Good Morning America's John Hendren on Saturday fretted that attendees to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) came "from the right" and "the far right." He allowed that conservative are "on fire" with optimism about the future, but opined that the movement is "fractious."
John Avlon, author of Winguts: How the Lunatic Fringe Is Hijacking America, was featured in a sound bite to deride intolerant conservatives: "Reagan's ideal of the big tent, which invited people in, is now seen as code language for liberal."
On February 19, Avlon appeared on CNN attacked the "saving freedom" agenda of CPAC as "a little extreme" and "a little far out."
Hendren is the same reporter who, on February 16, dismissed as a "tempest in a teapot" the idea that Republicans and conservatives could make impressive gains in the 2010 midterms. For that GMA segment, he lectured, "But, for now, despite all the passionate, anti-incumbent tea parties, the math suggests limited changes on Capitol Hill."
Hendren seemed to be offering a contradictory message on Saturday: "Conservatives hope to take advantage of a historic opportunity, to unite a public that polls show is shifting to the right."
On Friday's show, correspondent Claire Shipman reported from CPAC's Washington D.C. conference and chided the GOP for its "big tent problem."
Hendren's comment on Saturday about the "far right" came before he played a clip of Ryan Sorba of the Young Americans for Freedom organization. Sorba denounced CPAC for allowing a group of gay conservatives to participate in the event. Sorba screamed, "I'd like to condemn CPAC for bringing GOPRIDE to this event! Bring it! Bring it! I love it."
A transcript of the February 20 segment, which aired at 7:14am EST, follows:
BILL WEIR: Well, conservatives are out in full force in Washington today, as they wrap up their annual conference. The right is rejuvenated, predicting big Republican gains in November. And setting their sights on the White House in 2012. But who will lead that charge? John Hendren is there covering that and joins us now. Good morning, John.
JOHN HENDREN: Good morning, Bill. This annual Conservative Political Action Conference is an ideal place to look for where the conservative movement is heading and just who is heading it in the years of George W. Bush. They come from the right-
KEN CUCCINELLI: Shrink the power of government. Period.
HENDREN: And the far right.
RYAN SORBA : I'd like to condemn CPAC for bringing GOPRIDE to this event. Bring it! Bring it! I love it.
HENDREN: New faces. And familiar ones.
MICHELE BACHMANN: You like that. I do, too.
HENDREN: Old, young, and very young to unite at the Conservative Political Action Conference, against a common adversary.
TIM PAWLENTY (R-Minn): President Obama does not share that commitment. If government spending were an Olympic sport, he would be a repeat gold medalist.
HENDREN: 125 People showed up at the first CPAC meeting in 1973, to hear a keynote speaker named Ronald Reagan. Today, there are a record 10,000. And they're on fire.
DICK CHENEY: A welcome like that is almost enough to want to make me [sic] run for office again.
HENDREN: Conservatives hope to take advantage of a historic opportunity, to unite a public that polls show is shifting to the right. But that movement is fractious.
JOHN AVLON (Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe Is Hijacking America): Reagan's ideal of the big tent, which invited people in, is now seen as code language for liberal Republicans.
CRAIG SHIRLEY (Author, Rendezvous With Destiny): I never liked the phrase big tent because, to me, it meant that, you know, you let too many clowns into the movement or into the party.
HENDREN: The tea party goers came with their own agenda and a fiscally conservative contract from America [sic] they want all GOP candidates to sign.
SHIRLEY: There's still a marital counseling between the Republican Party and the conservative movement and the tea party movement. They are going to dictate terms to the Republican Party. And the Republican Party is going to have to follow along if it wants their support.
HENDREN: That leaves Democrats with an opportunity to portray Republicans as a party that can unite only on saying no.
REP. MIKE PENCE [In unidentified liberal ad]: The answer is, no.
HENDREN: United against President Obama, conservatives now face the challenge of uniting voters behind them. Today, conference attendees will be voting in a straw poll for a new conservative standard bearer. But many say the likeliest winner isn't eligible this year. That's because Sarah Palin didn't show up. Bill?