Of the three major networks, only CBS has managed, thus far, to ignore controversial comments from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that compared America’s disputed election in 2000 to political corruption in Nigeria. ABC, however, highlighted the August 12 remarks on Thursday’s Good Morning America. GMA news anchor Chris Cuomo challenged, "Now, did [the comments] cross the line?"
Co-host Robin Roberts chided, "Hillary Clinton in the hot seat. She compares Nigeria’s politics to the controversial Bush/Gore election here in the U.S. Did she go too far?" Clinton, who was in Nigeria at the time, said this: "Our democracy is still evolving. We had all kinds of problems in some of our past elections, as you might remember. In 2000, our presidential election came down to one state where the brother of the man running for president was the governor of the state, so we have our problems, too."
In addition to GMA, ABC played the remark on the previous night's World News. CBS avoided the comments during Wednesday’s CBS Evening News and Thursday’s Early Show. Brian Williams briefly reported on the quote for the August 12 NBC Nightly News, featuring the remark and labeling it "another off-the-cuff comment" for the Secretary of State. NBC did not discuss the story during the four hours of Friday’s Today show.
ABC’s Jake Tapper provided the most coverage. On Good Morning America, he observed that this was "the second time this week that the nation's top diplomat has been accused of making undiplomatic remarks." The network correspondent then reminded viewers of Clinton’s outburst earlier in the week over a question that seemed to be asking for her husband’s opinion on an issue.
Providing balance, Tapper featured a talking head who defended the comments, Walter Russell Mead of the Council on Foreign Relations, and also Ilya Shapiro, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. Shapiro critiqued, "When you criticize your country as an official of that country, it obviously undermines the authority of the government."
A transcript of the August 13 GMA segment, which aired at 7:02am EDT, follows:
ROBIN ROBERTS: Hillary Clinton in the hot seat. She compares Nigeria’s politics to the controversial Bush/Gore election here in the U.S. Did she go too far?
CHRIS CUOMO: We have some other political news this morning. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is making more waves on her Africa trip, speaking in Nigeria on Wednesday, Clinton apparently compared that nation's corruption and electoral problems with the disputed 2000 presidential election here in the U.S. Now, did that cross the line? Senior White House correspondent Jake Tapper is in Washington. He's following this this morning. Good morning, Jake.
ABC GRAPHIC: Clinton’s Tough Week: Candid Comments Causing Controversy
JAKE TAPPER: Good morning, Chris. Well, that's right, it’s the second time this week that the nation's top diplomat has been accused of making undiplomatic remarks. In Nigeria, a land of corrupt elections, the Secretary of State tried to push the message that embracing violence after a disputed election is never the answer. But then she said this.
SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON: Our democracy is still evolving. We had all kinds of problems in some of our past elections, as you might remember. In 2000, our presidential election came down to one state where the brother of the man running for president was the governor of the state, so we have our problems, too.
TAPPER: Republicans pounced, accusing Clinton of comparing the Florida recount to the kind of wholesale fraud you see in Nigeria. Governor Bush is "declining to weigh in on these ill-advised comments," said a spokesman for former Florida Governor Jeb [sic], "but he wishes Secretary Clinton a safe and successful trip."
ILYA SHAPIRO (Senior fellow, Cato Institute): When you criticize your country as an official of that country, it obviously undermines the authority of the government.
TAPPER: A State Department spokesman said Clinton was merely trying to push the idea of accepting a flawed result after a dispute rather than resorting to violence. "There are still some who think Gore won more votes," said the spokesman. "People still raise questions about hanging chads or the butterfly ballot. We're still arguing about it. But, eventually, Vice President Gore accepted the results, yielded and paved the way for President Bush's inauguration." And some foreign policy people agree that Clinton said nothing wrong.
WALTER RUSSELL MEAD (Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations): I think she was doing the right thing by giving the Nigerians a sense that we Americans, we’re not perfect either. All counties have problems.
TAPPER: These comments just two days after Secretary Clinton in the Congo seemed to take offense when asked how her husband felt about China's offer of a loan to that country.
CLINTON: My husband is not the secretary of state, I am.
MEAD: After the comments on Monday, everybody was watching her like a hawk.
TAPPER: The White House says they back Secretary Clinton 100 percent, that she was just pointing out the same argument that President Obama made when he was in Ghana, that it's important for losers to get past losing the election and move on. Chris?
CUOMO: All right, Jake. Let’s go from politics to policy this morning. You have got some news on health care reform front. There’s this whole battle about information versus disinformation. What have you heard about the administration this morning?
TAPPER: Well, we have an exclusive report here, the fact that the administration is tired and feels victimized of these viral E-mails that emerged seemingly out of nowhere spreading misinformation throughout the world about health care reform and other issues. They’re launching a viral e-mail of their own this morning from White House senior adviser David Axelrod outlining in his view eight reasons why reform is needed, eight reasons why reform is urgently needed and eight common myths about reform and also links to a web video where the White House health care reform czar deconstructs and takes apart one of the opponents viral E-mails, talking about all of the myths within it. Chris?