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ABC Casts Democrats as Profiles in Courage, Republicans as Grief-Exploiting Meanies

On Saturday's Good Morning America, reporter Rachel Martin cast President Obama and Democratic leaders as working hard to nail down the votes needed to pass their massive health care bill, but made no suggestion that liberals were using devious or heavy-handed tactics. But when it came to the Republicans, reporter David Kerley included an indignant Democratic congresswoman, who charged that the mean-spirited GOP was casting her as "soft on cancer" just weeks after both of her parents died of the disease. (Friday's ABC World News highlighted the same complaint, MRC's Brent Baker noticed.)

The two reports, which aired back-to-back at the top of the March 20 program, were a good illustration of the liberal media trope that Republicans sink to using offensive hardball tactics while Democrats are seen as offering lofty arguments.

On the one hand, Martin's story showed only soundbites from Democrats: President Obama, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and a freshman Congressman who was switching his vote from "no" to "yes." Martin helped cast Representative John Boccieri as a profile in courage:

REPORTER RACHEL MARTIN: Boccieri is a freshman Democrat from a conservative district in Ohio that went for John McCain in the 2008 presidential election.

REPRESENTATIVE JOHN BOCCIERI: A lot of people are telling me this decision could cost me my job.

When it came to the Republicans, Kerley inserted a Democratic congresswoman indignant over a fairly mild TV ad:

TV COMMERCIAL: You can wait months for treatment. And life-saving drugs can be restricted.

REPORTER DAVID KERLEY: A searing attack says Representative Kathy Dahlkemper, because she lost her father last month, her mother two weeks ago [pictures shown on screen] - both to cancer.

REPRESENTATIVE KATHY DAHLKEMPER: And the ad basically claims tht I'm soft on cancer. And nothing really could be farther from the truth.

The spin in this case is laughable. The ad was obviously not suggesting the Congresswoman or other Democrats are personally "soft on cancer," but that ObamaCare's big-government approach would inevitably lead to the sorts of delays and shortages that have plagued other socialist health care schemes.

Here are both stories as they aired shortly after 7am ET:

CO-HOST ELIZABETH VARGAS: We begin with the epic health care battle coming down to the wire, with only a handful of votes still needed to pass the bill. President Obama and Democratic leaders will spend the day chasing every single last vote, and ABC's Rachel Martin joins us from the White House with the latest. Good morning, Rachel.

RACHEL MARTIN: Good morning, Elizabeth. The President heads to Capitol today at 3pm to meet with members of the Democratic caucus. The President says he's got the momentum. But the votes aren't there yet.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: We are at the point where we are going to do something historic this weekend.

MARTIN: In the past week alone, the President has held more than 60 meetings or phone calls with members of Congress, trying to finagle the 216 votes Democrats need to pass health care reform in the House. That pressure may be paying off. Yesterday, at least four Democrats switched their votes from no to yes, including Congressman John Boccieri.

REPRESENTATIVE JOHN BOCCIERI: Yes. I will be voting yes for the bill.

MARTIN: Boccieri is a freshman Democrat from a conservative district in Ohio that went for John McCain in the 2008 presidential election.

BOCCIERI: A lot of people are telling me this decision could cost me my job.

MARTIN: A handful of other Democrats, concerned over the bill's language on abortion funding, won't budge. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has made it clear, she is moving on with or without them.

SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI: If you don't want federal funding, and you want the status quo for abortion access, and you want to pass a health care bill, this is it.

MARTIN: Pelosi says every vote is a heavy lift. And the President is looking for support wherever he can get it.

OBAMA: Talk to your parents. Talk to your friends. Do not quit. Do not give up. We are going to fix health care in America, with your help.

MARTIN: The President asked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to join him at the Capitol today, so he can reassure House Democrats that the Senate will pass those final revisions to the bill if the House pushes it through tomorrow. Bill?

CO-HOST BILL WEIR: Well, Rachel, as you know the folks on the other side of the aisle say this bill is not a done deal. And the loyal opposition, they are busy doing their best to kill it. David Kerley has that side of the story from Capitol Hill. Good morning, David.

REPORTER DAVID KERLEY: Bill, they are working frantically, the Republicans, far from conceding defeat. In fact, they are targeting the same Democrats, the undecided Democrats, that President Obama is lobbying.

PROTESTERS: Kill the bill. Kill the bill.

KERLEY: It's the only hope Republicans have in the House: Putting pressure on a few Democrats from the people they represent.

HOUSE MINORITY LEADER JOHN BOEHNER: Republicans can't beat this bill, but the American people can. Americans are jamming the phone lines, screaming at the top of their lungs to say "Stop. Just stop."

KERLEY: So opponents are taking to the air waves.

TV COMMERCIAL: You can wait months for treatment. And life-saving drugs can be restricted.

KERLEY: A searing attack says Representative Kathy Dahlkemper, because she lost her father last month, her mother two weeks ago [pictures shown on screen] - both to cancer.

REPRESENTATIVE KATHY DAHLKEMPER: And the ad basically claims tht I'm soft on cancer. And nothing really could be farther from the truth.

KERLEY: Just to the west, Democrat Chris Carney represents a district that voted for John McCain, so the Republican Party is calling his constituents.

AUTOMATED PHONE CALL, WORDS ON SCREEN: Your congressman Chris Carney might vote for this bill even though it will raise the cost of health care and cost us jobs.

KERLEY: But the GOP isn't taking any chances, and is already looking beyond the House vote. If and when the bill returns to the Senate, where Democrats are promising passage, Republicans say they still have a few tricks up their sleeves.

SENATOR ORRIN HATCH: It's far from going to pass in the Senate. I think there will be at least two major points of order raised. And we'll win on those points of order.

KERLEY: Now, if that doesn't work and health care does pass, the Republicans continue to warn Democrats that the voters won't forget. It's the Republican closing argument, Elizabeth.

VARGAS: All right, David Kerley, thanks so much.

-Rich Noyes is Research Director at the Media Research Center.