Good Morning America's George Stephanopoulos reported live from Russia on Monday and Tuesday and, despite devoting 32 minutes to interviewing the country's President and other officials, never once brought up the hundreds of journalists who have been died mysteriously in the country over the last 17 years.
On Monday, Stephanopoulos did challenge President Dmitry Medvedev on Iran, sanctions and other topics. But, on Tuesday, he conducted a softball interview, touting, "As a teenager, Medvedev saved for months to buy Pink Floyd's The Wall. You have a deep love of heavy metal. Where did that come from?
He also parroted White House spin about Medvedev and Barack Obama: "...You can tell from my interviews with the two presidents that Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev like each other a lot. That may be because they're a lot alike."
Yet, Stephanopoulos never mentioned Anna Politkovskaya
or any of the other 324
journalists who have met with suspicious deaths. His previous career may have been as a Democratic operative, but Stephanopoulos is a journalist now
. Wouldn't this have been a great opportunity to challenge Russia's President on what's been happening to reporters?
On Monday, during one of the many segments to feature Stephanopoulos touring the country, he sounded like a tour guide. The GMA host lauded, "President Medvedev knows Russia is playing catch-up. But, the progress these past 20 years has been staggering. Symbols of the new Russia are everywhere. Skyscrapers line Moscow. Shopping centers in Siberia. Fast food restaurants everywhere."
Stephanopoulos even talked to a group of Russian women on Tuesday, one of which included Katya Gracheva, a reporter for Russia Today. The subject was how Russia has been changing. Showing no interest in dead journalists, he vaguely asked, "How about the media?"
When Gracheva asserted, "Five years ago, it was a completely different situation," Stephanopoulos asked, "Because they were just puppets controlled by the state?" Gracheva replied negatively and claimed she was speaking only of the low pay. Stephanopoulos dropped the subject and moved on.
In between segments on Russian architecture and what presents the GMA anchor would bring home for the rest of the on-air talent, couldn't have Stephanopoulos have raised this important topic just once?
A transcript of Tuesday's interview with Medvedev, which aired at 7:40am EDT, follows:
ROBIN ROBERTS: And now the public face of the new Russia. George focused on that a lot yesterday from Moscow. He's on his way back. But before that, he sat down again with the President. And found out there is more than meets the eye.
ABC GRAPHIC: Personal Side of Power: Russia's President on Rock & Religion
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Robin, you can tell from my interviews with the two presidents that Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev like each other a lot. That may be because they're a lot alike. They're both young. Medvedev's only 44. Their both former law professors who carry blackberries on their belt. But, here's on big difference: As far as I know, Barack Obama is not a big fan of 1970s hard rock. As a teenager, Medvedev saved for months to buy Pink Floyd's The Wall. You have a deep love of heavy metal. Where did that come from? Led Zeppelin. Deep Purple. Pink Floyd.
DMITRY MEDVEDEV (Russian President): That's from my childhood, my adolescence. I don't know. What music did you listen to at the age of 15, 20?
STEPHANOPOULOS: My wife makes fun of me. It was soft rock.
MEDVEDEV: Although I lived behind the Soviet Iron Curtain, the music seeped through. We listened to what the whole planet was listening to.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He was in living, then, in Leningrad, now St. Petersburg, in an 430 square foot apartment with his university professor parents. Medvedev became a professor of law. And married his childhood friend and high school sweetheart, Svetlana. The President cut his political teeth, as the Soviet Union was crumbling, working side-by-side in the St. Petersburg mayors office with a former KGB officer, Vladimir Putin. They rose together. Medvedev was President Putin's first chief of staff. They remained close, friends and competitors. But, as you saw in my interview, Medvedev says he's the boss now.
MEDVEDEV: If you consider the questions of foreign and domestic politics and defense, security, this is only the president and no one else.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Medvedev is more modern. Logging on to the web when he wakes up.
MEDVEDEV: I go to official sites and journals. I go to international sites. And you would be surprised. I go to sites of the opposition.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He hits the gym, too, most days for an hour. And he was very publicly unhappy with how the Russians performed in Vancouver. You had a rough Olympics.
MEDVEDEV: Yes because for the first time, we had a steep decline in medal count. This is not a national disaster. But, we have to learn a lesson from this. We should prepare better next time because when you host Olympic games, you are counting on many medals.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And perhaps, praying. Unlike his recent Russian predecessors, Medvedev is more public with his faith. You were brought up in Soviet Russia, without religion. Yet, at the age of 23, you walk into a church to become baptized. Why?
MEDVEDEV: I did feel that I needed it. I wanted to do it. I believe it's good for me because afterwards, my life changed. You don't really talk aloud about something like that because the religious feelings should be somewhere deep inside you. If someone is displaying it, they're not really honest. It's more like PR for yourself. But I believe religion is important for every person. Don't you think so?
STEPHANOPOULOS: I found Medvedev to be much more open, less scripted and defensive than I expected. He also had a bit of a swagger coming off the successful arms negotiations with President Obama. As for his future, the next elections here are in 2012. And he said he's going to sit down with Prime Minister Putin. And they're going to talk about who will be the candidate. That should be quite a conversation, Robin.