ABC has made conflicting statements about discredited blogger Andrew Breitbart's role in its election night coverage and now says that it is “entirely possible” that it will include comments from Breitbart in its television broadcast. Here is a timeline of comments released by -- or attributed to -- ABC.
Breitbart's Big Journalism: Breitbart will be “featured” on ABC's “election night coverage.” In an October 29 post titled, “ABC Election Night Coverage to Feature Loesch, Breitbart,” Big Journalism stated:
ABC announced their election night coverage early on and Big Journalism Editor Dana Loesch will join the network in studio for 6 p.m. - 2 a.m. election night; Bigs founder and head of the Breitbart empire Andrew Breitbart will be bringing analysis live from Arizona.
ABC: Breitbart “will be one of many voices on our air.” Asked about the Big Journalism post, ABC spokesman David Ford told Media Matters on October 29:
He [Breitbart] will be one of many voices on our air, including Bill Adair of Politifact. If Andrew Breitbart says something that is incorrect, we have other voices to call him on it.
ABC: Breitbart has “been on our air numerous times in the past” and “will be one of many voices contributing to the dialogue.” In a separate October 29 statement, Ford told Media Matters:
We are hosting a Town Hall meeting at Arizona State University - where ABC's David Muir and Facebook's Randi Zuckerberg will be anchoring for ABC. There will be several invited guest there to join in the discussion. Confirmed guests include stand-up comedian D.L. Hughley, commentator Andrew Brietbart, Bill Adair of the Pulitzer Prize winning Politifact.com, as well as the heads of the Arizona Democratic and Republican parties among others.
Brietbart he has been on our air numerous times in the past - he will be one of many voices contributing to the dialogue on Election Night.
ABC: It has “always been” the case that “Breitbart will not be a part of the ABC News broadcast coverage” and will instead engage in an “online-only” forum. From an October 30 statement attributed to Andrew Morse, Executive Producer, ABC News Digital:
Since conservative commentator Andrew Breitbart announced on his website that he was going to be a participant in ABC's Town Hall meeting at Arizona State University, there has been considerable consternation and misinformation regarding my decision to ask him to participate in an election night Town Hall event for ABC News Digital. I want to explain what Mr. Breitbart's role has always been as one of our guests at our digital town hall event:
He has not been asked to analyze the results of the election for ABC News.
Mr. Breitbart will not be a part of the ABC News broadcast coverage, anchored by Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos. For the broadcast coverage, David Muir and Facebook's Randi Zuckerberg will contribute reaction and response gathered from the students and faculty of Arizona State University at an ABC News/Facebook town hall.
He has been invited as one of several guests, from a variety of different political persuasions, to engage with a live, studio audience that will be closely following the election results and participating in an online-only discussion and debate to be moderated by David Muir and Facebook's Randi Zuckerberg on ABCNews.com and Facebook. We will have other guests, as well as a live studio audience and a large audience on ABCNews.com and Facebook, who can question the guests and the audience's opinions.
Stephanopoulos: “Breitbart NOT on ABC network broadcast.” In an October 30 tweet, George Stephanopoulos -- who will be co-anchoring ABC's election night broadcast coverage -- wrote: “Breitbart NOT on ABC network broadcast.” Stephanopoulos' tweet linked to ABC's October 30 statement.
Breitbart: ABC “originally pitched to me that I was going to do a hybrid of both online and broadcast.” An October 31 Daily Caller article quoted Breitbart as saying that ABC “originally pitched to me that I was going to do a hybrid of both online and broadcast.” In an October 31 post on Big Journalism, Breitbart wrote:
I can state with absolute certainty that the verbal pitch to me to participate was punctuated by the opportunity to appear as part of ABC News' broadcast television for the night. I was also aware that the majority of my participation - seven long hours - would be online.
Breitbart releases what he says was ABC's “invitation for me to participate in their online and network broadcast election night coverage.” In his October 31 Big Journalism post, Breitbart reprinted what he said was “the email from ABC confirming their invitation for me to participate in their online and network broadcast election night coverage.” The email reads, in part:
This program will broadcast on the ABC Television Network, abcnews.com, ABC News Now, and ABC News Radio.
The show will be live on the web and ABC News Now as well as on the network from 4:00pm till 11:00pm MST.
We would love for you to be a part of our program, and please let us know what we can do to accommodate your needs.
ABC: Breitbart “had only ever been invited to be a guest on our online town hall.” In a November 1 story, The Washington Post's Greg Sargent reported:
Now Breitbart has posted private emails from ABC that he says prove ABC did tap him for on air analysis. He also points out that an earlier statement from ABC suggested he would be appearing “on air.”
In a statement sent my way, ABC spokesman Jeffrey Schneider hit back. “Any confusion about Breitbart's role is of his own making,” he said. “A simple reading of the email he posted makes it quite clear that he had only ever been invited to be a guest on our online town hall.”
Sargent subsequently noted that "[o]ne of the emails Breitbart posted does suggest that the town hall he was invited to participate in is supposed to be broadcast on the air." Sargent added that ABC provided the following clarification:
To be clear, the digital town hall may be excerpted during the broadcast. But the only people you'll be hearing from live on the air will be David Muir, the anchor, and Randi Zuckerberg of Facebook, who will share with viewers some of the insights of that digital town hall. That has been our plan from the start.
ABC: “Breitbart exaggerated the role he would play.” In a November 1 Yahoo News article, Michael Calderone reported:
“Mr. Breitbart exaggerated the role he would play on his blog,” ABC News spokesman Jeffrey Schneider told The Upshot on Monday. “We immediately made it clear that was never the role he was supposed to play. He had been invited to be part of our digital town hall, and that is still the role.”
ABC: It's “entirely possible” that Breitbart's comments will be “excerpted” on the televised broadcast if he “says anything thoughtful or interesting.” In his Yahoo News article, Calderone reported:
Now, there's technically a scenario in which Breitbart appears in some form on the network's television broadcast but still isn't called on as a political analyst for ABC's election night coverage.
Here's how: Schneider explained that portions of the digital town hall will be included in the ABC network broadcast. So, he said, “it's entirely possible that anybody who says anything thoughtful or interesting during the streaming portion of it can be excerpted on the broadcast.”
Still, the spokesman emphasized that “there is never a guarantee of what will be part of the broadcast.”