According to Good Morning America host Robin Roberts, reporter Jake Tapper is a "big fan" of South Park. His affection showed on Friday as he interviewed the program's creators, the duo behind a vulgar Broadway play mocking Mormons.
At no time during the segment on The Book of Mormon did Tapper feature any on-camera criticism of Parker and Stone. (He simply read a statement at the end of the piece.) Instead, the journalist mildly offered questions such as "Why go after Mormons?"
When Stone asserted, "I don't think either of us think that Mormonism is any goofier than Hinduism or Christianity," Tapper had no comment.
Co-host Robin Roberts teased the piece by touting, "And Jake Tapper is a big fan of South Park." She followed up by adding, "Well, Jake Tapper is back. You're a big South Park fan. You went behind the scenes. What did you see?"
(Perhaps it was Tapper's enthusiasm that led him to incorrectly refer to Parker and Stone's Team America movie as a film about "South Korean despot Kim Jong il.")
It was only at the very end of the segment that Tapper attempted any sort of balance. He noted, "The statement from the Church of the Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints says, 'The production may attempt to entertain audiences for an evening, but the Book of Mormon as a volume of scripture will change people's lives forever by bringing them closer to Christ.'"
Tapper previously interviewed Parker and Stone in 2006.
A transcript of the segment, which aired at 8:43am on March 18, follows:
ROBIN ROBERTS: Also, how about those irreverent minds behind South Park? All right? Would you believe that they're taking their act to Broadway? And Jake Tapper is a big fan of South Park.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Yeah, he had some fun with them. It's called The Book of Mormon.
ROBIN ROBERTS: One of the hardest tickets to get in your hands right now, the creators of South Park brought their musical, The Book of Mormon, to Broadway. So, what can audiences expect? Well, Jake Tapper is back. You're a big South Park fan. You went behind the scenes. What did you see?
JAKE TAPPER: Well, the creators of South Park went from skewing religion, politics on Comedy Central to now doing so on old Broadway. For 15 years, Trey Parker, Matt Stone and the crude kids from South Park, Colorado, have been amusing and offending America.
[Clip from South Park]
"MR. GARRISON": Well, gay people are evil. Evil right down to their cold, black hearts.
TAPPER: For seven of those years, the two have been working on a show that will take their skewed views to a different audience, fans of musical theater. Next week, Next week, The Book of Mormon opens, poking fun at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Your show, South Park, has made fun of every religion. Why go after Mormons?
MATT STONE: We grew up in Colorado. So, Mormonism and Mormons, although it's in Utah, it's right next door. So, there's just a lot of crossover there. And we both knew a lot of Mormons growing up. And it just, it's always fascinated us. We use Mormonism, in The Book of Mormon to talk about religion in general. Because, of course, to- to anybody's religion to an outsider, it's just as goofy. I don't think either of us think that Mormonism is any goofier than Hinduism or Christianity.
TREY PARKER: We started talking about other ways to talk about Mormonism and what the religion is about. And we realized that most people's interaction, first interaction with it are with missionaries and with those guys in the white shirts and ties that ride around on bicycles and go door-to-door.
TAPPER: Parker loves musicals. A love that's infected stone. For years, their work has involved showtunes, whether on South Park-
[South Park clip]
"KYLE": It's hard to be a Jew on Christmas.
TAPPER: The South Park movie, one song of which was nominated for an Academy Award or Team America: World Police, featuring a marionette of South Korean [sic] despot Kim Jong il.
[Clip from Team America.]
TAPPER: But The Book of Mormon brings a whole different level of ambition.
PARKER: Nobody said, let's go after Mormons. Let's get them! How do we do that? Let's do a Broadway show. I love the format. I love the classic. I love Oklahoma and South Pacific and mostly the Rogers and Hammerstein musicals.
STONE: We just covered an enormous amount of ground that you couldn't cover if you didn't do it through song.
TAPPER: It is an edgy work, typical for them. But they insist Mormons should not be offended.
PARKER: They're so happy-go-lucky, optimistic people and they kind of have that cheesy factor that just fits. It fits. Mormons, Disney, Rogers and Hammerstein. It all kind of makes sense. Mormons are just, like- happy people. And, so, you're going to get a happy musical.
TAPPER: Have Trey and Matt softened? I interviewed them five years ago. Now, they both have children in their lives. Trey, a step kid, Matt a one-year-old son. He's going to know at some point that you do a cartoon show, daddy.
TAPPER: Can I watch the cartoon show, daddy?
STONE: Yeah. You can watch it. You can watch it, sweetie. I think there's people over 30 who shouldn't watch South Park. You know? I have friends who shouldn't be watching it. I would think South Park about 12. 11 Or 12.
PARKER: I'm step-dad to a kid who's ten. And, so- But I have a luxury of watching South Park- what episode is this? He's seen the show a couple times and I can sit there and we sit on the steps of the theater and we're watching and he's really liking it and certain songs come on and I go- [Acts as though he's covering ears.]
TAPPER: Ear muffs. Really?
PARKER: There's a lot of hard core stuff in the show. But it's nothing worse than a lot of South Park episodes. We're able to say, when people can, "Can I take my kids to this? And we're like, "Do you let your kids watch any episode of South Park?" And if they're like, "yeah." Then it's like, "Bring 'em."
TAPPER: They insist though Mormonism is the target of their skewering in this musical, the show is a general statement on beliefs. Stone calls it an atheist's love letter to religion. They like Mormons. We're probably going to have two Mormon Republican presidential candidates. Jon Huntsman, former governor of Utah, current ambassador to China.
STONE: Free tickets. On us, any time they want.
TAPPER: And Mitt Romney, of course.
PARKER: And now, we're pretty sure, because of our shows, one of them will win.
TAPPER: One of them will win?
PARKER: In fact, because our show, both of them will win.
TAPPER: The statement from the Church of the Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints says, "The production may attempt to entertain audiences for an evening, but the Book of Mormon as a volume of scripture will change people's lives forever by bringing them closer to Christ." Robin.
ROBERTS: All right. So, you saw it last night. Give it your review.
TAPPER: If you're easily offended or religiously devout, especially Mormon, I would stay away. But, for me, I have a sick sense of humor. I thought it was brilliant.
ROBERTS: Well, he said it best, if you allow your kids to see South Park, do you agree with that, that it's okay to see the play? Do you think?
TAPPER: The edgier episodes of South Park, yes.
— Scott Whitlock is a news analyst for the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.