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ABC Hypes Christie's Gay Therapy Ban: NJ Governor's Brand Is 'All About Independence'

ABC was the only network on both Monday night and Tuesday morning to highlight New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signing a bill banning gay conversion treatment. On Tuesday's Good Morning America, ABC News political director Rick Klein touted, "The Chris Christie brand is all about independence, a non-partisan person who leads the state of New Jersey in the best way he knows how."

An ABC graphic added an editorial, placing quote marks around the word therapy: "Chris Christie and Gay Conversion: Bans 'Therapy,' Angers Conservatives." Regarding Christie's 2013 reelection bid and his potential 2016 presidential campaign, Klein understandingly noted, "Chris Christie understands something very important in politics. 2013 comes before 2016."

On Monday's World News, anchor Diane Sawyer introduced Christie as "an American governor known for his bare knuckle style." She featured several voices in support of Christie's decision to ban gay conversion therapy and only a few seconds of a gay man who claims he is now happily married to a woman.

On GMA, correspondent Gio Benitez did allow that "some conservatives may call Christie a traitor to the right," but the overall tone was to promote the moderate Republican's move.

ABC's coverage is a contrast from previous attacks on the governor, some including fat jokes. On February 6, 2013, Amy Robach lectured that Christie should "lay off the doughnuts."

On May 8, 2013, Paula Faris insisted that the Republican is "devouring his critics" with a "healthy appetite."

NBC did not cover the legislation on Monday night or Tuesday morning. CBS allowed a mere 16 seconds to the topic.

A transcript of the August 20 GMA segment is below:

7:08

ABC GRAPHIC: Chris Christie and Gay Conversion: Bans "Therapy," Angers Conservatives

LARA SPENCER: And to politics now and a new decision from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie that could signal a White House run in 2016. An opponent of gay marriage, he signed a law yesterday banning therapy that tries to turn gay teenagers straight. It is the latest in a series of moves where he tries to stake out a middle ground on a very controversial issue. ABC's Gio Benitez is here with more on this story and good morning to you, Gio.

GIO BENITEZ: Good morning to you, Lara. Some conservatives may call Christie a traitor to the right. Pundits suggest, courting a fight on this issue may be part of his plan to show he's a Republican who can govern in a Democratic state. This morning, fresh outrages from voices on the right, opposing Governor Christie's decision to ban so-called gay conversion therapy for minors in New Jersey.

RUSH LIMBAUGH: The American Psychological Association has said gay conversion therapy can lead to mental health issues. Well, so can pornography. So can TV.

BENITEZ: Christie cited concerns that the practice could be harmful to children, leading to depression or suicide. Aides say Christie was reluctant to sign a law telling parents what to do, but that he also doesn't endorse therapy.

RICK KLEIN (ABC News political director): Chris Christie understands something very important in politics. 2013 comes before 2016. He has to win re-election in very blue New Jersey before he can even think about running for president.

BENITEZ: The decision, seen by some, as part of the governor's political tight rope act. While Christie does not support gay marriage–

CHRIS CHRISTIE: My view, my position is that marriage should be between one man and one woman.

BENITEZ: –he did say this in a 2011 CNN interview.

CHRISTIE: I have always believed that people are born with a predisposition to be homosexual. And so, I think if someone is born that way, it's very difficult to say then that that's a sin.

BENITEZ: And remember what he said about President Obama in 2011?

CHRISTIE: We've have a President who doesn't know how to lead?

BENITEZ: Following Super Storm Sandy, an all out bromance.

CHRISTIE: I cannot thank the President for his personal concern and compassion.

KLEIN: The Chris Christie brand is all about independence, a non-partisan person who leads the state of New Jersey in the best way he knows how.

BENITEZ: And while the therapy is banned for minors, it's perfectly legal for adults. New Jersey is only the second state to ban it. California banned it last year.

KLEIN: That's big news. All right, Gio. Thank you very, very much.

-- Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.