ABC Worries About Liberal Clay Aiken's Chances in 'Very Conservative' District

The reporters at Good Morning America want their audience to know that Clay Aiken's chances for making it to Congress are iffy because of the "conservative district" and "very conservative area" in which he's running. [See video below. MP3 audio here.] Reporter Mara Schiavocampo on Thursday labeled the former American Idol runner-up a Democrat, as well as pointing out the Republican-leaning nature of North Carolina. But at no time did the journalist call Aiken a liberal.

Schiavocampo began the story by bluntly declaring, "...Simply put, [Aiken] is a long shot." She added, "Aiken, an openly gay single dad, is running in a conservative district in a state with a Republican governor and a GOP-run state legislature." The reporter praised Aiken for being "authentic" and having a "great life story." But to underline the odds he faces, Schiavocampo reminded, "We'll see how it plays out. Very conservative area." Co-host Robin Roberts fretted, "Very much so."

Schiavocampo pointed out his party affiliation, but never uttered the L-word. The Hill, however, explained:

Aiken has also taken liberal stances on some issues. The openly gay singer has campaigned to legalize gay marriage, which was banned by a wide margin in a 2012 statewide referendum. He’s also called former President Carter a personal hero, which is unlikely to play well in the conservative district.

This is the second day in a row that GMA talked up Aiken. On Wednesday, news reader Amy Robach closed a news brief by offering what sounded like a campaign tag line: "America voted for him once. They may vote for him again."

To the credit of ABC, the network did accurately explain the reality of the race. Political director Rick Klein explained, "Realistically, Clay Aiken is a long shot."

A transcript of the February 6 segment, which aired at 7:13am ET, is below:


ROBIN ROBERTS: Now to Clay Aiken, who won millions of votes from fans as you know on American Idol, now seeking votes for Congress. Aiken has launched a bid for the House seat currently held by a Tea Party favorite. ABC's Mara Schiavocampo is here with a look at his political chances. Mara?

MARA SCHIAVOCAMPO: Good morning, Robin. Well, simply put, he is a long shot but that hasn't stopped Aiken from throwing his hat in the ring. A newly released campaign video shows a completely new side of the singer who says he's ready to move from performing to public service. An American Idol" runner-up –

[Clip of Aiken singing]

SCHIAVOCAMPO: –is running for Congress.

CLAY AIKEN: I'll need your help.

SCHIAVOCAMPO: In a video posted on his website, Wednesday, Clay Aiken announced his candidacy as a Democrat, vying for a congressional seat in North Carolina. The campaign video revealing a different side of the singer, sharing his humble beginnings.

AIKEN: For eight months we stayed in this living room and threat on a mattress on the floor.

SCHIAVOCAMPO: An upbringing that he says allows him to relate to the hardships of others.

AIKEN: For most Americans, there are no golden tickets. At least not like the kind you see on TV.

SCHIAVOCAMPO: Aiken has done his fair share of advocacy work over the years, working on a presidential commission for people with disabilities, traveling the word for UNICEF and speaking out against LGBT discrimination.

AIKEN: I think the qualifications for representing people is caring about them and listening to them.

SCHIAVOCAMPO: The incumbent, second term Republican Renee Ellmers, has already poked fun at his celebrity status.

RENEE ELLMERS: As we know, he didn't even fare all that well. He was runner-up. So –

UNIDENTIFIED RADIO HOST: Oh, snap!

SCHIAVOCAMPO: While stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Al Franken have shined bright, celebrity status does not guarantee political success.

RICK KLEIN: It means that you've got national name recognition, a fund raising base, excitement generated around your candidacy. The flip side is the scrutiny.

SCHIAVOCAMPO: Aiken, an openly gay single dad, is running in a conservative district in a state with a Republican governor and a GOP-run state legislature. One race where this political newcomer has to hit all the right notes.

KLEIN: Realistically, Clay Aiken is a long shot. It is going to be a fierce fight.

AIKEN: Thank you for watching.

SCHIAVOCAMPO: As for where he stands on the issues. Aiken says he wants to focus on unemployment and funding for military families. He is facing two other candidates in the Democratic primary which takes place May 6th. He is expected to raise a lot of money but probably not enough to propel him to victory.

ROBERTS: Boy, I'm telling you, that tape was very impressive.

SCHIAVOCAMPO: He did very good. It seemed very authentic. And he has a great life story in terms of connecting to other people, relating to struggles. So, we'll see how it plays out. Very conservative area.

ROBERTS: Yeah. Very much so, Mara, thank you. Mara Schiavocampo.

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