Buckley Hailed, But NBC Chastises Him on McCarthy, Race & AIDS

ABC, CBS and NBC on Wednesday night delivered laudatory tributes to the late William F. Buckley, Jr., but while ABC's Charles Gibson, as well as Katie Couric and Richard Schlesinger on CBS, stuck to the positive and his many achievements as an editor, author and TV show host, NBC anchor Brian Williams couldn't resist including a political slap from the left on the day Buckley passed away at age 82:

Buckley paid dearly for some of his words: His defense of Senator Joe McCarthy, his early views on race and remarks he made about AIDS, saying those with AIDS should be tattooed to prevent its spread.
ABC anchor Charles Gibson hailed how “Buckley loved debate. Loved to provoke. And love him or hate him, agree or disagree with him, no one could deny he was one of the country's finest minds....His message was, in essence, an intellectual war on big government. And a passion for the free market. Delivered with dazzling language and a bone-dry wit.”

On the CBS Evening News, Katie Couric used a word -- “sesquipedalian” -- it's doubtful she's ever uttered before, as evidenced by how she tripped up pronouncing it: “It wasn't just what Buckley said but how he said it -- slouched in a chair, ears twitching, eyes popping, tongue wagging and that swess, sesquipedalian vocabulary. He loved long words.”

CBS reporter Richard Schlesinger described Buckley as “an intellectual Godfather of the right wing” and “a renaissance man.” The closest CBS got to anything negative was this soundbite from Katrina vanden Heuvel, Editor of the left-wing The Nation magazine, but it was in the context of admiration: “We both had a respect for ideas as part of our politics. I think some of his ideas, many were koo-koo.”

Williams had plenty of praise for Buckley as he introduced his February 27 NBC Nightly News look at Buckley's life:
William F. Buckley died today and it's safe to say this about him: If you ever saw him on television you'd remember it. When he spoke his face and his brain were pretty much equally active. He was equal parts passion and smarts. And he's being remembered tonight as the father of the modern day conservative political movement in the United States.
Later in the taped piece, however, Williams felt compelled to recall some of Buckley's views through a critical prism:
WILLIAMS: He hosted his TV show Firing Line longer than Johnny Carson hosted the Tonight Show. He founded National Review and was an early backer of Ronald Reagan.

RONALD REAGAN: National Review is my favorite magazine.

WILLIAMS: Buckley paid dearly for some of his words: His defense of Senator Joe McCarthy, his early views on race and remarks he made about AIDS, saying those with AIDS should be tattooed to prevent its spread. His was a recipient of the presidential Medal of Freedom...
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