CBS Befuddled by How Tea Party Candidates Have Survived Despite Their ‘Unusual Assertions’

ABC, CBS and NBC all ran full stories Monday night on how an old video clip showed Delaware Republican Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell talking about how, as a high-schooler, she had “dabbled into witchcraft.” CBS, however, used O’Donnell to pivot to marveling at how other Tea Party-affiliated Senate candidates remain viable despite what CBS considers exotic views.  

“Christine O'Donnell's witchcraft comments may have spooked some Republican leaders,” Nancy Cordes related on the CBS Evening News, “but her fellow Tea Party Senate candidates are living prove that unusual assertions are not necessarily campaign killers.” Cordes elaborated with some contestable summaries of positions expressed:
Take Kentucky's Rand Paul who questioned the historic civil rights act, but is still tied with the Democrat in a recent poll. Nevada's Sharron Angle is neck and neck with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, even after she advocated an armed insurrection against the government. And Utah attorney Mike Lee is crushing his Democratic rival even though Lee favors dismantling Social Security and eliminating unemployment benefits. Priorities he shares with Alaska's Joe Miller.
Katie Couric set up the story: “Republicans were counting on picking up a Democratic Senate seat in Delaware. That is until Tea Party favorite Christine O'Donnell won the GOP nomination. Will her past statements about, among other things, witchcraft, come back to haunt her?”

On ABC’s World News, Jonathan Karl finally delivered a broadcast network mention of reasoning that should be “haunting” O’Donnell’s Democratic opponent:
And O'Donnell isn't the only one haunted by past statements. Politico obtained this article, “The Making of a Bearded Marxist,” where the Democratic candidate, Chris Coons, wrote in his college paper that “my own favorite beliefs in the miracles of free enterprise and the boundless opportunities to be had in America might be largely untrue.” Not surprisingly, Coons says he won't make an issue out of old comments.
Unsaid: Politico “obtained this article,” from the Amherst College student newspaper, back in May. Politico’s May 3 headline: “Coons took 'bearded Marxist' turn.” It took four months for someone at a network to care.

(An oddity: Every network -- cable and broadcast -- but CBS managed to obtain a good quality version of the 1999 Politically Incorrect clip played by Bill Maher on his HBO show on Friday night, even if just from a recording of the HBO program which has been re-run several times by the pay-cable channel. CBS, in contrast, played a low quality clip, with awful audio, lifted from a Web video on the left-wing Think Progress site.)

Friday night: “CBS Dishonestly Touts 'Non-Partisan Watchdog' Group's Quest for a 'Criminal Investigation' of Christine O'Donnell”

The piece on the Monday, September 20 CBS Evening News:
KATIE COURIC: Republicans were counting on picking up a Democratic Senate seat in Delaware. That is until Tea Party favorite Christine O'Donnell won the GOP nomination. Will her past statements about, among other things, witchcraft, come back to haunt her? Congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes reads the tea leaves.

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL, ON POLITICALLY INCORRECT IN 1999: Because I dabbled into witchcraft, I hung around people who were doing these things.

NANCY CORDES: Christine O'Donnell's witchcraft comments may have spooked some Republican leaders.

KARL ROVE: She's got to deal with it and explain it.

CORDES: But her fellow Tea Party Senate candidates are living prove that unusual assertions are not necessarily campaign killers.

RAND PAUL: Watch out, here we come.

CORDES: Take Kentucky's Rand Paul who questioned the historic civil rights act, but is still tied with the Democrat in a recent poll. Nevada's Sharron Angle is neck and neck with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, even after she advocated an armed insurrection against the government.

LAURA MYERS, LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: Senator Reid still is not very popular in Nevada because a lot of people blame the bad economy on him.

CORDES: And Utah attorney Mike Lee is crushing his Democratic rival even though Lee favors dismantling Social Security and eliminating unemployment benefits. Priorities he shares with Alaska's Joe Miller.

LARRY SABATO, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: Here's the difference: Delaware is a Democratic state and those other Tea Party states are either competitive purple or Republican red.

CORDES: Back in Delaware, supporters of Christine O'Donnell-

O'DONNELL ON POLITICALLY INCORRECT: One of my favorite first dates was with a witch on a satanic altar and I didn't know it.

CORDES: -say they're not fazed by the latest skeleton in her closet.

MAN: I'm going to vote for people on what they're running on, not what they did 20 years ago because I'd never get elected myself if that happened.

CORDES: O'Donnell was a frequent guest on comedian Bill Maher's program back in the 1990s and he plans to release more colorful clips like that one. For now, she's laughing off the threat saying, “Hey, Bill wanted ratings, I gave them to him.” Katie?
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