ABC Ignores Failure of $14 Million Effort by Liberals to Recall Wisconsin's GOP State Senators

ABC's Good Morning America on Wednesday ignored the $14 million failure of labor and liberal groups to win back the state senate in Wisconsin through a recall vote. Both CBS's Early Show and NBC's Today covered the effort to retaliate against that state's legislation stripping collective bargaining rights for public workers.

Early Show's Elaine Quijano reported on the story in a full segment (though not until the 8am hour). The Today show, a four hour program, mentioned it only once in a news brief.

Quijano explained that four of the six GOP senators held on and added, "For Wisconsin Democrats, Tuesday's vote was supposed to be a chance at revenge." However, these same networks, back in February, found ample time to feature signs comparing Scott Walker to Hitler and other dictators.

Quijano also featured three clips from people sympathetic to the union perspective. Sandy Heeney, a retired teacher, complained, "They aren't listening to our voice. Our voice needs to be heard. I'm a teacher. I'm a retired teacher, actually, and it's time we take Wisconsin back."

As protesters could be heard singing "We Shall Overcome," Quijano asserted, "Democrats say the fight is just beginning."

She noted that the new Republican majority is just a single vote, but failed to mention that two Democratic state senators face their own recall vote next Tuesday.

Over on NBC's Today, Natalie Morales offered a news brief: "In the aftermath of Wisconsin's vicious labor battle, historic recall elections in Wisconsin last night ousted two incumbent Republicans but left Democrats one seat short of becoming a majority."

Unlike Quijano, she did explain, "Two Democrats face recalls next week, but win or lose, Republicans will hang on to control of the state senate."

As the Heritage Foundation pointed out, liberal groups spent over $14 million in the failed effort to take back the state senate.

A Media Research Center study in February found that although the networks featured protests of Governor Scott Walker's legislation, they had no comment for signs comparing the Republican to Joseph Stalin ("Scott Stalin") or Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak ("Walker=Mubarak.").

The report explained:

Over the past several days, the liberal demonstrations in Wisconsin (bolstered by the national Democratic Party and President Obama's Organizing for America group) have included signs just as inflammatory as the ones that bothered the networks during the health care debate, including several showing Governor Scott Walker as Adolph Hitler. Others have likened Walker to Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin ('Scott Stalin') and recently deposed Egyptian autocrat Hosni Mubarak ('Walker = Mubarak').


Yet none of these signs in the hands of liberal protesters have drawn the slightest complaint from network journalists. MRC analysts examined all 53 ABC, CBS and NBC morning and evening news stories, segments and anchor briefs on the Wisconsin protests from Thursday, February 17 (when they first drew major national coverage) through Monday, February 21. While eight of the 53 stories (15%) visually displayed one or more of the signs described above, none elicited a single remark from the network correspondents.

All three networks found time to feature signs comparing the Republican governor to undemocratic tyrants. Yet, when the democratic process was expressed through voting, ABC ignored it and NBC offered almost no coverage.

A transcript of the August 10 segment, which aired at 8:06am EDT, follows:

JEFF GLOR: The results are in this morning from recall elections in Wisconsin. The contest was seen as a referendum on Republicans who had limited union rights for state workers.

And CBS News correspondent Elaine Quijano reports from Madison.

ELAINE QUIJANO (voice-over): For Wisconsin Democrats, Tuesday's vote was supposed to be a chance at revenge.

SANDY HEENEY, RETIRED TEACHER: They aren't listening to our voice. Our voice needs to be heard. I'm a teacher. I'm a retired teacher, actually, and it's time we take Wisconsin back.

QUIJANO: Six Republican state senators faced a recall vote, just months after the Republican governor stripped unions of their collective bargaining rights, arguing it would help close the state budget gap. Democrats fired back, 14 of them fled the state to avoid voting on the measure, while thousands of public employees took over the capitol.

Dick Wheeler has reported on Wisconsin's government for 40 years, and says union members were outraged.

DICK WHEELER, THE WHEELER REPORT: It was an affront, because they thought that they were being singled out.

QUIJANO: In the run-up to Wisconsin's recall elections, candidates and outside groups spent an extraordinary $30 million on political ads. When the votes were counted early this morning, Democrats gained two seats, but the Republicans held on to four others that were contested.

SEN. LUTHER OLSEN, (R), WISCONSIN: Tonight, my constituents spoke, and guess what? We are on the path to recovery.

QUIJANO: (protesters singing, "We shall overcome, someday") Democrats say the fight is just beginning.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 1: This is about people who are working to make a difference and serving people in the state- having a voice in their government.

QUIJANO: Republicans now hold the majority of seats in the state senate by just one vote, and face a highly charged political climate. Elaine Quijano, CBS News, Madison, Wisconsin.

— Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.