NBC's Williams Avoids Controversy With Edwards, Not With Giuliani

Three weeks ago, when NBC anchor Brian Williams interviewed Rudy Giuliani, Williams raised Giuliani's closeness to Bernard Kerik and pressed him on Iraq as he pointed out how 2007 had become “the bloodiest year” in the war, but in an interview with John Edwards aired Tuesday night, Williams stuck to softballs and didn't bring up the indictment of a major Edwards donor or push Edwards about how the “surge” in Iraq he rejected is working. The two interviews are the most recent in the “Making of the President” series on the NBC Nightly News.

In the taped session with Republican presidential candidate Giuliani aired on November 6, Williams inquired: “Let's talk about your friend Bernard Kerik. Press reports are, as recently as today, that he could be a few days away from indictment, perhaps. When was the last time, first of all, that you spoke with him?” And on Giuliani supporting the war: “We just learned today '07 is the bloodiest year in Iraq. What would you do in Iraq starting today?”

But with Democratic candidate Edwards Tuesday night, Williams stuck to the horse race and sympathetic personal issues, wondering about the impact of Oprah Winfrey -- “a formidable celebrity” -- campaigning for Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton's contention she will be the nominee, the status of his wife's health and Williams cued him up to elucidate his foreign policy expertise: “If you had to pick one, what one foreign country, currently, keeps John Edwards up at night?”

Back on September 20, the Washington Post reported that “Democrat John Edwards's list of bundlers includes well-known fellow trial lawyer William S. Lerach, who raised $80,000 from his family and law firm partners for the candidate...”

Just over a month later, the October 30 Washington Post recounted Lerach's illegal conduct:
The California plaintiff's attorney who helped turn class-action lawsuits into a lucrative trend pleaded guilty yesterday to a conspiracy charge stemming from his role in a wide-ranging kickback scheme.

William S. Lerach, 61, acknowledged in a Los Angeles courtroom that he and his former partners at the Milberg Weiss firm hid payments to people who served as repeat plaintiffs in their class-action suits.

According to federal prosecutors, the lawyers found people who held shares -- often only a few -- in companies that were accused of fraud. By getting those people to sign up as early plaintiffs in civil lawsuits against the companies, Lerach and his firm were able to exert greater control over the cases and reap additional fees. In all, the scheme infected more than 150 cases over the past two decades, bringing Lerach and his partners well over $200 million, according to court papers.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, Lerach will face as many as two years in prison when he is sentenced Jan. 14. He is scheduled to pay the government nearly $8 million in fines and penalties....
The MRC's Brad Wilmouth collected the questions Williams posed in the excerpts aired of the two interviews:

Giuliani segment on the November 6 NBC Nightly News:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Earlier today in Washington, we sat down with the national front-runner in the race for the GOP presidential nomination, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Walking around Washington, the native New Yorker says he likes the capital city just fine. He first moved there after he became a Republican. And as part of our "Making of a President" series, we started off today by talking about that decision.

WILLIAMS: What does Washington, coming back to this city, mean to you?

WILLIAMS: You've been fairly tough recently on Senator Clinton. What are your personal feelings about the Senator?

WILLIAMS: Let's talk about your friend Bernard Kerik. Press reports are, as recently as today, that he could be a few days away from indictment, perhaps. When was the last time, first of all, that you spoke with him?
GIULIANI: Maybe six months ago, a year ago. I don't remember.
WILLIAMS: That long?
GIULIANI: Yeah, a long time.

WILLIAMS: Will you stand by him, support him if, in fact, he's indicted?

WILLIAMS: Were you stung by at all or amused by what Joe Biden said about you in Philadelphia last Tuesday night? He diagramed a Rudy Giuliani sentence: noun, verb, 9/11. It was the biggest laugh line of the night. You're laughing now.

WILLIAMS: We just learned today '07 is the bloodiest year in Iraq. What would you do in Iraq starting today?

WILLIAMS: Would you consider going, between now and the presidential election to Iraq?

WILLIAMS: You are, looking around the rest of the party, an aberration. Can we agree on that point?

WILLIAMS: Is your message going to continue to be, can you afford it to continue to be, "Take me as I am."
Edwards segment on the November 27 NBC Nightly News:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Tonight, "In Depth," we continue our "Making of the President" series with our conversation here in New York today with Senator John Edwards. The former Democratic Senator from North Carolina ran for VP under Senator Kerry last time. This time, he's made a huge investment in Iowa, where a lot of the talk instead is about Clinton and Obama. This weekend, he's up against the high wattage barnstorming of Bill Clinton and Oprah Winfrey. I started out by asking Senator Edwards what effect that might have on his campaign.

WILLIAMS: Oprah Winfrey, though, is a formidable celebrity in this country.

WILLIAMS: Newsweek ran a piece recently that said, in effect, where John Edwards is concerned, no more Mr. Nice Guy.

WILLIAMS: Senator Clinton yesterday told an interviewer she was certain she would be the nominee.
EDWARDS: If she's certain she's living in a fantasy world...

WILLIAMS: How is your wife's health?
EDWARDS: She's doing very well...

WILLIAMS: As an issue, as a dynamic in the campaign, has it been more or less than you expected it would be, once you announced the diagnosis?

WILLIAMS: If you had to pick one, what one foreign country, currently, keeps John Edwards up at night?
EDWARDS: Pakistan.
WILLIAMS: Why?
EDWARDS: Because they have a nuclear weapon...

WILLIAMS: I'm trying to get a handle on your mindset. Can it be said you're content with where you are, given the investment of time and money you've put into this race so far?
EDWARDS: No, absolutely not...

WILLIAMS: I read one profile saying there was a rage inside you on the campaign trail. Is that accurate?
EDWARDS: No, I think there's a huge passion...
This MSNBC.com page now features Flash video of the full interview with Edwards and what aired on Nightly News with Giuliani.

This page has video of what aired on Nightly News of Edwards and the full interview with Giuliani.
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