If flag lapel pin issue "comes up again and again" with voters, why did ABC rely on the one voter quoted in NY Times criticizing Obama?

››› ››› RYAN CHIACHIERE

During ABC's April 16 Democratic presidential debate, Charles Gibson claimed that the issue of whether Sen. Barack Obama wears a flag lapel pin "comes up again and again when we talk to voters" and "is all over the Internet." But McClatchy Newspapers reported that the woman who asked Obama about the flag lapel pin during the debate was "tracked ... down" by ABC "after she was quoted in a New York Times story about white voters in small-town Latrobe, Pa., revealing her as 52, out of work and against Obama." If, as Gibson claimed, the flag pin issue "comes up again and again when we talk to voters," why did ABC turn to the one voter from Pennsylvania quoted in The New York Times criticizing Obama over the issue?

During ABC's April 16 Democratic presidential debate, co-moderator and ABC World News anchor Charles Gibson introduced a question for Sen. Barack Obama by asserting, "I want to do one more question, which goes to the basic issue of electability. And it is a question raised by a voter in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, a woman by the name of Nash McCabe." McCabe asked, via videotape, "Senator Obama, I have a question, and I want to know if you believe in the American flag. I am not questioning your patriotism, but all our servicemen, policemen and EMS wear the flag. I want to know why you don't." Before Obama answered, Gibson explained, "Just to add to that, I noticed you put one on yesterday. But -- you've talked about this before, but it comes up again and again when we talk to voters. And as you may know, it is all over the Internet." However, an April 17 McClatchy Newspapers article reported that ABC "had tracked [McCabe] down after she was quoted in a New York Times story about white voters in small-town Latrobe, Pa., revealing her as 52, out of work and against Obama." If, as Gibson claimed, the flag pin issue "comes up again and again when we talk to voters," why did ABC turn to the one voter from Pennsylvania quoted in The New York Times criticizing Obama over the issue?

From the April 4 New York Times article to which the McClatchy article referred:

Ask whom she might vote for in the coming presidential primary election and Nash McCabe, 52, seems almost relieved to be able to unpack the dossier she has been collecting in her head.

It is not about whom she likes, but more a bill of particulars about why she cannot vote for Senator Barack Obama of Illinois.

"How can I vote for a president who won't wear a flag pin?" Mrs. McCabe, a recently unemployed clerk typist, said in a booth at the Valley Dairy luncheonette in this quiet, small city in western Pennsylvania.

Mr. Obama has said patriotism is about ideas, not flag pins.

"I watch him on TV," Mrs. McCabe said. "I keep looking for that lapel pin."

According to an April 14 Associated Press article, in advance of the debate ABC had been "soliciting questions from Pennsylvania voters," but, the article added, "Gibson isn't sure whether they will be used." Only one other question, which was delivered via videotape by a man identified as Tom Rooney, was explicitly attributed to a Pennsylvania voter.

Gibson's assertion that the issue of Obama not wearing a flag lapel pin "is all over the Internet" downplays the role of media outlets, including ABC, CNN, and Fox News Channel, in highlighting the issue. As Media Matters for America noted, following an October 3, 2007 interview with ABC affiliate KCRG-TV in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in which Obama was asked why he was not wearing an American flag pin on his lapel, those outlets reported on the "controversy."

From the April 16 ABC Democratic presidential debate:

GIBSON: And Senator Obama, I want to do one more question, which goes to the basic issue of electability. And it is a question raised by a voter in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, a woman by the name of Nash McCabe. Take a look.

McCABE [video clip]: Senator Obama, I have a question, and I want to know if you believe in the American flag. I am not questioning your patriotism, but all our servicemen, policemen and EMS wear the flag. I want to know why you don't.

GIBSON: Just to add to that, I noticed you put one on yesterday. But -- you've talked about this before, but it comes up again and again when we talk to voters. And as you may know, it is all over the Internet. And it's something of a theme that Senators Clinton and McCain's advisers agree could give you a major vulnerability if you're the candidate in November. How do you convince Democrats that this would not be a vulnerability?

Posted In
Economy, Budget
Network/Outlet
ABC
Person
Charlie Gibson
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, 2008 Elections
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