort of shadowy super villain. On Comedy Central's ‘Lil' Bush,’ Lil’ Cheney is the spawn of Darth Vader. Jon Stewart casts him simply–"

Jon Stewart: "Don't you know I'm exempt? Waaa! Waaa! Waaa!"

Wright: "– as Batman's nemesis, the Penguin."

[Brief "Batman" clip.]

Wright: "Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill–"

"Robin" from Batman: "Holy Merlin’s magician!"

Wright: "One of Cheney's archenemies is now crafting legislation that would cut the funding for the Vice President's office."

Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL Democratic Caucus Chair): "He's acting as if he's unaccountable, the wholly fourth branch of the government unto himself. And so, my view is, if you're not in the executive branch, we shouldn’t fund you in the executive branch."

Wright: "Now, the Vice President’s spokeswoman accuses Congressman Emanuel of playing politics. But when I asked her how many people might be affected if that bill were to become law, she wouldn't say because the size of the Vice President's staff is apparently classified. Juju?"

Chang: "Interesting answer. David Wright reporting live from the White House. Thank you."

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