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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Obama & ABC, Sitting in a Tree

ALT TAGMatt Patterson

On January 21, TVNewser reported that "NBC News has filed a formal complaint with the White House press office over the distribution of presidential interviews, specifically that several of the most recent broadcast TV interviews have gone to ABC News - including George Stephanopoulos's interview yesterday and Charlie Gibson's December 15."

Later they posted an update, saying "An NBC News spokesperson tells us, 'NBC News did not file a formal or informal complaint about this interview." The updated post now claimed merely that "NBC News has expressed concern" over the matter.

Whether NBC complained formally or informally, or merely expressed "concern," it is clear that the Peacock network is none too happy with ABC's cozy relationship with the Obama White House. And can you blame them? Goodness, how much can a network throw themselves at a politician before he pays them the requisite attention? Remember MSNBC's Chris Matthews' infamous and lurid "thrill going up my leg" reaction to an Obama speech? Have you seen the nightly Obama cheerleading from virtually the entire MSNBC prime time line-up?

But these are cable commentators you may say, whose sycophantic slobberings are seen by too few to matter (MSNBC regularly comes in a dismal third in the cable news ratings race). Perhaps. But then you have the troubling nuisance of a "hard news" reporter who covers politics for NBC Nightly News admitting "it's almost hard to remain objective" when covering Obama. And the nauseating spectacle of Brian Williams himself, anchor and managing editor of NBC Nightly News, heir to Tom Brokaw and the lodestar of the network's news division, automatically and unconsciously bowing to Barack Obama.

NBC has received some White House access in return for their affections, of course, as the TVNewser story rightly acknowledges. But not enough, it seems, to placate the infatuated NBC newsies.

ABC does seem to have a special place in the President's heart. As I detailed in a recent National Center For Public Policy Research report:
On June 24, ABC devoted a full hour of valuable prime-time real estate to Barack Obama for a Primetime (a production of ABC News) health care forum titled "Questions for the President: Prescription for America," hosted by ABC World News host Charles Gibson and Good Morning America co-host Diane Sawyer. But ABC News wasn't done making itself a platform for the President's agenda; later that same night, Obama continued his pitch for his health care reform package on Nightline.
Why would ABC farm out its news team to help a politician ply his wares? Well, the fact that the pharmaceutical companies, prime allies of the White House in Obama's national health care push, have constituted the majority of sponsors for ABC World News may have something to do with it. Or maybe ABC just shows Obama the kind of tenderness that NBC can't match, a more subtle and sublime affection which prompts George Stephanopoulos to ask Obama if being president has been "fulfilling" for him.

That's sweet. ABC and Obama make a great couple, and I think they have a real future together. It's going to be a rough Valentine's Day for NBC.

Written by Matt Patterson, policy analyst at the National Center for Public Policy Research. Write the author at [email protected]. As we occasionally reprint letters on the blog, please note if you prefer that your correspondence be kept private, or only published anonymously.

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Posted by Matt Patterson at 6:05 PM

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