ABC News and George Stephanopoulos have a credibility problem with conservatives and Middle America. And it seems to be getting worse.
It’s not just that ABC News hired Bill Clinton’s White House spokesman and counselor George Stephanopoulos as a journalist; it’s that the pack mentality at ABC News doesn’t see it as a problem.
“The planning meetings [at ABC News] have little political diversity. Everyone is left of center and at ease with their liberal ideals. The other viewpoint is rarely raised and never fully represented,” a current ABC News producer told me last week.
And this week is a perfect example of the problem. Stephanopoulos opened Good Morning America the morning after Congressman Anthony Weiner’s press conference clearly feeling sorry for Weiner and dismissing the negative media coverage. Stephanopoulos went on to interview Democratic activist and close friend James Carville on Weiner’s Twitter troubles and asked, “What’s illegal, if anything?” Carville responded to his friend in agreement. While NBC’s Today Show and CBS’s Early Show interviewed Andrew Breitbart, the man who broke the Weiner story, Stephanopoulos’s team at Good Morning America never reached out to the conservative to request an interview.
But this week’s bias is certainly not unique for ABC News. Stephanopoulos currently has an ABCNews.com story running where he interviews his buddy, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and gives this prediction: “After serving in two administrations and becoming a top Democrat in the House, if Emanuel does a good job as mayor Democrats will talk about him for a 2016 presidential run.” Stephanopoulos also interviewed Emanuel last week and titled the article “Rahm Emanuel: President Obama ‘consistent’ on Israel.”
The week before, Stephanopoulos “interviewed” Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and gave her nothing but softball questions. He didn’t even give her one follow-up question after she dismissed the criticism over rapper Common’s White House invite.
But the bias at ABC News doesn’t stop with just political-activist-turned-journalist Stephanopoulos. Obama White House Spokesman Jay Carney is married to ABC News reporter Claire Shipman. Shipman regularly reports for ABC World News Tonight and Good Morning America on political issues with no mention to the viewers that she is married to the Obama White House spokesman. The morning after the memorial service for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, Shipman criticized Sarah Palin on Good Morning America for comments interpreted by the left as inciting and encouraging violence. Shipman produced former Clinton White House strategist and Democratic activist Paul Begala to weigh in on the controversy and then showed a Keith Olbermann attack video (her husband was Vice President Biden’s spokesman at the time). Perhaps more troubling, the ABC News website currently erroneously claims that Carney doesn’t work at the White House. Shipman’s bio reads: “Shipman, a Columbus, Ohio, native, now resides in Washington, D.C. with her husband, Time magazine White House correspondent Jay Carney.” Not disclosing their reporters’ relationships with Obama administration officials is clearly not an issue for ABC News.
There is also Christiane Amanpour, the host of ABC News’s This Week who is married to former Clinton State Department spokesman and Democratic activist Jamie Rubin. There is also no mention of Rubin on Amanpour’s ABC News website bio.
And there is former ABC News Congressional Reporter Linda Douglas, who was the 2008 Obama campaign spokeswoman and now works in the Obama administration.
And there’s former ABC News reporters Geoff Morrell and David Ensor, who currently work in the Obama administration as spokespeople.
And there’s ABC News reporter Chris Cuomo, whose brother is New York Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo — again, no mention in Cuomo’s bio.
ABC News also has as its political director an out-and-proud partisan liberal named Amy Walter. Walter’s bias is legendary and her associates don’t even challenge the claim that she is a partisan liberal Democrat. “She actually owns it, there is no pretense,” said one ABC News producer.
While the hiring of George Stephanopoulos as a legitimate and impartial journalist was laughable in itself, ABC News’s top brass actually think they have a balanced team. One current ABC News employee said to me last week, “George was seen by David and Diane as unbiased and Ben has accepted that premise. Nobody talks about Claire’s conflicts of interest and Chris has been here long enough that nobody cares.” The employee was referring to former ABC News President David Westin, Diane Sawyer and current President Ben Sherwood. “Ben needs to look no further than George’s Bottom Line (on ABCNews.com) to understand the enormity of our morning problem,” she added.
But imagine the rage from liberals and the mainstream media if NBC hired Karl Rove to replace Matt Lauer.
While some outsiders expected early on that new executive Ben Sherwood would make the necessary corrections to ABC News’s bias trouble, Sherwood has been criticized internally for making the situation worse by avoiding the bias issue altogether.
It’s telling how Stephanopoulos is consistently compelled to defend Democrats rather than ask probing questions that are fair and balanced. Instead of asking follow-up questions to understand an issue, as normal journalists do, he makes statements. And his statements always defend the Democrats. Always. And why not? He is, after all, a Democratic political operative who has for years worked to elect liberals to elective office. He now gets to do it from the perch of the Good Morning America anchor chair surrounded by ABC News producers and reporters who don’t question his journalistic integrity or his bias.
ABC News and Sherwood must make changes to the ABC News team if they are ever going to convince conservatives that both sides of issues are well represented on their network. At the very least, Sherwood needs to fire Amy Walter, stop Stephanopoulos from interviewing his friends, bar Shipman from reporting on any political issues, be transparent and honest about reporters’ connections to Democratic political operatives and hire conservatives to balance their coverage. Sherwood, by the way, has a sister, Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, who also works for the Obama White House.
Richard Grenell served as the spokesman for 4 U.S. Ambassadors to the UN — John Negroponte, John Danforth, John Bolton and Zalmay Khalilzad. And is the longest serving US spokesman at the UN (2001-2008).