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ABC's This Week: "Fair and Balanced" Like Fox

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If you were booking panelists for a fair and balanced Sunday show discussion of the nation’s political news, would your panel look like this?

George Will, movement conservative. Victoria Clarke, Republican staffer for Bush 41, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld. Fareed Zakaria, a neoconservative reporter described in The Nation as a “junior Kissinger.” And ABC reporter Jake Tapper.

While many Americans would expect such a rigged lineup from a Republican mouthpiece like Fox, today it was served up to us by This Week with George Stephanopoulos (who you can send your feedback to at the link below).

As could be predicted, viewers got an alternative view of reality.

Presented with a Newsweek poll showing Clinton ahead of all major Republican candidates (including Fred Thompson), Victoria Clarke was allowed to get away with saying, “The single thing that will make the biggest difference between now and November 2008 is whether or not there is another very large national security incident. Because then I think it will be very hard for people to look at Hillary Clinton, no matter what they thought up until now, and say ‘Can she sit in that chair? Can she make those awesome decisions that the next President of the United States may have to make?’”

Really? Why is that?  Is it because she is a woman? (I can’t imagine Republicans using women spokespeople to trash talk Clinton’s gender.) Or is it because Clinton is a Democrat? That would be interesting since poll after poll after poll shows voters trust Democrats more than Bush and the Republicans on national security—including ABC’s own poll.

Stephanopoulos had no progressive voice there to correct the record.

At times, even the journalists chimed in with right-wing talking points. Jake Tapper compared the Clintons to thuggish Soprano characters. When talking about the Democratic platform, Tapper said “pro-environment” and then felt the need to correct himself by re-labeling it “environmental regulation.”

And in a discussion that could influence the DC establishment’s conventional wisdom about which party a Bloomberg candidacy would hurt, Tapper called Bloomberg a "liberal Democrat" and Zakaria agreed that Bloomberg is "Democrat."

Had the moderator been doing his job, he may have pointed out that while Bloomberg is an ex-Democrat, his last two affiliations were Independent and Republican. Or that Bloomberg actively campaigned for Bush/Cheney in 2004, declaring at the RNC Convention “The president deserves our support...And I am here to support him.”

But more importantly, there was no progressive voice there to dispute that description of Bloomberg – such as author David Sirota, who has written repeatedly about Bloomberg’s decision to cut $20 million in blue-collar workers’ pensions at the very same time he gave a $1.5 billion subsidy to Goldman Sachs. Is that liberal? Or is that crazy right-wing Republican economics that voters consistently reject?

Media Matters points out that This Week with George Stephanopoulos has recently improved the balance of their regular guests, but continues to have “the most tilted panels among the three major network shows and the most right-leaning collection of journalists.” 

While there are a few well-spoken liberals that occasionally get rotated into This Week’s panels, there is no representative of the modern progressive movement. This is a real problem. Fortunately, there’s a solution: Get one.

David Sirota is a perfect nominee. A leading progressive thinker, Sirota will soon start writing a weekly nationally syndicated newspaper column—replacing Molly Ivins. He is author of “Hostile Takeover: How Big Money and Corruption Conquered Our Government—and How We Take It Back” and is a frequent writer on the Huffington Post and other sites.

And Sirota has proven himself to be a quality voice on TV – not just showing eloquence, but backbone. (Watch him beat Ann Coulter in a national security debate on CNBC – gets good at the 2 minute mark.)

I’m emailing this blog post to some folks at ABC. You can share your thoughts in the comments section below, or can urge Stephanopoulos to put a progressive voice on his panels by writing to him here.