Nets Spend More Time on Celebrities, Wine at State Dinner Than Obama Donors

ABC's Dan Harris trumpeted the "bromance between President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron" on Thursday's GMA. Harris noted the presence of Vogue magazine head Anna Wintour at Wednesday's state dinner, but omitted that she is a major donor to Obama's campaign. Instead, he gushed over how "Michelle Obama and Samantha Cameron [were] both looking very regal in blue, floor-length gowns."

The same morning, NBC's Today show chose to play up the "little star power from George Clooney...and movie mogul Harvey Weinstein" at the dinner, but failed to mention Weinstein's $500,000 contribution to the President's campaign. CBS This Morning did report that "many of the guests included some of the President's top fundraisers," but anchor Charlie Rose, who attended the function, and correspondent Bill Plante, spent more time talking about the wines that the White House served [audio clips available here ].

ABC and NBC gave only a news brief each on the state dinner, compared to CBS, who understandably gave more coverage to the event due to Rose's attendance. Besides his "bromance" and "regal" exclamations, Harris spotlighted that "celebrities in attendance included George Clooney, who came solo, ladies. He sat next to Mrs. Obama....Also, the star of the star of TV drama Homeland, Damian Lewis was there. The President says that's his favorite show." The ABC journalist also attempted to inject some humor into his brief near the end: "Prime Minister Cameron said the celeb he most wanted to see was Chevy Chase, but it turns out the only Chevy Chase on the guest list was a reference to Chevy Chase, Maryland, which is a city right outside of Washington D.C. "

Harris emulated former colleague Martin Bashir with his "regal" superlative about the first lady and Mrs. Cameron. On the April 28, 2009 edition of Nightline, Bashir raved about Mrs. Obama's "regal embrace and those arms. Michelle Obama has been a very busy first lady. Everyone is talking about his [the President's] first 100 days. Tonight, we look at hers." A Nexis search found that no one at ABC ever used the "regal" term about former first lady Laura Bush during her eight years in the White House.

On NBC's Today, news anchor Natalie Morales gave a shorter brief than Harris, but like him, touted how "both first ladies dazzled in beautiful blue gowns." Just before this, Morales gave her "star power" line, which included the mentions of Clooney and Weinstein, along with "Grammy winner John Legend."

Rose actually interviewed Weinstein just after the bottom of the 7 am Eastern hour of CBS This Morning, but only made one brief mention of the White House dinner at the beginning of the interview, before helping the "movie mogul" promote his latest documentary about bullying in schools:

ROSE: Harvey Weinstein [is] with us, fresh from last night's state dinner- although, some say it's not a state dinner because the prime minister was there being honored, not the queen. They could have fooled me.

WEINSTEIN: (laughs) It's pretty nice. It was a fabulous evening.

The CBS personality, along with co-anchors Erica Hill and Gayle King, then did a full segment at the top of the 8 am Eastern hour about the state dinner, including the requisite gushing over Mrs. Obama and getting to meet the President:

ROSE: ...Let me just tell you this about this. You have been there. It's just extraordinary to be in that house...There's George [Clooney] and there's Warren Buffett and a lot of- people who are part of politics in Washington are there....So it's- really is a coming together here, in what I still like to think of as the people's house....

KING: You know, I totally agree with you, Charlie. I have such a great reverence for the White House. I know that the first lady has always called it the people's house. And when you go there- I don't care who is in the office- I have great respect and reverence for the office of the presidency. But I'm wondering, was it a fun night for you last night? That what I want. Was it fun?

ROSE: ...I had a great time. And, by the way, the first lady said say hello to both of you-

KING: Oh, nice!


ROSE: When we went through the receiving line. So she's watching- we hope. The President came by at the table that I was [at]. But he did come by- because I was sitting with [White House Press Secretary] Jay Carney- just to say something about basketball- so, knowing that I love it. And, also, that he likes my home state a lot- loves North Carolina, in fact. So it was a great evening.

And when you thought the gushing over the Obamas couldn't get any worse, the three anchors discussed the matter again at the bottom of the hour, and brought in Plante to talk about the wines. Both Rose and Plante just barely touched on the campaign donor issue:

Charlie Rose, CBS News Anchor; & Amanda Burden | NewsBusters.orgROSE: ...Bill Plante knows a lot about the kinds of wines they serve and stuff like that. So we'll hear all that of from Mr. Plante, and talk about some of the other people there from Warren Buffett, to George Clooney, to lots of people who've helped the President in his campaigns were there as well. And some Brits, too.

KING: Did you have a highlight, Charlie? Is it hard to pick a highlight from last night? Can you do?

ROSE: Well, for me, just to have the President stop by and talk basketball was a highlight for me. And so, that was pretty good-

HILL: So who is he picking?    Did he talk about his [NCAA] bracket?

ROSE: UNC- he's picking the Tar Heels- he likes North Carolina-

HILL: How did you feel about that, Mr. Duke?
ROSE: (laughs) I understand why. (Hill laughs) As [Duke basketball coach] Mike Krzyzewski said, they have a better team this year so far.

Anyway, senior White House correspondent Bill Plante is at the White House this morning. He was not on the guest list, but we want to know what happened last night, and don't you wish you were there?

BILL PLANTE: Well, Charlie, maybe they thought I wouldn't behave well enough, or it got lost in the mail. But, look-

ROSE: (laughs) Or you'd have a judgment about their wine.

PLANTE: Well, yeah, we'll talk about that in a minute....

PLANTE (voice-over): Toasting the relationship that's being tested by world events, President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron told a star-studded audience the connection between the United Kingdom and the United States is as strong as ever....And because this is an election year- no surprise, many of the guests included some of the President's top fundraisers....

PLANTE (live): I'll bet the music was great, Charlie. I wish I had been there for that, but I tell you-

ROSE: [British folk music group] Mumford and Sons were great-

PLANTE: They didn't tell you what the wines were, though, did they?

ROSE: They did not, and when they came by to pour the wine, I just didn't- I didn't think it was appropriate for me to say, what are we drinking here? But I hear you found out.

PLANTE: Well, I did. You know, they call themselves the most transparent administration in history, and they're hiding the wines they serve at the state dinner. (Rose laughs) Hello? Look, the wines are always some of the best in America, and until last year, they were always listed. But now, the White House has kind of wimped out-

ROSE: Yeah-

PLANTE: Last night's wines were some very good wines, and one of California's great Chardonnays, Pete Michael; a Cabernet from Washington State. The retail prices are relatively high. Then, the sparkling wine at the end from Iron Horse- not so high. But look, all of those wines are wines that California and America- and Washington State- can be proud of. But the White House is worried about the optics. They're afraid that they'll be accused of being extravagant, and, of course, it's an election year. And it's too bad because the winemakers get no credit, except that we just gave them one.

ROSE: I'm not surprised that you found out, though, Bill.

PLANTE: Well, you know, wine is one of my passions, and, you know, you'll go to any lengths-

ROSE: I know. So thank you so much, my friend.

— Matthew Balan is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.