Matthews on Cheney Hunting Mishap: “Has Press Been Playing This Down?” Seriously

MSNBC’s Chris Matthews seriously asked on the 5pm EST edition of Tuesday’s Hardball, about media coverage of the Cheney hunting accident: “Has the press been playing this down?” Matthews exclaimed that he was “shocked” at how “this was bottom of the fold in the New York Times and the Washington Post yesterday.” He went on to claim: “I've talked to experts, they can't believe that the papers treated this as such a light issue.” Turning to guest Dee Dee Myers, Matthews contended: “I was kind of surprised, to put it lightly, to see that the major newspapers on the East coast had buried this story below the fold and it was only today that they brought it up above the fold." Matthews’ thesis was too ludicrous even for an astounded Myers, President Clinton’s one-time Press Secretary, who countered with common sense: "I don't think putting it on the front page is burying it, Chris, I think that was an appropriate placement for the story.” (Fuller transcript follows.)

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A little past 5:22pm EST on the February 14 Hardball, with Myers and David Gergen as his guest from remote locations, Matthews previewed what he planned to raise at the start of the next segment:

“I don't know about you David and Dee Dee, but you're press experts and I don't know if you were shocked like I was, this was bottom of the fold in the New York Times and the Washington Post yesterday. I’ve talked to experts, they can't believe that the papers treated this as such a light issue. It only moved up to the top of the fold front page today in both of those journals. I find that interesting, I want to talk to you when we come back. Has the press been playing this down, this story? [Myers snickers] We'll be back with Dee Dee and David.”

After the ad break, Matthews proposed:

“We're back with former Clinton White House Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers and former presidential advisor David Gergen, talking about the political ramifications of Vice President Cheney's shooting incident and his delay in reporting it to the country. Dee Dee, I guess this is a question of news judgment, but I was kind of surprised, to put it lightly, to see that the major newspapers on the East coast had buried this story below the fold and it was only today that they brought it up above the fold.”

Myers responded: “I don't think putting it on the front page is burying it, Chris, I think that was an appropriate placement for the story, but I think what's made this a bigger story was, is the incredibly poor handling...”

As for whether the media in general, beyond the two newspapers, are burying the story, in a Media Reality Check released Tuesday afternoon, “Our Top Story: Don’t You Dare Ignore Us; White House Reporters Furious that a Corpus Christi Newspaper Was First to Learn of Cheney Shooting,” the MRC’s Rich Noyes reported: “Since the news of Cheney’s shooting broke late Sunday afternoon, ABC, CBS and NBC aired 34 stories on their morning and evening newscasts....”
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