PRESS RELEASE from Political Action

For Immediate Release:                                                                                                                   Contact:

Thursday, April 17, 2008                                                                                                                     Trevor FitzGibbon or Doug Gordon (202) 822-5200

After ABC Moderators Blow Debate, MoveOn Targets Network

Group Will Run Ad Protesting ABC If 100,000 People Sign Petition

Following what media critics have variously called an “embarrassing,” “shoddy,” and “despicable” performance as debate moderators by ABC’s Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos, Political Action sent an email petition to it’s members protesting the network’s trivialization of what should have been an important debate.

The petition says, "Debate moderators abuse the public trust every time they ask trivial questions about gaffes and 'gotchas' that only political insiders care about. Enough with the distractions—ABC and other networks must focus on issues that affect people's daily lives."

MoveOn will run an ad protesting ABC if 100,000 people sign their petition.

MoveOn emailed its members with this message:

Dear MoveOn member,

If you missed the Democratic presidential debate on ABC last night, Editor & Publisher called it "perhaps the most embarrassing performance by the media in a major presidential debate in years."1

Moderators George Stephanopoulos and Charlie Gibson spent the first 50 minutes obsessed with distractions that only political insiders care about—verbal gaffes, polling numbers, the stale Rev. Wright story, and the old-news Bosnia story. And, channeling Karl Rove, they directed a video question to Barack Obama asking if he loves the American flag or not. Seriously.

Enough is enough. The public needs the media to stop hurting the national dialogue in this important election year. Can you sign the petition to ABC and other media outlets and pass it on to friends who are also fed up? Click here for our must-see video with excerpts from last night—and to sign the petition:

The petition says: "Debate moderators abuse the public trust every time they ask trivial questions about gaffes and 'gotchas' that only political insiders care about. Enough with the distractions—ABC and other networks must focus on issues that affect people's daily lives."

We'll deliver petition signatures to ABC and the networks hosting future debates. And if we reach 100,000 signatures, we'll reprint the petition in an ad campaign targeting the networks on this issue.

ABC's natural inclination will be to ignore their critics, so we need to go above and beyond to show them that the public is truly outraged. So, please, think about some friends who may be fed up with 2008 media coverage and forward them this email. If thousands of us do that, it'll make a huge difference.

The reaction to last night's debate has been very consistent:

"A stinker, an absolute car crash—thanks to the host network ABC...[It] ran the gamut from banal to inane. At the end of the debate members of the crowd appeared to be booing moderator Charlie Gibson."—The Guardian's Richard Adams2

"Halfway through the debate, not a single question on any policy issue had been asked."—'s Chris Bowers3

"For the first 52 minutes...Gibson and Stephanopoulos dwelled entirely on specious and gossipy trivia that already has been hashed and rehashed, in the hope of getting the candidates to claw at one another over disputes that are no longer news. Some were barely news to begin with."—Washington Post TV critic Tom Shales.4

"We've revisited bitter. We've gone back to Bosnia. We've dragged Rev. Wright back up onto the podium. We've mis-spent this debate by allowing Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos to ask questions that skirt what in my mind is what we need to know now."—Philadelphia Inquirer's Daniel Rubin5

Shame on ABC for letting voters down with last night's abysmal debate. Bad debates aren't just painful to watch—they actually hurt the country by distracting voters and politicians away from big issues of the day.

Please send a message to ABC and other media outlets that we need our national dialogue to focus on the real issues facing Americans. Click here to sign the petition:

Thanks for all you do.

–Adam G., Patrick, Anna, Peter, Justin, and the Political Action Team
  Thursday, April 17th, 2008


1. "Clinton-Obama Debate: ABC Decides Top Issues Facing Americans Are Gaffes, Flag Pins and '60s Radicals," Editor & Publisher, April 16, 2008

2. "Worst. Debate. Ever." The Guardian blog, April 16, 2008

3. "Philadelphia Debate Thread," Chris Bowers,, April 16, 2008

4. "In Pa. Debate, The Clear Loser Is ABC," Washington Post, April 17, 2008

5. "The Debate Debacle," The Philadelphia Inquirer blog, April 16, 2008

Support our member-driven organization: Political Action is entirely funded by our 3.2 million members. We have no corporate contributors, no foundation grants, no money from unions. Our tiny staff ensures that small contributions go a long way. If you'd like to support our work, you can give now at:

Not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.