The More Things Change at ABC News...

Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Except when it is:

Reporting ABC News President David Westin’s plan to step down at the end of the year, the Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz noted “some early missteps” during his 13-year tenure, such as “a comment after the Sept. 11 attacks, for which Westin apologized, that journalists should offer no opinion about whether the Pentagon had been a legitimate military target.”

That apology was promoted by an MRC CyberAlert item in October of 2001 which put into play an answer Westin delivered during a Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism seminar. Barely six weeks after the 9/11 attack, Westin was remarkably reticent about expressing an opinion, contending that’s improper for a journalist to do so – how quaint:

The Pentagon as a legitimate target? I actually don’t have an opinion on that and it’s important I not have an opinion on that as I sit here in my capacity right now….Our job is to determine what is, not what ought to be and when we get into the job of what ought to be I think we’re not doing a service to the American people….As a journalist I feel strongly that’s something that I should not be taking a position on. I’m supposed to figure out what is and what is not, not what ought to be.


— “Flashback: Reacting to MRC, ABC News Chief Westin Apologized for ‘No Opinion’ on Whether Pentagon Was ‘Legitimate’ 9/11 Target,” the Media Research Center, 9/7/2010.

But what about the Weathermen, a late-’60s/early-’70s-era group of terrorists who had also targeted the Pentagon? Flash-forward to the present day:

George Stephanopoulos was so enthusiastic towards Robert Redford and his sympathetic new film about an ex-1960s radical that the actor enthused, “You ought to get on the marketing team!” The aging actor/director appeared on Tuesday’s Good Morning America and endorsed the violent actions of protest groups. Reminiscing on his own past, the liberal Hollywood star recounted, “When I was younger, I was very much aware of the movement. I was more than sympathetic, I was probably empathetic because I believed it was time for a change.”

After Stephanopoulos wondered, “Even when you read about bombings,” Redford responded, “All of it. I knew that it was extreme and I guess movements have to be extreme to some degree.”

After Stephanopoulos wondered, “Even when you read about bombings,” Redford responded, “All of it. I knew that it was extreme and I guess movements have to be extreme to some degree.” Remarkably, after this well known actor endorsed violence and terrorism as a political tool, Stephanopoulos did not question the remark. Instead, he tossed a softball: “Do you come out of the experience with the same kinds of empathy that you had going in?”

The ABC anchor offered just one tough question in the entire segment. He gently pressed, “I’ve noticed that already some critics have come out and said that you’re romanticizing radicalism. How do you respond to that?”

The Internet Movie Database summarized the plot of The Company You Keep this way: “A thriller centered on a former Weather Underground activist who goes on the run from a journalist who has discovered his identity.”


— “Robert Redford Loves Stephanopoulos’s Fawning Over His ’60s Radicals Film: ‘You Ought to Be on the Marketing Team!'”, Newsbusters, today.

Ahh, the marketing team and Hollywood insiders who have twisted themselves up via pretzel logic to utter such quotes as these:

Tinseltown cheerleaders can’t stop gushing about Redford’s paean to gun-toting progressives, of course. Variety called the flick an “unabashedly heartfelt but competent tribute to 1960s idealism.” The entertainment daily effused: “There is something undeniably compelling, perhaps even romantic, about America’s ’60s radicals and the compromises they did or didn’t make.” One of the film executives promoting the Weather Underground movie slavered: “This is an edge-of-your-seat thriller about real Americans who stood for their beliefs, thinking they were patriots and defending their country’s ideals against their government.”

You would think that Redford and and a Disney-ABC spokesman such as George Stephanopoulos would denounce such cinematic homages to terroristic violence. Isn’t it worth it, if it saves just one life?


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