It was so brazen it was amazing.
ABC Anchor Diane Sawyer sits across from Bill O'Reilly last night and casually says that ABC broke the story about the tapes featuring the sermons of now radioactive and decidedly ex-Obama pastor Jeremiah Wright.
"You're talking to the network…Obama White House remembers this… that broke the Jeremiah Wright tapes."
ABC News was Johnny-on-the-spot on the story of then-Senator Obama's now infamous -- and ex -- pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. In March of 2008.
Remember that date. March -- 2008. Here's the link to the story, filed on March 13 by ABC's Brian Ross
This remark came about in the course of a conversation with O'Reilly in which Sawyer, discussing the role of ABC News in the last presidential campaign, insisted that her network was not populated by liberals who tilted the news leftward. O'Reilly had cited a study from the Center for Media and Public Affairs on the network news coverage of the Obama-McCain campaign that showed the tilt in favorable coverage for Obama over McCain as follows:
CBS 73% 31%
NBC 56% 16%
ABC 57% 42%
ABC had fared best of the three broadcast networks, but the point of liberal media bias -- the kind of reporting that dates as far back as the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon campaign -- stood. So O'Reilly persisted.
And out popped the above statement on Jeremiah Wright.
Let's be clear here. Sawyer used the word "tapes" -- and strictly speaking she is correct.
The problem comes with the context -- in which she is clearly trying to imply that ABC was the proverbial dog with a bone in uncovering the relationship of Wright to his famous congregant, and what the implications might be for the country if a man who sat in Wright's pews for 20 years listening to Wright's leftist political rants were elected president.
Bluntly put -- this is poppycock.
The man -- and the network -- that did the background research on this was, yes indeed, Sean Hannity and Fox News.
On February 28, 2007 -- over a full year before ABC first aired its Wright story -- Hannity had located columnist Erik Rush, who had written an article on Senator Obama and his church. He put Rush on the air that night.
The very next night, Hannity had managed to corral Wright himself on his Fox show with liberal Alan Colmes. Here's the clip.
Out poured the tale of Wright's devotion to Black Liberation Theology and the radical writings of James Cone and Dwight Hopkins. From this initial work the connections of Wright to Louis Farrakhan and Libya's Colonel Muammar Qaddafi were uncovered and more.
And on it went.
The role of ABC News here?
Zip, nada, zero.
And yet plain as can be, there sits Diane Sawyer, the anchor of ABC News, on the set of Fox's O'Reilly Factor trying to pretend ABC was a prime mover in Hannity's story -- a Fox story that surely would never have seen the light of day anywhere had it not been for Hannity's tenacity in digging it out and putting it on TV. And, as regular viewers will recall, being snickered at while doing it -- snickering that stopped when Obama finally felt so much pressure on Wright he stopped going to the church and felt the need to publicly rebuke the man he had once said was like an "uncle" to him.
Ms. Sawyer insisted her network would be providing "fantastic coverage" of the 2012 race, citing the liberal ex-Clinton aide George Stephanopoulos as a key member of her team.
If this is an example of the work to come from ABC News on the 2012 presidential campaign… well, we report, you decide.
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