ABC's George Stephanopoulos Fawns Over Democrat Caroline Kennedy's Award for Tax Hikes

Former Democratic operative turned journalist George Stephanopoulos gushed over well known Democrat Caroline Kennedy on Monday as she touted the latest recipients of the Profile in Courage Award. The current winners include two California state Republicans who bucked the vast majority of their party to support tax increases in the 2009 budget.

In addition to Kennedy, Stephanopoulos also interviewed Republican Mike Villines and former Democratic Speaker of the Assembly Karen Bass. Against the glowing backdrop of Kennedy memorabilia, he lauded, "Caroline, your Uncle Teddy, I think, exemplified the kind of actions you're trying to reward today." [Audio available here.]

Speaking of the late Senator Kennedy, who had a lifetime American Conservative Union score of two, the GMA host gushed, "A fierce partisan when he had to be, stood up for his beliefs, yet willing to reach out and make a deal when he thought he could make an advance for people."

The 2010 Profile in Courage went to Bass, Villines, Republican State Assemblyman David Cogdill and Democratic Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg. The reason for their award? Supporting a failed budget in California that would have raised taxes.

Although Cogdill and Villines are Republicans, the prize is clearly representative of the liberal desire for more taxes.

Only six GOP members in the entire state of California voted for the budget. (A total of three in the state senate and three in the assembly.) They have since become known as the Sacramento Six.

The ABC graphic exclaimed that the honored Californians were "rising above politics." Is this the media's definition of such a phrase? Six Republicans joining the Democrats equals "rising above politics?"

Yet, GMA spun these politicians as awe inspiring. Guest co-host Elizabeth Vargas hyped, "Also this morning, Caroline Kennedy is here with the heroes who risked it all to make a difference in the world."

In a second tease, she extolled, "Coming up, Caroline Kennedy is here to introduce you to some real life heroes. These are extraordinary people who have risked it all to make a difference."

Stephanopoulos did explain that some of the Republicans who voted for the budget have received death threats.

Bass blamed talk radio for this: "And, frankly, that was a matter of talk radio shows that whipped people up into a frenzy, intentionally misled people. And I think that's one of the things that contributes to people's cynicism right now."

Can anyone imagine ABC promoting an award to honor the tea party movement for their contribution to opposing reckless government spending? It doesn't seem likely that GMA would rhapsodize over these Americans as "real life heroes." 

A transcript of the May 24 segment, which aired at 8: 33am EDT, follows:

8:01 tease

ELIZABETH VARGAS: Also this morning, Caroline Kennedy is here with the heroes who risked it all to make a difference in the world. They are the winners of this year's prestigious Profile in Courage. She'll tell us all about them just ahead. And this is always a great event in Washington.

8:30

VARGAS: Coming up, Caroline Kennedy is here to introduce you to some real life heroes. These are extraordinary people who have risked it all to make a difference. In a moment, you'll meet the winners of this year's Profiles in Courage award.

8:33

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And here's a question: Would you follow your conscience even if it meant losing your job or facing death threats? Four men and women in the California state assembly did that reaching across party lines to broker a deal they believe would have remedied the state's crippling budget crisis. The plan failed but their bravery is being recognized today with a Profile in Courage award. We're joined by Caroline Kennedy who is going to presenting the awards, and two of the recipients, Assemblyman Mike Villines and Madame Speaker Karen Bass. Welcome to all of you this morning. And, Karen, let me begin with you. Here was a budget deal that was addressing a crisis in California that has just been crippling the state for sometime. Republicans said, "Okay, fine, we're going to take some tax hikes." Democrats got more spending cuts than they wanted. Yet, the plan failed. Why still present the award?

[Guests are in front of a backdrop that features several Kennedy posters and other memorabilia.]

CAROLINE KENNDY: Well, I think it's an example for legislatures across the country and also for americans that we really need to get serious about solving the problems that our country faces. People realize these problems are incredibly serious and unless we begin to work together and reach across party lines, everybody has to give up something, nd then we reward the people who do that and have the courage to compromise, we're not going to be able to solve these problems, so we felt that their process, their effort as difficult as it was set a great example and was really inspiring in these times when people are worried about the excessive partisanship in our politics.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Assemblyman Villines, you're getting this award. But, you certainly did pay a price. You lost your job.

MIKE VILLINES: Well, I did lose my job, but, you know, I think it was an important thing to do and I think much of what Caroline said is important. The country is yearning for folks who are trying to solve problems and put that partisanship aside, especially in these times that are so trying. People are struggling in America. And they're struggling in California. And I think the four of us decided working with Governor Schwarzenegger we would do the best we could to move it aside and actually try to solve the problem. And you know it wasn't the easiest thing but the right thing to do.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Madame Speaker, a lot of your colleagues in the assembly also paid a price, especially some of your Republicans colleagues there in the assembly, they received death threats?

KAREN BASS: Yes, absolutely, they did. And I think that that was so unfortunate. And, frankly, that was a matter of talk radio shows that whipped people up into a frenzy, intentionally misled people. And I think that's one of the things that contributes to people's cynicism right now.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And, you know, what do you say, though, to both of you to those on your own side who say, wait a second, you know, we're angry for a reason. We believe these are sacrifices we shouldn't have to make. Assemblyman, go ahead.

VILLINES: Go ahead, Karen.

BASS: Well, I do think, though, that there should be a responsibility and that people should understand, we were in the worst recession since the Great Depression. And that's where I think frankly that the radio shows could have been helpful in explaining how dire the consequences have been of this recession. It wasn't just a matter that people couldn't get along. We really faced a very difficult challenge.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And still do face a very difficult challenge, so Assemblyman Villines where does California go from here?

VILLINES: Well, I'm hopeful- just to dovetail on the question you had also that I think people count on us when we're elected to know the facts and do the best we can to solve the problems. Not everyone is going to know how bad it was and what we needed to do. And that's okay. Where we need to go now as a state is to come together and realize by coming together we can solve the problems better. There can't be Republican/Democrat/independent/Green Party anymore in this crisis. I think a spending cap is critical to the state. I think there's a lot of things we need to do. But the first thing is to live within our means, have the legislature work for the people. And I know that sounds easy but often times we think it's about us with we're elected. And it's not about us, it's about the people and the single mom, the single dad who is counting on us to do our job. And it's about the businesses who need a reliable state so they can employ more people. Where we need to go is to get our fiscal house in order so the great state of California can shine some more and we will.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Caroline, your Uncle Teddy, I think, exemplified the kind of actions you're trying to reward today. A fierce partisan when he had to be, stood up for his beliefs, yet willing to reach out and make a deal when he thought he could make an advance for people. Is that really what you're trying- what do you think he would have said about these recipients and their accomplishments today?

KENNEDY: Well, he was really the spirit behind this award. He believed in it. He believed in public service and all the people who are working on both sides of the aisle at all levels of government and that politics is really the art of the possible. And I think he recognized that there are times when you have to fight for what you believe in and stand alone if necessary and other times when the courageous thing to do is really reach out and take others with you and show the way and I think that's something that he would have really appreciated so much about today's honorees. And I feel that he's looking down on this and I think the committee really felt that this was one that he would really particularly have appreciated.

STEPHANOPOULOS: We're just about out of time but this summer will be the one-year anniversary of your Uncle Teddy's death. How are Vicki and the rest of your family doing now?

KENNEDY: Well, Vicki is here today and I think she's been a wonderful supporter of this award and this library. And, so, obviously she's incredibly strong. And I think, you know, it's a big loss for all of us. It's a big loss for our country. We have a big family and so I think we're all helping each other and I think people- Teddy always believed in, kind of, going forward and looking ahead and I think that's really the spirit that he left us and so that's a nice way to continue his work.

STEPHANOPOULOS: It is. Well, thank you for joining us today. Congratulations to both winners of the Profiles in Courage award.

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