Elections

ABC, not PBS, first aired Obama’s 1991 Derrick Bell love-fest

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Jeff Poor
Media Reporter

Whether or not it was the bombshell many hoped it would be, footage emerged last week — most notably on Fox News Channel’s “Hannity” – from a 1991 speech by then-Harvard Law School student Barack Obama, asking an audience to “open [their] hearts and minds” to the controversial Harvard professor and Derrick Bell.

That footage included an embrace between Bell and Obama in a portion that was cut out of the PBS “Frontline” documentary called “The Choice 2008.” Some have made the case that that editing was proof of a media campaign to protect then-Democratic presidential nominee Obama and hide any ties to a professor whose theories on race have made him radical to some.

But PBS wasn’t the first to air that footage. Weeks before that “Frontline” documentary premiered on Oct. 14, 2008, the Sept. 26, 2008 broadcast of “20/20” on ABC included it in the introduction to Diane Sawyer’s interview with Obama.

Sawyer, who now hosts the ABC’s “World News Tonight,” narrated the footage during a segment called “Senator Barack Obama: A childhood of loss and love” (emphasis added):

We’re back now with Barack Obama. If John McCain’s youth was about a powerful family name, rebellion and return, Barack Obama’s story is a very different version of only in America, a story that is new, almost improbable, and in some ways discovered by a young man as he was living it. A young man rockets to the top of one of the country’s toughest institutions of learning, Harvard Law School. This is rare, 1990 footage from a rally where the then third-year student presides.

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