ABC on Thursday night finally broke the network's silence about a dishonest Obama super PAC ad that, essentially, accuses Mitt Romney of killing a woman. On Friday, Good Morning America's hosts and reporters vaguely, but haughtily, chided "both sides" for negative ads, as if they had been covering Obama's commercial all week. [See video below. MP3 audio here.]
At the very end of a segment on Romney's possible VP choices, co-anchor George Stephanopoulos lectured, "It really seems to be, watching this time around, that both sides are willing to take all kinds of heat for getting accused of running misleading ads, but they're going to keep pumping them out there." What was Obama's ad? He didn't say. Karl, who on Thursday night became the first ABC reporter to note the misleading Obama spot, huffed about both campaigns: "You know, it's almost like they're not trying to be factual."
Stephanopoulos introduced the segment by lamenting that this had been "a week of blistering and misleading ads from both sides." Karl whined that both Republicans and Democrats are trying to "gin up their base" and "if a few misleading ads happen along the way, so be it."
During the segment, however, ABC only played footage of the Republican's attack on Obama's changes to welfare work requirements, something Karl derided on Wednesday as "questionable."
At no time on Friday did Karl or Stephanopoulos explain to viewers that an Obama super PAC ad falsely accuses the GOP presumptive nominee (and former businessman) of contributing to a woman's death after closing down a steel plant and putting her husband out of work.
On Thursday, Karl appeared on World News and said of the commercial: "But the single most outrageous ad of the campaign comes from a superpac supporting the President, and run by his former spokesman. It features a man who once worked for a company owned by Bain Capital."
If it's so outrageous, why did ABC wait so long to report it? Why did the journalists on GMA only cryptically refer to "misleading ads from both sides?"
A transcript of the August 10 segment, which aired at 7:13, follows:
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GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Politics now. Your voice, your vote. And after a week of blistering and misleading ads from both sides, Mitt Romney is ready to get back on his bus for a tour of the battleground states. The big question now, has he chosen a running mate for that fight? ABC's Jon Karl has been working the Romney headquarters. He joins us from Boston this morning. And Jon, you get the feeling there he has made up his mind?
JON KARL: Well, those close to Romney, some of them believe he has already made up his mind. But most people working across the river at Romney headquarters still have no idea. In fact, George, they already have a staff in waiting over there. About two dozen people working on the vice presidential candidate's staff. They have computers. They've been issued iPads. They have got desks over there. But they have no indication of who the choice is. In fact, they tell me they haven't been given a short list of possibilities. But as you can imagine, they've been working from, basically, the same list we have.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Meantime, a real lobbying campaign going on in conservative circles for Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
KARL: That's right. Paul Ryan is the candidate of the moment right now for the right-wing. You've seen the Wall Street Journal's very influential editorial page, urging Romney to pick him. You have seen the same thing from prominent conservative magazines like National Review and Weekly Standard. There's little indication this will actually sway Romney in terms of his final decision. But as we've been talking about for some time, there's no doubt that Paul Ryan is right there on the shortest of short lists and seriously in contention.
STEPHANOPOULOS: A quick word about these ads. It really seems to be, watching this time around, that both sides are willing to take all kinds of heat for getting accused of running misleading ads, but they're going to keep pumping them out there?
KARL: [ABC only shows B-roll of Romney's welfare ad.] Yeah. You know, it's almost like they're not trying to be factual. But, George, this election has come down to not so much persuading undecideds. They think there's only about five percent of voters that haven't made up their mind. What they're really trying to do is gin up their base, gin up their strongest supporters and get them out to the polls. If a few misleading ads happen along the way, so be it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Okay, Jon Karl, thanks very much.