Despite there being numerous presidential news stories developing on Monday, including Rick Santorum and abortion, ABC's Good Morning America skipped all political topics. Not coincidentally, former Democratic operative turned journalist George Stephanopoulos was off for the day. Since Stephanopoulos became a co-host on December 14, 2009, ABC has marginalized incumbent anchor Robin Roberts's participation in serious political stories, often relegating her to tabloid coverage.
When Stephanopoulos debuted on GMA in 2009, GMA executive producer Jim Murphy told TV Newser, "We believe in supporting everyone fully...Everyone will get their fair share." Yet, on Monday, as CBS and NBC were discussing Santorum's comments on abortion and faith, Roberts was left to highlight the latest on accused murderer George Huguely. The program also found time for more on Whitney Houston and basketball player Jeremy Lin.
Wouldn't it have made sense to have an interview with ABC analyst Matt Dowd about the latest in the GOP race? Or perhaps a discussion with senior White House correspondent Jake Tapper?
Before Stephanopoulos joined the program and took most of the political interviews, Roberts did them all the time, hosting a 26 minute infomercial with Hillary Clinton in 2007.
Roberts will occasionally still do big interviews, however they are much less frequent. On June 17, 2011, she talked to Barack Obama for 15 minutes, but even that was forced into the template of a light-hearted Father's Day interview.
The freezing out of Roberts began almost immediately. From December 14, 2009 to January 06, 2010, Stephanopoulos anchored all but one of the political and policy interviews. (The one exception was a joint interview that Roberts and Stephanopoulos participated in.)
On November 14, 2011, Roberts bashed her own show's obsession with tabloid stories and, perhaps, vaguely vented about her less important role on the program: "I’ll be honest, it’s been an adjustment for me, the lighter fare...I want to be No. 1. I don’t want to sell my soul to the devil to be No. 1."
The same Daily Beast article showcased strife, with Howard Kurtz revealing that Roberts and Stephanopoulos "almost never chat during the show when the cameras are off."
On December 10, 2009, Roberts appeared taken aback at the idea that ABC would give all the political stories to Stephanopoulos, a former Clinton operative. "I'm not worried one bit," she insisted.