ABC's Chris Cuomo: 'Barack Hussein Obama' Gives 'Hope' to Egyptians

June 3rd, 2009 4:07 PM

"Good Morning America's" Chris Cuomo reported live from Egypt on Wednesday and informed viewers that students at a university in Cairo are "given hope, just by the fact that a brown-skinned president named Barack Hussein Obama exists." The news anchor, who was in the region to cover the President's speech on Thursday, provided a decidedly different tone than that of many journalists who avoided using Obama's middle name during the 2008 campaign.

He later speculated that people in that area are excited "not just because of the color of his skin, or of his name, Barack Hussein Obama." This is the same Cuomo who, on the December 20, 2007 GMA, worried that American racism could derail the then-Democratic candidate's campaign. Speaking to Obama, he fretted, "What do you think the bigger obstacle is for you in becoming president, the Clinton campaign machine or America's inherent racists, racism?"

Asked on Wednesday to describe the general feeling about the President's trip, Cuomo speculated, "They [Egyptians] believe there is reason for hope that American policies [under Obama] could be more in line with their thinking." Co-host Diane Sawyer had nothing but high expectations for the Commander in Chief's visit. She mused, "As you know, reaching out to the world's one and a half billion Muslims. Can he, with his words, change the tide of history?"

This isn't the first time since the election that Cuomo has touted the President's middle name. On March 12, 2009, the news anchor talked to children at a school in the United Arab Emirates. He questioned, "Does it matter to you that the President's name is Barack Hussein Obama? Does that make him more familiar to you?"

A transcript of Cuomo's 7am and 8am reports, which aired on June 3, can be found below:

DIANE SAWYER: And we're awaiting the President's arrival, just a few moments from now in Saudi Arabia. As you know, reaching out to the world's one and a half billion Muslims. Can he, with his words, change the tide of history?

ROBIN ROBERTS: And the centerpiece of his visit will be a speech he gives in Cairo tomorrow. Already, the number two al Qaeda leader has released a harsh message condemning the President's visit.

SAWYER: But, of course, there are other Muslims throughout the countries that are celebrating his trip. In fact, greeting President Obama at the Saudi Arabia airport will be King Abdullah. And by official rite, he brings the ceremonial coffee himself. So, he shows up in just a few minutes.

ROBERTS: Chris Cuomo is already there. He's in the Middle East for the President's trip and he joins us now live from Cairo, Egypt. And it's so good to see you there, Chris. Good morning.

CUOMO: It's good to see you, Robin. Welcome to Cairo. We're just above the Nile River. This is where President Obama will make his most ambitious foreign policy statement to date. Trying to convince the Muslim world that the west respects them. And that Islam and the western world can peacefully co-exist. But, that message is being opposed before it's even given in that new tape from al Qaeda. The tape from al Qaeda's number two man, Ayman al Zawahiri, has a clear message. Obama is not welcome in the Muslim world. He says only corrupted Muslims in Egypt invite America. The tape adds to the considerable tension here where the President's speech tomorrow is hoped to be the first step to convincing Muslims that America is not at war with Islam, rather, the two are allies in the war against terror.

ROBIN WRIGHT (Author, "Dreams and Shadows): The reaction in the Middle East is likely to be very intense. They will be parsing every word, every paragraph, every idea.

CUOMO: Obama has addressed a Muslim audience before, in Turkey.

BARACK OBAMA [April 6]: Many other Americans have Muslims in their families. Or have lived in a Muslim majority country. I know, because I am one of them.

CUOMO: But, this time, he's in Arabia. People here tell us they will be listening for specifics, about his plan to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, on the issue of democracy in the Middle East. And the over-arching concern is what his vision is for a Palestinian/Israeli peace plan with a two-state solution.

MOAZZ MASSOUD (PH):Yes. Palestine is a key issue.

CUOMO: Moazz Massoud (PH) is a popular TV figure who believes Obama's words must be backed by action. Is his speech enough? Can he really accomplish anything here?

MASSOUD: Well, I was just recently writing. And I ended with, you know, on June 4th, Obama will give the talk. Then, the world will wait to see America walk it.

CUOMO [Chris is walking down streets in Egypt]: Obama is on the mind of many here.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Obama shop. Obama

CUOMO: Obama shop, they keep saying. Tourists trinkets liken him to King Tut. His face is all over newsstands. Students at the university hosting Obama will listen closely. Yet, they're given hope, just by the fact that a brown-skinned president named Barack Hussein Obama exists.

SECOND UNIDENTIFIED MAN: In Pakistan, when they found out it was Barack Hussein Obama, they were, like, okay, this is a President who might have some good policies.

CUOMO: Still, they think more than talk is needed.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: So, we need something to happen. That's the issue. We are not anymore just trusting anyone saying anything, because we have been disappointed by a lot of hopes and by a lot of promises.

CUOMO: So, why Egypt? This is somewhat of a controversial choice because of alleged human rights violations here. But there are a lot of pluses. First of all, it is a nominal democracy. It is also the most populated Arab center. And that's important for Obama. He wants to address the arab community. Also, it's not lost on the administration that Egypt has a 30-plus year standing peace deal with Israel. But regardless of where President Obama chose to give this speech, it will certainly echo through the entire Muslim world. Diane?


BOB WOODRUFF: And we have some breaking news this morning. Just as President Obama just as President Obama arrives in Saudi Arabia for his Middle East trip, a new recording has reportedly been released, purportedly from Osama bin Laden. Our Chris Cuomo is in Cairo, where the President will be tomorrow. He joins us now with the very latest.

CUOMO: Good morning, Bob. You know, nobody knows better than you that this is unusual for Osama bin Laden and his number two, Ayman al Zawahiri, to put out back-to-back tapes like this. It shows somewhat of the level of importance of this occasion, perhaps, President Obama coming here to Cairo to give what will be his biggest statement of foreign policy to date. That being a statement to all Muslims that the western world and Islam can peacefully co-exist. That is the headline of what he's supposed to say here. Now, there is somewhat of a rebuttal already in advance from the Republican side, saying this is an apology tour. That Obama may be going to all of the Muslim countries to apologize. But we are told he's going to spread a positive message. And here, that's going to be well-received. They're looking for specifics. Most of all, about the Palestinian/Israeli conflict and what his plan is for a two-state solution, Bob.

WOODRUFF: Instead of the politics over there, you're listening to the radio. You're reading the newspapers. What's the general feeling there amongst the people about the President?

CUOMO: Well, it's rare, in this part of the world, again, as you know very well, for people to be enthusiastic for American political officials. But, as you'll see in some of the B-roll we took earlier today, Bartley Price (PH) and I, when you're walking around the bazaar, you say the word Obama and speech, and everybody starts putting their thumb up and saying, "Obama, yes. Yes. Obama." Excitement about the hopefulness. And not just because of the color of his skin, or of his name, Barack Hussein Obama. They believe there is reason for hope that American policies could be more in line with their thinking. And that's a sign of optimism here, Bob.