Ann Romney, wife of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, at… (Mark Wilson/Getty Images )
Media and their ethical norms have changed so much in recent times that no one seemed to miss a beat when ABC announced that it had invited would-be First Lady Ann Romney to sit in next week as a guest host on what ostensibly remains a news program — the network’s “Good Morning America.”
A time existed not that long ago when news outlets kept an arm’s length from the subjects they would cover. But both “GMA” and Romney have bigger priorities today — with the morning show in a daily race to unseat NBC’s “Today” as the a.m. ratings leader and Romney pushing hard to help her husband, Mitt, win the White House.
At least the show, which announced Romney’s guest hosting duties Thursday, signaled that it intends to treat both sides equally when it comes to line-blurring. It hopes to find a spot to bring First Lady Michelle Obama on as a co-host too.
Both Ann Romney and the first lady will temporarily fill the spot previously occupied by Robin Roberts, the co-anchor who left the ABC show last month for a bone marrow transplant. The treatment is related to complications from earlier chemotherapy for breast cancer.
The Wednesday air date for Romney will put her alongside anchor George Stephanopoulos and ABC’s correspondents. No one said what subjects would be covered. Maybe there will be some chatter about Romney's coping with multiple sclerosis and the therapy she gets for the condition from horseback riding.
This subject-object fuzziness is not a new phenomenon, particularly for ABC. In 2008 it brought both Michelle Obama and Cindy McCain, wife of Republican candidate John McCain, on as guest hosts of “The View.” The daytime program hosted by five women, including Whoopi Goldberg and Barbara Walters, was understood, though, to be more entertainment-oriented than evening and morning shows like “GMA,” which employ anchors and news correspondents.
So the invitation to newsmakers to host the morning show continues to push an entertainment-news boundary that grows murkier day by day.
Could it be, though, that beneath its frothy exterior, the network of Howard K. Smith, Harry Reasoner and Peter Jennings maintains a spine of steel?
To wit: “The View” ladies had Cindy McCain on in April 2008 as a guest host. But as the election neared in September 2008, McCain and her husband returned as mere guests. The Republican couple got a good working over from the mostly-liberal hosts. They grilled both McCains about his running mate, then-Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, and about their multiple houses and about the separation of church and state. Co-host Joy Behar told John McCain that some of his campaign ads were “lies.”
Cindy McCain said afterward that “The View” ladies “picked our bones clean.”
So Ann Romney and Michelle Obama beware. Those nicey-nice “Good Morning America” invitations of today may come with a more sober reprise, at a date yet to be named. No cooking segments allowed.
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