Diane Sawyer, Who Gushed Over Football and Singing With Obama, Grills Romney on Tax Returns

ABC, the same network that provided softball interviews with Barack Obama on such subjects as singing and Abraham Lincoln, featured an aggressive, hard-hitting segment with Mitt and Ann Romney, recycling the President's talking points. On Monday's World News, Diane Sawyer parroted, "President Obama threw down a kind of gauntlet to you over the weekend. And he said, release 12 years of your tax returns." [MP3 audio here.]

After the Republican presidential candidate refused, Sawyer pushed, "Release 12 years. If you have nothing to hide, why not release 12 years as your father [Governor George Romney] did?"

Sawyer brought up Romney's Mormon faith, prompting, "Would you sit down sometime and really talk the two of you about something that holds a lot of curiosity for people?"

Signaling that this would be a campaign issue, she continued, "So, do the people think you're reluctant to talk about being Mormon?"

A version of the interview aired on Monday's Nightline. In that segment, the journalist hectored the Republican about abortion, lecturing, "...But to the women who said we've had the legal right for 40 years what do you say to them about no longer having that legal right if you repeal Roe v. Wade?"

In contrast, when Sawyer interviewed Obama on March 30, 2011, she found time for softball subjects, cooing, "What about the famous quote from another beleaguered President, Abraham Lincoln, who said he had been driven many times to his knees because his own wisdom and that around him 'was insufficient for the day'?"

On January 26, 2012, Sawyer quizzed the President on his singing ability and the Super Bowl: "And speaking of sports teams, we asked the fan-in-chief, what is it, Giants/Pats?"

The reporter on Monday needled Romney on whether he has a "relatability problem" with average Americans. She highlighted his "speaking fees, the Cadillac, the story out now that there's an elevator for your cars in the new house you're planning in La Jolla."

The full transcript of the interview can be found on ABC News.com.

Although it didn't make either World News or Nightline (but is in the ABC transcript), Sawyer still made sure to ask about a favorite liberal attack: Romney putting his dog in a crate on the roof of the family car.

She pressed, "...First about Seamus-- which as you know is out there forever-- would you do it again?"

The contrast is clear in another way. Despite ABC touting this "exclusive," the interview didn't air until ten minutes into World News and ten minutes into Nightline

A partial transcript of the March 16 World News segment, which aired at 6:37pm EDT, follows:

DIANE SAWYER: And now, Governor Mitt Romney and his wife Ann. In a sense, this week is the first week in their 204 day journey towards November, facing President and Mrs. Obama. Today, by the way, is Mrs. Romney's birthday, a milestone they've been celebrating together since she was 16 years old.  Though recently, and perhaps for the first time in their marriage, this mother of five has emerged in center stage in the political campaign, as he gets his shot at the White House. It is Patriot's Day at Fenway Park and I had a chance to ask the Romneys what message they would send to the President and Mrs. Obama about November.

MITT ROMNEY: Start packing. [Laughs] That's what I'd like to say. Obviously, we have a very different view. The President, I'm sure wants another four years, but the first years didn't go so well and they've added trillions of dollars of debt because he doesn't understand the economy. He doesn't understand what it takes to get jobs for the American people.

ANN ROMNEY: You know, I got to know Michelle. She's a lovely person. I've never met Barack Obama, but I believe it's Mitt's time. I believe that the country needs the kind of leadership that he is going to be able to offer and I believe that he is the person who can turn around the economy. So, I think it's our turn now.

SAWYER: But, there are problems to surmount, like the gender gap with women, though Mrs. Romney is now moving center stage.

HILARY ROSEN: His wife has actually never worked a day in her life. She's never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues.

SAWYER: She was overheard last night at a fund-raiser saying it was a kind of birthday gift, the attack on her as a mom.

ANN ROMNEY: That wasn't how I meant it. It was a birthday gift to me because I love the fact that we're talking about this. I love the fact that women are talking about deficit spending and the economy. I love that.

SAWYER: Do you think President and Mrs. Obama are biased against mothers who work at home?

ANN ROMNEY: You know, I don't. I think there was a comment that was made. It was an unfortunate comment and I believe a lot of women are responding to that because it was an unfortunate comment.

SAWYER: But, she, of course, said what she meant was that the circumstances in which you were able to stay at home were a lot different from so many.

ANN ROMNEY: Of course they were. And I will say, for me, financial security has not been a huge issue. But that does not mean I'm not compassionate. That does not mean that I have not had different challenges.

SAWYER: As for the Governor, the Obama campaign is working overtime to paint the portrait of a man whose riches have put him out of touch. The speaking fees, the Cadillacs, the story out now that there's an elevator for your cars in the new house you're planning in La Jolla. Are you too rich to relate?

MITT ROMNEY: You know, we don't divide America based upon success and wealth and other dimensions of that nature. We're one nation under God. We come together. This is a time when people of different backgrounds and experiences need to come together.

SAWYER: Do you think the fairness question is about envy? Is the fairness concern about envy?

MITT ROMNEY: Well, I think it's unfair that this President has been in office three and a half years and 93 percent of the people who lost their jobs have been women.

SAWYER: President Obama threw down a kind of gauntlet to you over the weekend. And he said, release 12 years of your tax returns.

BARACK OBAMA: Be as transparent as possible.

SAWYER: Release 12 years. If you have nothing to hide, why not release 12 years as your father did?

MITT ROMNEY: Well, The President is going to try and do everything possible to divert from the attention being focused upon his record as president. He wants to be able to get all the details on each year and how much money I made this year and that year, I'm not going to get into that.

SAWYER: But John McCain disclosed that his vice presidential search committee had seen 23 years of tax returns. Governor Romney says there's other way he's disclosing information. For transparency sake, the rest of the American public get 23 years?

MITT ROMNEY: Well, actually, the American public has through legislation determined that we need an extraordinary set of disclosure of financial records of people running for president. And I've complied with all that. And then in addition, put out two more years of tax returns. But, I understand that the Democrats are going to try and do everything in their power to keep this election from being about the failure of President Obama to turn around our economy.

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