Good Morning, Bias: Diane Sawyer’s Liberal Spin
Even before ABC News tapped Diane Sawyer to take over as anchor of World News, she was a familiar face to millions of morning TV viewers as co-host of ABC's Good Morning America, part of a lengthy career she has enjoyed at the network. Previously, Sawyer co-anchored ABC's Primetime Live and 20/20 magazine programs after leaving CBS's 60 Minutes back in 1989. Before launching her national media career, Sawyer in the early 1970s worked in the Nixon White House's press office, reported on local news in Kentucky, and as a teenager won the America's Junior Miss pageant in 1963.
At ABC, Sawyer has repeatedly lauded high-profile liberals, including Nancy Pelosi ("galvanized steel with a smile") and Hillary Clinton ("political mastery," "dazzling"). She even admitted to co-host Charlie Gibson that she dreamed about Bill Clinton one night after then eating a pepperoni pizza. Sawyer targeted Ken Starr, telling the independent counsel that his report on Bill Clinton's affair was being criticized as "demented pornography, pornography for Puritans." She derided the Bush administration's "massive tax cuts," championed campaign finance "reform," and even asked then-candidate Barack Obama to judge whether America is "more racist or more sexist."
Updated December 2009
"Like a freight train, she's already moved six major pieces of legislation through the House - everything from stem cells to minimum wage. And whatever side you're on, when this new Speaker moves, she moves fast. Nancy Pelosi says power is not handed to you, you have to know how to win it. When she walks into a room, she is quiet, polite. But her fellow politicians say she's galvanized steel with a smile."
- ABC's Diane Sawyer on Good Morning America, January 19, 2007.
Diane Sawyer: "I'm going to tell you what she [Nancy Pelosi] did, I'm willing to bet, no Speaker of the House has ever done in the entire history of the United States of America....We're walking along with the camera, she looks at the carpet. It has lint on it, little scraps of paper. She can't stand it. She gets down and cleans the carpet so we could walk. And she looks up at me and says, 'It's just the bonus of having a female Speaker of the House.'"
Co-host Robin Roberts: "Yeah. Don't think any of the guys did that. All right, Diane. Have a safe trip back home."
Fill-in news anchor David Muir: "A clean rotunda on Capitol Hill."
Roberts: "Got to love it!"
- ABC's Good Morning America, January 19, 2007.
"Today is the day the Senate may pass that patients' bill of rights, which would guarantee your right to sue your HMO. When that happens, one big winner out of Washington will be one of the bill's key Democratic backers, North Carolina's newcomer John Edwards. He is said to have the combined political skills - are you ready for this? - of Clinton and Kennedy, Kennedy and Clinton together, and also to have a very good shot at the White House."
- Sawyer on Good Morning America, June 29, 2001.
"An incredible night: A return and a roar from the lion of the Democrats....You can almost still feel and hear the echo of the roar that went up last night when Senator Edward Kennedy returned to the convention....People were overwhelmed, simply overwhelmed. They knew it was a night to remember for all ages."
- ABC's Diane Sawyer on the first night of the Democratic convention, August 26, 2008, Good Morning America.
"[Jesse Jackson's] made a career of using personality, publicity and a little moral suasion to forge unlikely alliances. His specialties: the bold gesture, the blizzard of words, confusing natural enemies by engaging them in public....Today the maverick without portfolio is still pushing for the rights of the poor and working class, but the techniques are more sophisticated....Today he goes straight where the money is, trying to persuade Wall Street and big corporations that to free people from the prison of poverty serves everyone, everyone."
- ABC's Diane Sawyer on Good Morning America, May 3, 1999.
"As we know this morning, there is another ground-breaking, crossroads moment. That is for Senator Hillary Clinton, who ran her campaign on her own terms. This woman, as we said, forged into determination and purpose her whole life. As someone said, 'No thorns, no throne; no gall, no glory; no cross, no crown.'"
- ABC's Diane Sawyer on Good Morning America, June 4, 2008, quoting a 17th century discourse about Jesus Christ. [Audio/video (0:32): Windows Media | MP3 audio]
"She emerged on health care, only to beat a very bruised retreat. She clearly hated being thought of as just Bill Clinton's wife. But ironically, it would take his scandals, finally, to free her. Finally, last November 1998, Hillary Clinton showed the world what she could do on the campaign trail without him. Political mastery, every bit as dazzling as his, the thoughtful speech, unapologetically strong, emboldening Democrats, electing Senators. So her friends say she has really earned this campaign, this moment, if she chooses, earned it by changing herself, searching, stumbling, and at the end, by standing, not by her man, but by herself."
- Co-host Diane Sawyer on Good Morning America, March 12, 1999. [Audio/video (0:52): Windows Media | MP3 audio]
"After pepperoni pizza and banana milkshakes once, I dreamed about Bill Clinton."
- Sawyer talking with her Good Morning America co-host Charles Gibson about a study which claimed sleeping Republicans have three times as many nightmares as sleeping Democrats, July 10, 2001. [Audio/video (0:09): Windows Media | MP3 audio]
Are Americans More Sexist or More Racist?
"We have seen new polls this morning about you and Senator Hillary Clinton. Here's my question: Do you think that residual resistance is greater for race or for gender? Is the nation secretly, I guess, more racist or more sexist?"
- Sawyer to Democratic Senator Barack Obama on Good Morning America, November 13, 2006.
"Ninety percent of Americans say race and gender make absolutely no difference in their vote in the polls. I asked Senator Obama yesterday if he believes it, and he thinks it's case by case. Let me ask you, do you think that there is secret sexism, secret, secret genderism in this country?"
- Sawyer to New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd on the November 14, 2006 Good Morning America.
Overseas Protocol "Just Too Confusing" for Obama
"Before we leave the topic of the President's trip overseas, I've often thought the hardest subject for every President, what do you do with royalty? We're not trained to greet royalty since 1776. The President, as we saw with the emperor, went the full way, lots of comment about that.... [After snapshots of other Presidents greeting Japanese emperors] Who can blame them for not knowing what to do?...It's just too confusing when you're American."
- Sawyer on Good Morning America, November 16, 2009.
Diane Sawyer: "It is a world away from the unruly individualism of any American school."
Class of teens in uniforms: "Good morning."
Sawyer to class: "Good morning."
Sawyer voiceover: "Ask them about their country, and they can't say enough."
North Korean girl, in English: "We are the happiest children in the world."
Sawyer to class: "What do you know about America?"
Sawyer voiceover: "We show them an American magazine. They tell us, they know nothing about American movies, American movie stars....and then, it becomes clear that they have seen some movies from a strange place...."
Sawyer to class: "You know The Sound of Music?"
Sawyer, singing with the class: "Do, a deer, a female deer. Re, a drop of golden sun...."
Charles Gibson: "A fascinating glimpse of North Korea."
- Sawyer reporting from North Korea for ABC's World News With Charles Gibson, October 19, 2006. [Audio/video (1:08): Windows Media | MP3 audio]
Co-host Diane Sawyer: "A number of people have already said, 'Is there anything surprising, personal about [Iranian] President [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad that we didn't know?' Well, it turns out, someone told me he cries a lot. That he is dramatically sentimental and sympathetic if someone comes up and expresses a personal plight. So I just asked him, are you often in tears?"
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: "Yes, that's true. Not only for Iranians, of course, they are very close to me and I love all Iranians. And anywhere, when I see people suffering, I have the same reaction....Even when I see on TV that, for example, some Americans, because of tornadoes or a hurricane, they have lost their homes, I become sad."
- ABC's Good Morning America, February 13, 2007.
"There may not be any other man in history who better embodies the saying that one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter....For most Israelis, many Jews, he was a bloody terrorist and nothing more. Yet elsewhere in the world, even among Arabs who questioned his leadership, he was treated as a hero, freedom fighter, revolutionary. A diminutive man who became a larger than life symbol of the Palestinian dream."
- Sawyer reporting Yasser Arafat's death, Good Morning America, November 11, 2004.
"As we said, the President is heading for a meeting with world leaders in Russia. And Mikhail Gorbachev, the Russian leader who changed the world, helping end the Cold War, sat down to speak with our senior national correspondent Claire Shipman, who's reporting this morning from St. Petersburg."
- ABC's Diane Sawyer introducing a report on Good Morning America, July 12, 2006.
Diane Sawyer: "He grew up a first-rate baseball player and lawyer, who, married once, divorced. But was mainly driven by his burning desire to crush Cuba's American-supported dictator Fulgencio Batista. It began with a daredevil attack on the military barracks. Jail. His exile. And then a death-defying two-year fight in the mountains of the Sierra Maestra. He and his small band of soldiers endured and won only because of Castro's invincible certainty of their destiny."
Newsreel announcer: "Down from the mountains, the conqueror comes."
Sawyer: "Pointing to those mountains, he says those days were the happiest of his life."
- ABC's Diane Sawyer during a March 3, 1993 Primetime Live interview with Castro. [Audio/video (0:43): Windows Media | MP3 audio]
"Even critics praise Cuba's health care, education, scientific research....Cubans say privately he is still a hero, even as a lot of his people dream of a free economy and country....And what about those recent elections? A lot of new young faces were brought into the Party."
- Sawyer on same program.
"From a tiny island, a larger than life personality....Castro knew life is a stage and played the part of the dashing revolutionary, coming to New York, getting rock star treatment."
- ABC's Diane Sawyer on the February 19, 2008 Good Morning America, after news Castro was dropping his title as Cuban president. [Audio/video (0:36): Windows Media | MP3 audio]
"The man himself retains an almost mystical hold on the Soviet people, including Mikhail Gorbachev. Back in 1917, it was Lenin who fired up an entire country with his bold dream of communist equality, his passion and his ruthlessness."
- ABC's Diane Sawyer on Communist leader Vladimir Lenin, during a Primetime Live special on the history of the Soviet Union, January 18, 1990.
"I want to ask you a question I've heard being asked this morning, which is, really, how can the U.S. tell other countries whether they can have nuclear weapons or not, when the U.S. has them and seven other countries as well? Does this mean that the genie is officially out of the bottle, and that the U.S. is no longer in a position to dictate who gets nuclear weapons?"
- Sawyer to Donald Gregg, the former U.S. Ambassador to South Korea, on ABC's Good Morning America, October 9, 2006.
Diane Sawyer: "How long have you been here?...How do you make it through 15 months out here?...How many times a month do you say, 'I don't know that I can do another month of this? A day?'"
Unidentified U.S. Army Captain: "No, I don't. It doesn't ever occur to me that way."
- Sawyer in Afghanistan with the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division, April 10, 2007, Good Morning America.
"Three years ago, as everyone knows, [Dixie Chicks] lead singer Natalie Maines said - about the impending war in Iraq - said she was ashamed that President Bush was from her home state, Texas. The reaction to her words was seismic and from some people even vicious....[Today] they are spirited, unbowed and they are back with a new single called 'Not Ready to Make Nice.'"
- Sawyer introducing a taped interview with the Dixie Chicks on ABC's Good Morning America, May 23, 2006.
"There's a definite sense this morning on the part of the Kerry voters that perhaps this is code, 'moral values,' is code for something else. It's code for taking a different position about gays in America, an exclusionary position, a code about abortion, code about imposing Christianity over other faiths."
- Diane Sawyer to Bush campaign advisor Joe Watkins on ABC's Good Morning America, November 4, 2004.
Announcer: "Did Kenneth Starr go too far?"
Diane Sawyer to Starr: "I think there were 62 mentions of the word 'breast,' 23 of 'cigar,' 19 of 'semen.' This has been called demented pornography, pornography for Puritans. Were there mistakes made in including some of this?"
Announcer: "The tables are turned. Now it's the prosecutor's turn to be grilled, when 20/20 Wednesday continues after this from our ABC stations."
- Plug during 20/20 interview with Ken Starr, November 25, 1998. [Audio/video (2:35): Windows Media | MP3 audio]
"Did they cross the line? First with Monica Lewinsky, when nine federal officers took her to a room at the Ritz-Carlton and put pressure on her to turn on the President? [to Starr] People see a young girl who was in tears, who was threatened with 27 years in prison possibly, who was told that her mother might be prosecuted based on things she had said about her mother, who was to wire herself or tape the President or Vernon Jordan. And they say this isn't John Gotti. This isn't Timothy McVeigh..."
Sawyer: "Which brings us to Linda Tripp, the woman people love to hate, and the accusation that Ken Starr was not what he had seemed. [to Starr] Are you part of a right-wing conspiracy?"
Starr: "No. I don't know that there is one."
Sawyer: "His key witness, Linda Tripp, is now a recognized soldier in the army of Clinton haters - among them Tripp's friend and svengali, Lucianne Goldberg. Among them, the lawyers for Paula Jones. Before he became independent counsel, Starr gave them advice. And among them, millionaire Richard Mellon Scaife, who hired people to dig up dirt on Bill Clinton and funded a chair at Pepperdine University for Ken Starr...."
"Driving to the White House that day [to interview President Clinton], for what was - for all intents and purposes, a lot of people think - your trial, the only trial you were going to get. Did you think to yourself, here is a man who has to deal with Saddam Hussein and bin Laden and what's going on in Russia, and we're putting him through this?"
- Some of Diane Sawyer's questions to Starr on 20/20, November 25, 1998.
"I guess one of the questions is, some, some, the White House certainly has said, that it's a sign that he's out of control. At any point have you suggested to Judge Starr that it's time to shut the office down or that he may be pressing too hard?"
- Good Morning America co-host Diane Sawyer asking Judge Robert Bork about special prosecutor Ken Starr and whether or his office was responsible for leaks while investigating Bill Clinton, February 1, 1999.
"I want to ask you about this 1991 opinion, Joe Watkins, [Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito] was the lone dissenter. He argued that a woman should have to notify her husband before she gets an abortion. Now, let me just say Sandra Day O'Connor heard this same case and Sandra Day O'Connor said this reflects a repugnant view of marriage. Women do not lose their constitutional rights because they're married....Does this opinion give even you pause? And, again, Sandra Day O'Connor's notation that it was a repugnant view of marriage?"
- Diane Sawyer to conservative commentator Joe Watkins on ABC's Good Morning America, November 1, 2005. [Audio/video (0:30): Windows Media | MP3 audio]
"The abortion debate turns deadly. A doctor known for performing late-term abortions gunned down at church."
- ABC's Diane Sawyer teasing a segment on an abortion doctor's murder, June 1, 2009 Good Morning America. At the time, National Right to Life calculated 49,551,703 abortions had been performed in the U.S. since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.
"As everyone knows, George Bush was ahead by only a few hundred votes. At the request of Al Gore some counties were launching hand recounts which were gaining votes for him. So what did she [Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris] do? Well, from Day One she seemed completely inflexible, insisting on the narrow letter of the law. She enforced strict deadlines even when one county asked for just two hours more, and she tried to block the hand recount of those punched but disputed ballots. The Bush team was thrilled, the Gore team was outraged."
- ABC's Diane Sawyer setting up a Jan. 11, 2001 Primetime Thursday interview with Harris.
"A political science professor at the University of California-San Diego says, 'If he [Steve Forbes] didn't have any money, he'd be considered a crackpot.' The money being spent on these ads, because you can afford it and other candidates can't - is that democracy?"
- Sawyer to Republican presidential candidate Steve Forbes, June 1, 1999 Good Morning America.
"Well, however brave a stand campaign finance reform may be, members of your own party have rejected it. What's the matter with them? Why don't they get it?"
- Sawyer to Senator John McCain on Good Morning America, September 27, 1999.
"Democrats are out there hammering hard on what they say is the basic inequity that cannot be disputed, based on a couple of facts of the President's tax plan. For instance, they say that somebody in this country who is making a million dollars or more is going to benefit $29,000 from the President's tax plan, but if you're making $30-$40,000 a year, which the average American [makes], you're only going to get $42, and there will not be rejoicing in America by all of these middle-class taxpayers for $42."
- Diane Sawyer to new Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist on ABC's Good Morning America, January 7, 2003.
"As you know, these are massive tax cuts being talked about at a time that there's also a cost of a war, the President is talking about prescription drug aid, and indeed this morning, the news is out that the deficit is rising even faster than predicted, that it could be up now in $400 billion of deficit. Aren't Americans going to pay a price for that?"
- ABC's Diane Sawyer to Treasury Secretary John Snow on the March 5, 2003 Good Morning America.
"Guns blazing this morning over a controversial new law in Florida, a gun law. Supporters say it gives people the right to meet force with force.....Is it turning Florida into the Wild West?"
- ABC's Diane Sawyer, Good Morning America, April 27, 2005.
"It seems to me we really don't believe in bad seeds anymore, much, in this country. We think there are psychiatric reasons, biological reasons for a lot of behaviors. So I keep saying to him, why doesn't the law begin to acknowledge that basically people are not entirely responsible for the things they do if they were victimized in the past?"
- Sawyer asking Professor Arthur Miller about Lyle and Erik Menendez, brothers who were later convicted of murdering their parents, December 15, 1994 Good Morning America.
Diane Sawyer: "I've always thought the theological, the one theological question I'd like to ask [Pope John Paul II], and it's a serious question, is 'What do you think Jesus would think of the way you dress?'"
Oprah Winfrey: "Ohhh! That's a great question!"
- Exchange on Oprah, February 19, 1997.