[Scroll below for 5:24pm EDT] On Tuesday’s "Good Morning America," ABC anchor Robin Roberts speculated and fretted over the allegations that some U.S. attorneys were fired because they wouldn’t aggressively investigate Democrats. Roberts dramatically stated that the firings highlight "a trail that points straight to the top" and wondered "how big could this be?"
Yet when President Clinton fired 93 attorneys at the beginning of his first term, ABC never mentioned the story.
The entire GMA report, filed by correspondent Pierre Thomas, was framed from the perspective of how the Democrats perceive this growing scandal and whom they suspect:
ROBIN ROBERTS: "Questions about the firing of top U.S. attorneys. Who decided to fire them and why? It’s a story that’s been building for days and the reports out this morning highlight a trail that points straight to the top. ABC’s justice correspondent Pierre Thomas is following this story for us. Good morning, Pierre."
PIERRE THOMAS: "Hi, Robin. This morning we're learning the White House may have instigated those firings. And some of those U.S. attorneys are saying they may have been canned because they not- did not aggressively investigate some of the Democrats. The Attorney General has been on the hot seat. The Attorney General has categorically denied the firings for politically motivated."
U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL ALBERTO GONZALES: "I would never, ever make a change in a United States attorney position for political reasons."
THOMAS: "But some of the U.S. attorneys have suggested they may have been fired because they did not aggressively pursue investigation of Democrats. And this morning, we're learning that President Bush himself raised questions about some U.S. attorneys. His then White House Council Harriet Miers initiated the purge in 2005. Miers worked closely with the chief of staff for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. The U.S. attorneys were targeted and fired without being told why. Sources tell ABC News that Gonzalez’ chief of staff, D. Kyle Sampson, may announce his resignation as early as today, amidst criticism that Congress was not fully informed in the White House role in the dismissals. Democrats now in charge on Capitol Hill have been demanding answers."
Sen. CHARLES SCHUMER (D) "Federal prosecutors are supposed to be he heroic soldiers in the fight against crime and corruption, not hapless casualties of political warfare."
THOMAS: "Democrats suspect key White House advisor Karl Rove played a role in the firings and they want to investigate whether Republicans on Capitol Hill also were at play. The White House has denied any wrong doing. Robin and George?"
ROBERTS: "All right. Pierre. Thanks very much, Pierre."
Before moving on to another story, Roberts and guest host George Stephanopoulos briefly discussed the topic. Unsurprisingly, the former Clinton advisor also repeated Democratic suspicions and accusations:
ROBERTS: "We've been talking about it this morning. Obviously a growing controversy. But George, how big could this be?"
At no time during the segment, which aired at 7:04am on March 13, did any GMA host or reporter mention Bill Clinton’s firing of 93 U.S. attorneys when he took office. The MRC noted this in the April 1993 edition of MediaWatch:
Attorney General Janet Reno fired all 93 U.S. attorneys, a very unusual practice. Republicans charged the Clintonites made the move to take U.S. Attorney Jay Stephens off the House Post Office investigation of Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski. The network response: ABC and CBS never mentioned it. CNN's World News and NBC Nightly News provided brief mentions, with only NBC noting the Rosty angle. Only NBC's Garrick Utley kept the old outrage, declaring in a March 27 "Final Thoughts" comment: "Every new President likes to say `Under me, it's not going to be politics as usual.' At the Justice Department, it looks as if it still is."
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: "Well, that is the question right now. Democrats are gonna’ try to take this right to the White House based on these stories this morning. They’re going to say the President's former top lawyer Harriet Miers was involved, his top political advisor Karl Rove was involved. Even the President himself knew about it. You can expect subpoenas to Karl Rove to come up and testify. He might try to fight it. But it’s going to be hard for him to resist that. And on top of that, Robin, as we said, already there are calls for the Attorney General Gonzales to resign. And this is going to increase the pressure on him even more."
[Updated 5:24pm EDT] It turns out that GMA host George Stephanopoulos, who in 1993 was a presidential spokesman for Bill Clinton, actually commented on Clinton’s mass firing of U.S. attorneys. According to a "Washington Post" article by Dan Balz that ran on March 26 of that year, there was nothing unusual about the dismissals:
Presidential spokesman George Stephanopoulos said it was not unusual for a president to ask for such resignations, although Republicans said presidents in the past have not asked for mass resignations, replacing them over a period of time as replacements were found.
Stephanopoulos said only those U.S. attorneys who are in the middle of trials will be allowed to continue working and said an interim appointee could capably pick up [U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia Jay B.] Stephens's investigation of the House Post Office scandal, with no serious disruption or political interference.