Tuesday, June 16, 2009

ABC Defends Decision to Broadcast 'World News" From White House

ABC News will broadcast "World News" from the Blue Room in the White House on June 24, sparking criticism on from the right that it gives the impression that President Barack Obama and white House officials will control the content of the nightly news.

Charles Gibson will anchor the telecast, which will focus on the president's health-care reform package.

Republican National Committee Chief of Staff Ken McKay wrote to David Westin, president of ABC News, and complained about the broadcast. The letter was posted on the Drudge Report:

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 Senior Vice President Kerry Smith on Tuesday responded to the RNC complaint, telling the Drudge Report that the complaint contained 'false premises':

"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. ABCNEWS 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."

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