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Are ABC’s Obama Plans Blurring the Lines?

Network is embedding its news telecasts with the White House on June 24.

ABC is broadcasting its news telecasts from the White House on June 24, including "Good Morning America," "World News" from the Blue Room and a primetime special titled "Questions for the President: Prescription for America," moderated by Charles Gibson and Diane Sawyer.

 

As expected, the network is being accuse of blurring the lines between journalism and politics. Below is the written complaint from the Republican National Committee and ABC’s reaction.



From the RNC:

 

Dear Mr. Westin:
As the national debate on health care reform intensifies, I am deeply concerned and disappointed with ABC’s astonishing decision to exclude opposing voices on this critical issue on June 24, 2009. Next Wednesday, ABC News will air a primetime health care reform “town hall” at the White House with President Barack Obama. In addition, according to an ABC News report, GOOD MORNING AMERICA, WORLD NEWS, NIGHTLINE and ABC’s web news “will all feature special programming on the president’s health care agenda.” This does not include the promotion, over the next 9 days, the president’s health care agenda will receive on ABC News programming.

Today, the Republican National Committee requested an opportunity to add our Party’s views to those of the President’s to ensure that all sides of the health care reform debate are presented. Our request was rejected. I believe that the President should have the ability to speak directly to the America people. However, I find it outrageous that ABC would prohibit our Party’s opposing thoughts and ideas from this national debate, which affects millions of ABC viewers.

In the absence of opposition, I am concerned this event will become a glorified infomercial to promote the Democrat agenda. If that is the case, this primetime infomercial should be paid for out of the DNC coffers. President Obama does not hold a monopoly on health care reform ideas or on free airtime. The President has stated time and time again that he wants a bipartisan debate. Therefore, the Republican Party should be included in this primetime event, or the DNC should pay for your airtime.

Respectfully,
Ken McKay
Republican National Committee
Chief of Staff

 

ABC News response:

 

Dear Mr. McKay:

I am in receipt of your letter of June 15, 2009 and wanted to respond to a number of false premises you raise regarding our ongoing and upcoming coverage of health care.

I hope we can all agree that a robust debate of health care issues and potential policies is in order.

To that end, ABC News announced plans to broadcast a primetime hour from the White House devoted to exploring and probing the President’s position and the giving voice to questions and criticisms of that position. We hope that any American concerned about health care will find our efforts to be informative, fair and civil.

Second, ABC News prides itself on covering all sides of important issues and asking direct questions of all newsmakers — of all political persuasions — even when others have taken a more partisan approach and even in the face of criticism from extremes on both ends of the political spectrum. ABC News is looking for the most thoughtful and diverse voices on this issue. ABC News alone will select those who will be in the audience asking questions of the president. Like any programs we broadcast, ABC News will have complete editorial control. To suggest otherwise is quite unfair to both our journalists and our audience.

Third, there already has been extensive coverage of the upcoming health care debates, on ABC and elsewhere, and there will be much, much more. Indeed, we’ve already had many critics of the President’s health care proposals on the air – and that’s before a real plan has even been put before the country.
In the end, no one watching, listening to, or reading ABC News will lack for an understanding of all sides of these important questions.

Thank you for your interest.

Kerry Smith
Senior Vice President, ABC News