Friday's Good Morning America featured a segment with Robin Roberts in Memphis with three Southern women, identified as Republicans, who are all supposedly "having second thoughts about their party" and now plan to vote for Democrats. But a quick Internet search found that two of the three have backgrounds which raise questions about their fidelity to the GOP. Janna Herbison, identified on screen as "Former Republican turned Democrat," declared: "I used to consider myself to be a Republican." She scolded Republicans: "Don't say they're [Democrats] aligning themselves with the terrorists because they disagree with you. That's un-American." But while Herbison was Press Secretary to Republican Tennessee Governor Donald Sundquist, best known for a failed effort to enact a state income tax, she was also the Press Secretary for the Tennessee House Democratic Caucus. The other, Robin Rasmussen, who insisted that "I voted Republican in every election since I was 18," appears to be on the Board of Directors of Planned Parenthood for the Memphis area, which doesn't make it impossible for her to be a Republican, but certainly suggests she's long been politically active for a liberal social cause.
Following Roberts' sit-down with the three woman, GMA co-host Diane Sawyer contended that "another worrying thing for the Republicans has to be how much" the women "just seem to want change of some kind."
(This article was first published today as part of the MRC's CyberAlert.)
"Lowbridge" found a PDF of the newsletter of the Memphis Regional Planned Parenthood that lists Robin Rasmussen's name on the Board of Directors.
Of course, it is possible there is more than one Robin Rasmussen in Memphis.
The information on Herbison is more definitive since I found a picture of her online that matches her appearance on GMA. "Lowbridge" located a letter Herbison wrote in 2005 to liberal New York Congressman Carolyn McCarthy. It began: "Hello...My name is Janna Herbison, and I am a wife and mother from Tennessee, who is also a former television news reporter and former Democratic Press Secretary for the TN Legislature. I have recently written a book entitled 'Southern in the City' -- a manuscript about my experiences in Manhattan/New York over 20 years as a Southerner."
I located a July 11, 2006 NashvillePost.com posting, "Former state official on book tour," with a picture of Herbison which looks just like the woman on ABC. It began:
"Janna Fite Herbison, a former press secretary for former Governor Don Sundquist and the Tennessee House Democratic Caucus has just published her first book, Southern in The City...A Mason-Dixon View of Manhattan."The ABCNews.com version of the story, with video of what aired.
A transcript of the September 15 GMA segment in which Robin Roberts sat with the three women:
Robin Roberts: "You know how it is when GMA is out on the road like this, traveling around the country. We really like to spend time in town, talking with the locals, what's most important to them. Well, many are thinking about the upcoming election. And here in Tennessee, both parties, Republicans and Democrats, are battling for the Senate seat being vacated by majority leader Bill Frist. Southern women in recent years have been voting Republican, but are they going to stick with the GOP in 2006? Well, I sat down with three women here in Memphis, and all three are Republicans and all three are, well, having second thoughts about their party."
Robin Rasmussen, Republican voting for Democrats: "I voted Republican in every election since I was 18."
Roberts: "But not this year. Robin Rasmussen is thinking of voting for a Democrat and she's not alone."
Janna Herbison, former Republican turned Democrat: "And I used to consider myself to be a Republican."
Roberts: "In a recent ABC News poll, fifty-three percent of Southern women are leaning toward Democrats in upcoming elections. That's a six point gain. Why the shift? Concerns over issues close to home."
Kellyanne Conway, Republican pollster: "If women in the south feel upset that the other issues they care about have not been sufficiently addressed by the Republican leadership in Washington, they may take that estrangement directly to the ballot box."
Roberts: "What are the issues, Tracy, that you're most concerned about?"
Tracy Quick Bradford, Republican voting for Democrats: "I think health care, education and the economy. And I think that the, the candidates that, that represent the Democratic party this year are most in line with my views."
Roberts: "Is that difficult for you to say because you traditionally voted Republican?"
Bradford: "Yes. To a certain extent, it is difficult."
Roberts: "Robin, what's important to you?"
Rasmussen: "My number one thing is education. Because I think if you solve the education, you fix everything else."
Roberts: "Janna, what about you? What's your, what's the burning issue for you?"
Herbison: "The war is a big issue with me. At this point, I hope that we succeed with it, because we've invested so much in it. But I think about the troops every day and I think about why we're there."
Roberts: "When you think of national security, who do you think can protect you best?"
Bradford: "I don't think that anyone knows, I don't think anyone has this crystal ball as to who's really going to protect us best, this way or that way. I think, you know, we're doing what we can."
Rasmussen: "If the Democrats are in power, they're gonna, you know they're going to do the best they -- you hope that they're going to do the best that they can."
Herbison: "And I heard a comment, I think, from a Congressman the other day that said if the Democrats don't agree with the war, they're more concerned with the terrorists safety than with Americans safety. And I couldn't, that just, that blew my mind. I just thought, you know, they really -- how, how could they have a right to say that, because we live in America, and if you don't agree with it, that's fine, you know, but don't attack someone personally. Don't say they're aligning themselves with the terrorists because they disagree with you. That's un-American."
Roberts: "But what is it? Is there something that you see or hear from a candidate that makes you go, I'm going to vote for that person?"
Bradford: "We're looking for a new form of leadership and just some fresh, new ideas and more integrity in our government, and I think that's where we're, I hope that's where we're headed."
Roberts: "It was really enlightening sitting down with all three of those women. We have a lively, lively discussion yesterday. And all of them said that they really look now at the candidate instead of the party, that they're not just going to vote along party lines and they look at the individual candidate. Chris and Diane?"
Diane Sawyer: "Yeah, Robin, candidate and connection obviously to them. But another worrying thing for the Republicans has to be how much they just seem to want change of some kind."
Chris Cuomo: "That's right. I mean, you have to distinguish between not liking the Republicans and feeling that the Democrats are a better bet. They probably will go candidate by candidate."