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RNC Blasts ABC’s Healthcare Special from WH: “Glorified Infomercial “

Yesterday, FishbowlDC told you that ABC News had plans to “take over” the White House for special coverage of the President and the topic of healthcare on Wednesday June 24th. In our post, “ABC = All Barack Channel,” we noted that ABC would kick-off with Good Morning America from the WH South Lawn and continue throughout the day with World News, Primetime and Nightline all broadcasting from different WH venues.

Apparently, the Obamapalooza didn’t sit well with RNC Chief of Staff Ken McKay. Last night, McKay wrote a complaint to ABC News calling the coverage a “glorified infomercial to promote the Democrat agenda” (full letter after the jump).

In response, ABC News SVP Kerry Smith said this:

ABC News 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.

The full text of Smith’s response after the jump.


****McKay’s complaint****

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 RESPONSE****

Mr. Ken McKay
Chief of Staff
Republican National Committee
310 First Street SE
Washington, D.C. 20003

Dear Mr. McKay:

I am in receipt of your letter of June 15, 2009 and wanted to respond to a number of false premises you raise regarding our ongoing and upcoming coverage of health care.

I hope we can all agree that a robust debate of health care issues and potential policies is in order.

To that end, ABC News announced plans to broadcast a primetime hour from the White House devoted to exploring and probing the President’s position and giving voice to questions and criticisms of that position. We hope that any American concerned about health care will find our efforts to be informative, fair and civil.
Second, 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. ABC News 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.
Third, there already has been extensive coverage of the upcoming health care debates, on ABC and elsewhere, and there will be much, much more. Indeed, we’ve already had many critics of the President’s health care proposals on the air – and that’s before a real plan has even been put before the country.
In the end, no one watching, listening to, or reading ABC News will lack for an understanding of all sides of these important questions.

Thank you for your interest.

Kerry Smith
Senior Vice President, ABC News

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