NBC/MSNBC: Sheehan's the New Walter Cronkite, Driving a “Tipping Point” on War

<a href="media/2005-08-25-NBCNN.wmv"><img hspace="0" border="0" align="right" src="media/2005-08-25-NBCNNCronkite.jpg" /></a>&quot;As the 1960s protest song said, 'there's something happening here,'” <i>NBC Nightly News</i> anchor Brian Williams reminisced Thursday evening as he introduced an “In Depth” segment trumpeting the influence of Cindy Sheehan -- a story, when replayed on MSNBC's <i>Countdown</i>, fill-in host <a href="http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3080448/">Amy Robach</a> framed around how “there are those who wonder if attitudes toward the war could be reaching a tipping point and whether the Gold Star mom could be the driving force.” Reporter <a href="http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3688994/">Carl Quintanilla</a> allowed a couple of critics to denounce Sheehan, but his story was centered around touting her impact: “Sheehan, say some historians, may be evolving as an icon in the war's turning point, if this is one. For three weeks, she's dominated headlines, mobilized protesters” and made “it safe, her supporters say, to voice doubts about the war, just as Walter Cronkite did on the <i>Evening News</i> in 1968.” Viewers were then treated to 1968 video of Cronkite taking on the Vietnam war: “To say that we are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, yet unsatisfactory, conclusion.”<br /><br />In between soundbites from liberal historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, Quintanilla fretted about “a peace movement without a way home.” Goodwin rued: “That's the difficulty. We don't know what to do with the peace movement, what does it actually mean?” Quintanilla concluded by admiring Sheehan's influence, a pedestal the media provided: “Historians say we won't know Cindy Sheehan's place in the war until the war itself is history. And whether you agree with her or not, she sits waiting for one conversation, and has unleashed another.” <br />(Video: <a href="media/2005-08-25-NBCNN.wmv">Windows Media Player</a> or <a href="media/2005-08-25-NBCNN.rm">Real Media</a>) <p /><p>Full transcript, and Williams' plug on his blog for this story, follows. <br /><br /><!--break-->On his <a href="http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8701416/#050825b">“The Daily Nightly” blog Thursday afternoon</a>, Williams championed the story: “Also tonight: a piece we've been talking about and reporting on for a few days. The working title: the Sheehan Effect. We'll look at the protest movement against the Iraq war -- and the efforts this week to counter it. On the broadcast last night we reported the plans of Sheehan's group to follow the President wherever he goes. We'll do the same with this story.”<br /><br /><img hspace="0" border="0" align="right" src="media/2005-08-25-MSNBCCountAR.jpg" />I corrected the closed-captioning against the DVR of Carl Quintanilla's piece, to provide this full transcript of what aired on the August 25 <i>NBC Nightly News</i> and MSNBC's <i>Countdown with Keith Olbermann</i>, but without Olbermann: </p><blockquote>Williams: “We're back with NBC News 'In Depth' tonight, and as the 1960s protest song said, 'there's something happening here.' This time it's about a war overseas and the moral high ground here at home. Cindy Sheehan, whose son was killed in Iraq, is back tonight in Crawford, Texas, still asking for that meeting with President Bush, but acknowledging now that it probably won't happen. Sheehan's protest has encouraged other military families to speak out against the war. And now, it's also encouraging some military families to speak out against her. In Depth tonight, NBC's Carl Quintanilla on the Sheehan factor.”<br /><br />Quintanilla, over video of woman playing with kids: “Tracy Metry (sp?) is not a gold-star mom for peace. She's not protesting in Texas, but Cindy Sheehan-” <br /><br />Metry pointing out picture to a girl: “This is where she's camped.”<br /><br />Quintanilla: “-has her thinking.”<br /><br />Metry: “I think it's really important that in this day and age that we question things that don't seem right to us.”<br /><br />Quintanilla: “Sheehan, say some historians, may be evolving as an icon in the war's turning point, if this is one. For three weeks, she's dominated headlines, mobilized protesters-” <br /><br />Man: “She's taking a stand.”<br /><br />Quintanilla: “-both with and without relatives in Iraq.”<br /><br />Cindy Sheehan: “They don't have what I like to call skin in the game, but we are all affected.”<br /><br />Quintanilla: “Making it safe, her supporters say, to voice doubts about the war, just as Walter Cronkite did on the Evening News in 1968.”<br /><br />Historic video of Walter Cronkite, February 27, 1968: “To say that we are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, yet unsatisfactory, conclusion.”<br /><br />Doris Kearns Goodwin, presidential historian: “I think that's what is possible, that somehow her protest and her vigil will make more people empathize with the casualties than have previously done so.” <br /><br />Quintanilla, over video of of pro and anti-war protesters: “This isn't Vietnam, of course. There's no military draft to spark campus violence. But the dynamic is similar: Two sides, clustering around the unassailable. Military families either arguing to bring the troops home [protesters shouting “Shamed on Bush”], or warning that doubting the troops' mission [man yelling “you're killing the troops”] is what Vietnam taught us not to do.” <br /><br />Howard Kaloogian, Move America Forward: “Cindy Sheehan's protests drives us to a Vietnam-type state of fatigue.”<br /><br />Quintanilla: “Kathy Schrodel (sp?) was inspired to protest against Sheehan.” <br /><br />Schrodel: “I said, I have got to join this caravan. She's saying America's not worth dying for. I mean, what kind of a statement is that?”<br /><br />Quintanilla: “Sheehan's legacy as an icon may be limited by this, while a nearly half of Americans call the war a mistake, fewer than one in three say bringing all the troops home now is the answer. Like John Bejarano, a Republican who feels misled about Iraq, but adds:” <br /><br />Bejarano: “To leave now would just simply doom it to failure, I think.”<br /><br />Sheehan on megaphone: “Have you ever heard the sound of a nation-” <br /><br />Man on megaphone: “-being rocked to sleep?”<br /><br />Quintanilla: “A peace movement without a way home.”<br /><br />Doris Kearns Goodwin: “That's the difficulty. We don't know what to do with the peace movement, what does it actually mean?”<br /><br />Quintanilla, over vide of people hugging Sheehan followed by video of her on a cell phone: “Historians say we won't know Cindy Sheehan's place in the war until the war itself is history. And whether you agree with her or not, she sits waiting for one conversation, and has unleashed another [man chanting “USA! USA!”]. Carl Quintanilla, NBC News, Chicago.”</blockquote>

Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center