Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Philadelphia Debate: A Low Point For ABC News

(Updated on April 20, 2008)

Yes, Barack Obama came out meek and week in the debate with Hillary Clinton who came out slugging like a virtual Rocky. She once again showed that she is tough, smart and ready to serve up whatever lies and dirt it takes to win the nomination. I wonder how her lack of moral rectitude is going to play out in this very conservative and religious state.

All pundits agree that she won the debate, but 58 percent of the 71,130 people who voted on MSNBC’s website said that Obama won the debate, while only 28 percent felt that Hillary had won!

Maybe substance counted for more than appearance this time?

“The encounter, particularly in the early stages, seemed more like a grilling of Obama on a Sunday-morning talk show than a debate between the two candidates. Obama fielded most of the questions calmly, although at times he appeared to choose his words with extreme care as he faced perhaps the toughest series of questions he has encountered since taking the lead in delegates in the nomination battle,” reported Washington Post’s Anne E. Kornblut and Dan Balz.

The same paper’s columnist Tom Shales blasted ABC News for its performance during the debate:

”It was another step downward for network news -- in particular ABC News, which hosted the debate from Philadelphia and whose usually dependable anchors, Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos, turned in shoddy, despicable performances.
For the first 52 minutes of the two-hour, commercial-crammed show, Gibson and Stephanopoulos dwelled entirely on specious and gossipy trivia that already has been hashed and rehashed, in the hope of getting the candidates to claw at one another over disputes that are no longer news. Some were barely news to begin with.”

”To this observer, ABC's coverage seemed slanted against Obama. The director cut several times to reaction shots of such Clinton supporters as her daughter, Chelsea, who sat in the audience at the Kimmel Theater in Philly's National Constitution Center. Obama supporters did not get equal screen time, giving the impression that there weren't any in the hall. The director also clumsily chose to pan the audience at the very start of the debate, when the candidates made their opening statements, so Obama and Clinton were barely seen before the first commercial break.
At the end, Gibson pompously thanked the candidates -- or was he really patting himself on the back? -- for ’what I think has been a fascinating debate.’ He's entitled to his opinion, but the most fascinating aspect was waiting to see how low he and Stephanopoulos would go, and then being appalled at the answer.”

Here are some more criticism of ABC News:

"A stinker, an absolute car crash—thanks to the host network ABC...[It] ran the gamut from banal to inane. At the end of the debate members of the crowd appeared to be booing moderator Charlie Gibson."
(Richard Adams, The Guardian)

"We've revisited bitter. We've gone back to Bosnia. We've dragged Rev. Wright back up onto the podium. We've mis-spent this debate by allowing Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos to ask questions that skirt what in my mind is what we need to know now."
(Daniel Rubin, Philadelphia Inquirer)

"In perhaps the most embarrassing performance by the media in a major presidential debate in years, ABC News hosts Charles Gibson and George Stephanopolous focused mainly on trivial issues as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama faced off in Philadelphia."
(Greg Mitchell, Editor & Publisher)

"In the seven weeks since the previous Clinton-Obama debate, the death toll of American troops in Iraq had reached four thousand; the President had admitted that his 'national-security team,' including the Vice-President, had met regularly in the White House to approve the torture of prisoners; house repossessions topped fifty thousand per month and unemployment topped five per cent; and the poll-measured proportion of Americans who believe that 'things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track' hit eighty-one per cent, a record. Yet for most of the next hour Gibson and Stephanopoulos limited their questioning to the following topics: Obama’s April 6th remark about 'bitter' small-towners; whether each candidate thinks the other can win; the Obama family’s ex-pastor, Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr.; Clinton’s tale of sniper fire in Bosnia; Obama’s failure to wear a flag lapel pin; and Obama’s acquaintance with a college professor in his Chicago neighborhood who, while Obama was in grade school, was a member of the Weather Underground."

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