Has Good Morning America cohost Lara Spencer taken leave of her senses? Or did she simply take leave of her feet on Tuesday to sit in Donald Trump’s lap?
A photograph of the physically close encounter between the robustly-polling Republican presidential candidate and the ABC News on-air personality—which Spencer posted on her Instagram account Tuesday, a few hours after Trump dropped by the morning show to be interviewed by co-host and chief ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos—certainly gives that impression.
But according to network sources, Spencer was actually standing upright beside Trump, who was perched on a high stool, when she draped her left arm around the White House contender’s left shoulder and smiled.
Trump looked up at her and flashed a Cheshire grin, with his right hand supporting the small of her back. Spencer’s right arm is draped across Trump’s mid-section.
After criticism began to circulate on social media about the photograph, Spencer, who was said to be on her way to Nashville on assignment, posted this message to Instagram: “Let’s clear this up – I’m standing next to Donald Trump. Said a quick hello and welcomed him to the GMA studio for first time since he announced his candidacy.”
So much for the toxic relationship between Republican politicians and the news media—although Spencer, like scores of New York-based journalists (including this writer), has known the real estate mogul and reality television star for a good long while.
Apparently, the controversial photo-op came about when a GMA photographer caught Spencer and the candidate greeting each other and joking about her “Donald Trump” Halloween costume on last Friday’s show during a break between Stephanopoulos’s two-part interview with Trump in the program’s 7:30 a.m. and 8 a.m. blocks.
Spencer, whose morning show ostensibly operates under the standards and practices of ABC News, then posted the photograph on Instagram.
The image—in which the subjects’ legs are not visible—drew negative comments after Spencer posted it on Tuesday afternoon.
“Unprofessional,” wrote one of Spencer’s Instagram followers.
Another commented: “this guy disrepects women does not apologize and you welcome him with open arms. That’s what’s wrong with America.”
Another commenter opined: “I can’t help not liking this...looks wrong to me from every point of view.”
And another: “I would seriously delete this post QUICKLY! You are a professional. Sitting on his lap. Really? I think it’s inappropriate. I’m sorry...”
As of this writing, there was no indication that Spencer or ABC News would be taking the last commenter’s advice and removing the offending photo. The Daily Beast was awaiting a comment from ABC News.