ABC's Claire Shipman Twists Polls, Plays Up Internal Discomfort on 'Gay Marriage'

While NBC's David Gregory described the marriage-amendment battle as a move to placate conservatives on Monday morning, ABC's Claire Shipman's story on "Good Morning America" highlighted opposition to the amendment within the White House. MRC's Brian Boyd found the labeling imbalance was here, too:

Shipman: "He's wading into one of the nation's most divisive social issues again today...Restating his position in the hopes of driving his conservative base to the polls in November." Liberals were unlabeled: "Both pro- and anti-gay marriage forces have been pushing their agendas in state legislatures and courts. Thirteen states have passed bans on gay marriage. Only Massachusetts has made gay marriage legal. The public is divided. Half of Americans, 51 percent, oppose legalizing gay marriage.

Here's what Shipman avoided here: full results, as can be seen at pollingreport.com. Shipman's poll (scroll down to March), identified on screen as a Pew Research Center poll, shows 51 percent opposed, and only 39 percent in favor. Only ten percent were "strongly in favor," while 28 percent were "strongly opposed." But the low liberal numbers were omitted.

Gregory used a Gallup poll, saying people favored a marriage amendment only 50 to 47 percent. (They receive better numbers when people are merely asked if homosexuality is acceptable.) But when the polls asked not about an amendment, but merely legally recognizing "gay marriage," the numbers are more unfavorable to liberals.

When Gallup asked, "Do you think marriages between homosexuals should or should not be recognized as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriages?," only 39 percent said yes, 58 percent said no. An April Fox News poll found the breakdown was 55 percent against "gay marriage," and 33 percent in favor.

Shipman then played up the internal-opposition line:

And not even everyone at the White House agrees, the First Lady seeming to warn her husband against playing politics."

[Laura Bush soundbite, May 14, 2006: "Well, I don't think it should be used as a campaign tool, obviously."]

Wait. Let's see a larger piece of this exchange from Fox News Sunday:

CHRIS WALLACE: If I may press my question, what do you think of the constitutional amendment and the idea of using it as a campaign tool?

LAURA BUSH: Well, I don't think it should be used as a campaign tool, obviously. But I do think it's something that people in the United States want to debate. And it requires a lot of sensitivity to talk about the issue, a lot of sensitivity. People, I have found, over the country don't want the governor of Massachusetts or the mayor of San Francisco to make the choice for them — the courts of Massachusetts, I should say. So I think it deserves debate. I think it's something that people want to talk about.

Shipman continued:

"And Mary Cheney, the Vice President's daughter, told Diane Sawyer her father flatly objects to the constitutional ban, something neither Cheney spelled out in the last presidential election."

[Mary Cheney soundbite: "I think he has stated publicly his opposition to the Federal Marriage Amendment, which I think is actually a very big deal."]

Wait! That's not quite right. While Dick Cheney sounded a little mealy-mouthed in the 2004 vice-presidential debate, he did spell out his personal opposition to a federal solution:

I said then and I believe today that freedom does mean freedom for everybody. People ought to be free to choose any arrangement they want. It's really no one else's business...Traditionally, that's been an issue for the states. States have regulated marriage, if you will. That would be my preference.

Lynne Cheney tried very hard not to say anything explicit on the matter -- not that the networks didn't push hard for an answer during the 2004 GOP convention. (By the way, this is a bit of a rerun: these same exact soundbites of Mrs. Bush and Mary Cheney were used by ABC's Jessica Yellin last Wednesday on the May 31 "Good Morning America.")

Shipman then showed more labeling disparity: "But for conservative Republicans, it's critical." (Soundbite of Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council.) "Senate Democrats, meanwhile, are trying to label it all a political ploy."

[Joe Biden, from "Meet the Press": "And what are we going to do because we don't want to make any hard decisions? Let's go talk about gay marriage. I think it's ridiculous."]

Shipman concluded: "Now, it almost certainly won't pass. It would require a two-thirds majority. But it could prove a litmus test for senators and an awkward one for Senator John McCain with conservatives. He has said, Charlie, he opposes a constitutional ban on gay marriage."

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis