ABC, CBS & NBC Hype Kennedy's 'Cover-Up' Charge Over CIA Video

Taking their lead from liberal Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy, the three broadcast networks all screamed “cover-up” Friday night as ABC and NBC led with Democratic complaints about the CIA destroying video of some interrogations of terrorists while CBS made it the second story -- though Katie Couric teased it with “Cover-Up?” on screen under video of Kennedy. “Tonight, charges of a cover-up by the CIA,” Charles Gibson teased World News, “why were videotapes of its secret interrogations of al-Qaeda suspects destroyed?” Gibson set up his lead story by asserting “congressional leaders are in an uproar tonight over a secret they were never told, and will now never know,” as if leaders of both parties were “in an uproar.” In the subsequent story, however, all four soundbites from members of the House or Senate came from Democrats (two of the four from Kennedy). Couric got it correct as she highlighted how “today Democrats demanded a criminal investigation.”

Brian Williams teased the NBC Nightly News: “On the broadcast tonight, was it a CIA cover-up? New fallout after revelations the CIA may have destroyed videotape evidence in the U.S. war on terror.”

Transcripts of the teases and story leads on the Friday, December 7 evening newscasts, as compiled by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth:

ABC's World News:
TEASE FROM CHARLES GIBSON: Tonight, charges of a cover-up by the CIA. Why were videotapes of its secret interrogations of al-Qaeda suspects destroyed?

GIBSON OPENED: Good evening. Congressional leaders are in an uproar tonight over a secret they were never told, and will now never know. They are demanding an investigation into why the CIA, in the year 2005, destroyed videotapes that were made during the interrogations of two top al-Qaeda suspects, interrogations using so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques." Our national security correspondent, Jonathan Karl, is joining us now with a story that has pretty much consumed Washington today.
Karl properly identified the complainers as Democrats: “Democratic leaders compared the CIA's actions to the Watergate scandal...” His story featured four soundbites from House or Senate members, all Democrats: Senator Ted Kennedy, Senator Dick Durbin, Congresswoman Jane Harman and Kennedy again.

Following Karl, Gibson did refer to “Washington Democrats” as he turned to Jane Crawford Greenburg to discuss the prospects for an obstruction of justice case.


CBS Evening News:
KATIE COURIC, IN OPENING TEASER: Also tonight, serious allegations against the CIA.

SENATOR TED KENNEDY, WITH “COVER-UP?” ON SECREEN: Cover-up.
COURIC: That's what critics are calling the destruction of interrogation videos, and they're calling for a criminal investigation.

COURIC, INTRODUCING THE SECOND STORY (after the Omaha shooting): Now to the uproar in Congress over the CIA tape case. The agency acknowledged yesterday that it destroyed videotapes of its interrogations of two terror suspects. Today Democrats demanded a criminal investigation. David Martin has the latest.

NBC Nightly News:
BRIAN WILLIAMS, IN OPENING TEASER: On the broadcast tonight, was it a CIA cover-up? New fallout after revelations the CIA may have destroyed videotape evidence in the U.S. war on terror.

WILLIAMS LED: Good evening. For people who make their living in secret, the U.S. intelligence community sure has been in the news a lot this week. First, we learned they don't think Iran is trying to build a nuclear weapon anymore. Then yesterday we learned that when CIA interrogators used waterboarding to question al-Qaeda operatives, some of it was apparently videotaped. But those videotapes were apparently destroyed two years ago. The problem here is waterboarding is considered by many a form of torture. And when investigators asked for those tapes, they were told they never existed. So critics today, as you might imagine, were howling and using words like "cover-up." We begin here tonight with NBC's Andrea Mitchell.
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