ABC's Good Morning America on Wednesday welcomed Robin Roberts back from sick leave by surprising the co-host with her biggest fans, Barack and Michelle Obama. Within two minutes of the show's open, George Stephanopoulos kicked off the celebration by cutting to the Obamas. He hyped, "We have a lot of surprises for you this morning. We're going to start with one from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue."
After Barack Obama touted the journalist as an "inspiration," Michelle Obama teased, "And personally, I am looking forward to our interview together in a couple of days." [See video below. MP3 audio here.] How, exactly, is Roberts supposed to conduct tough interviews after that kind of praise? The ABC reporter has long been a favorite of the White House and her fawning coverage has to be part of the reason. After the President flipped his position on gay marriage, Roberts got the first interview. On May 10, 2012, she gushed, "I'm getting chills" just thinking about Obama's new stance.
On September 9, 2009, Roberts talked to Obama and asked him this hardball: "How difficult is it to stay on message?"
On May 19, 2008, the ABC anchor chatted with both the Obamas and fretted about how the then-candidate would deal with nasty Republicans: "Should you get through this process and you have the general election ahead of you, that this is what you can expect more and more of. Are you prepared for that?"
It's obviously wonderful that Roberts is recovering from Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS). It's perfectly natural for her colleagues and friends at ABC to celebrate. But bringing in the liberal president, a Democrat she often fawns over in interviews, only leads to more questions about her objectivity.
Perhaps Roberts is trying to give 60 Minutes and Steve Kroft a run for the title of most fawning Obama interview.
A transcript of the February 20 moment can be found below:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: We have a lot of surprises for you this morning. We're going to start with one from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
ROBIN ROBERTS: Wow.
BARACK OBAMA: Good morning, America. And welcome back, Robin.
MICHELLE OBAMA: Robin, we just want you to know that the whole Obama family, we've been thinking about you and praying for you and rooting for you every step of the way.
BARACK OBAMA: You've been an inspiration to all of us. And we couldn't be happier that you're back here, doing what you do best.
MICHELLE OBAMA: And personally, I am looking forward to our interview together in a couple of days.
BARACK OBAMA: So, Robin, it's great to see you back in that chair. And we're all excited to start our morning with you once again.
ROBERTS: That is so incredibly special. I do have little bangs right here. If you push in closely, the hair's growing in a little more right here. No, that's very special for them to do that. And I am looking forward to sitting down with Mrs. Obama.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It's going to be great.