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Three Cheers for Lisa McRee's Removal

ABC's "Good Morning America," desperate after sinking near the bottom of the morning TV ratings pile, has announced that network veterans Charles Gibson and Diane Sawyer will return "temporarily" to the morning routine. This "temporary" placement is also a permanent shove-off for current hosts Kevin Newman and Lisa McRee.

It's about time. In all the coverage surrounding GMA's plummeting fortunes, predictably absent was a discussion on what had to be a primary cause: Lisa McRee was an out-of-control leftist whose outrageous pro-Clinton propaganda made a mockery of the notion of objective journalism.

Don't get me wrong. McRee didn't just serve as an informal adjunct of the White House press office. Seemingly there wasn't a left-wing cause she didn't espouse. For example, last May, left-wing ecologist Bill McKibben came on to plug his book arguing for a voluntary return to one-child families. McRee saw no difference between a voluntary movement and jack-booted coercion when she asked: "China has a one-child policy. Is that a good idea for all countries?"

But most of the time, McRee turned heads over her pro-Clinton moments. Try this one on for size. On August 18, the morning after Clinton admitted his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, McRee asked her guest: "Women who've been polled seemed to put it behind them as well, and are willing to move on and forget about it. Is that because Bill Clinton's been such a great President who they elected in great part, or is there something, I want to say, almost sexy about a man who can get away with things over and over again?"

You can find more gravitas in Sally Jesse Raphael.

The next morning, Washington Post reporter Howard Kurtz was discussing how Clinton mouthpieces like Ann Lewis had taken a hit to their credibility for lying for months on behalf of the President after he misled them. Kurtz suggested they were making matters worse by failing to be outraged when their lies were exposed, to which McRee waxed a Lanny Davis-esque answer: "But it's also courageous professionalism, some would say."

On September 9, McRee asked Cokie Roberts about the fundraising probes: "I want to get this in: Janet Reno, 90-day investigation to look into whether a special prosecutor should be appointed for this campaign finance thing. Is that a big problem for the President? Has he done anything that anybody else wouldn't have done?" The inference was clear. All Presidents accept illegal foreign contributions from communist regimes, don't you know.

Speaking of loaded questions, the morning after that, McRee interviewed humorist P.J. O'Rourke, pleading for mercy in the court of public opinion: "Couldn't this just be a witch hunt? Couldn't the Democrats and President Clinton's people who've been defending him all these months be right? That even though he screwed up, there's some political motivation there. Couldn't that be right?" Now, in a "witch hunt" the target is an innocent victim of a smear. Who says Hillary couldn't find someone foolish enough to fall for her vast right wing conspiracy line?

Perhaps McRee's most desperate plunge went head and shoulders beyond anything even the First Lady would suggest. On September 17, she asked conservative columnist Betsy Hart: "But, do you give the President at least a little, not credit, but a little sympathy, when you read details like snapping the straps of a thong underwear, her thong underwear to entice him, asking for a job? Do you think that mitigates our view of the President in any way?"

"Our" view?

One day after that speech, when the house of cards was collapsing, McRee panicked, pleading with ABC legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin about the public release of Clinton's grand jury testimony: "Is there anything anyone can do to stop this? Could a grand juror say, 'I don't want my questions released'? Could the President do it, could anybody stop this release?" Then she asked Toobin: "As a lawyer, is this a terrible precedent we're setting?"

When the insufferably leftist Bryant Gumbel left the set of NBC's "Today" show he was showered with endless accolades by his colleagues in the press. Yet what no one reported thereafter was that immediately after this journalistic giant's departure, "Today's" ratings went up. (And lost in the shuffle is that his much-ballyhooed "Public Eye" program on CBS has been a colossal failure.)

No one in the Fourth Estate would ever concede the obvious: The public was - is - repulsed by Gumbel's liberal rants masquerading as objective journalism. And neither will they admit it now about the departed Lisa McRee.