NBC Equates Madison to Egypt While Ignoring ‘Scott Stalin’ Placard, All Spike Obama’s Role

“On the broadcast tonight, the uprising at home,” teased NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams, touting “another day of fury in Wisconsin. Workers angry about what they call a plan to balance the budget on their backs.” Williams set up his Friday newscast by equating the left-wing protests with those against Arab dictatorships: “From the Mideast to the American Midwest tonight, people are rising up. Citizens uprisings are changing the world,” he championed, citing what “we’ve witnessed from Tunisia to Egypt” and now Wisconsin where “the state capitol has been taken over by the people.”

Without ever mentioning the involvement of President Obama’s Organizing for America, reporter John Yang trumpeted from Madison how “tens of thousands of public workers have come here to make their voices heard.” Scolding incivility certainly didn’t interest Yang, who cued up a protester to trash Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker without making any note of the sign he was holding which showed a hammer and sickle below “Scott Stalin.”

ABC and CBS on Friday night, as they did on Thursday night, ignored the instigation by Organizing for America as CBS’s Cynthia Bowers, who never identified anyone as liberal, concluded: “More protests are planned for tomorrow and for the first time conservative activists are calling upon their supporters -- including Tea Party groups -- to hold rallies of their own.”

In her CBS Evening News report, Bowers asserted as if it were an undisputed assessment: “In what began as a battle over one state budget, is now being billed as a national assault on unions.”

Her piece featured a teacher who oddly claimed: “Wisconsin, I think, is one of the last strong states left in the country and that's why this is so important.”

Back to the NBC Nightly News, as this exchange took place viewers got a brief glance, just before his on-camera soundbite, of the teacher holding the “Scott Stalin” sign. Larger jpg image. (Scroll down for a screen shot of O’Brien):

JOHN YANG: Milwaukee high school teacher Jim O'Brien blamed the Governor.

JIM O’BRIEN, TEACHER: We were kind of forced into this by our Governor not allowing us to have a voice in government.

A look at Thursday night’s coverage: “Nets Champion Wisconsin Public Employees ‘Rising Up’ in ‘Mutiny’ Against ‘Extreme Cuts’”

And Friday morning: “Networks that Railed Against Rhetoric of Tea Parties Offer No Comment on Hitler, Dictator Signs at Wis. Protests

From the Friday, February 18 NBC Nightly News:

BRIAN WILLIAMS: Good evening. From the Mideast to the American Midwest tonight, people are rising up. Citizens uprisings are changing the world. As we’ve witnessed from Tunisia to Egypt and now tonight from Libya to Bahrain, where today there was a violent crackdown and our reporters and cameras were there when shots were fired. But tonight we're going to begin in Wisconsin. The state capitol has been taken over by the people. Unions say the Governor is out to bust them. Democratic lawmakers have left the state. And tonight the Governor has now spoken. NBC's John Yang is right there in the middle of it in Madison, Wisconsin, for us tonight. John, good evening.

JOHN YANG: Good evening, Brian. Just a little bit ago Republican Governor Scott Walker came out. He defiantly compared the tens of thousands of state employees who are protesting here at the state capitol with what he said were the hundreds of thousands of workers who stayed on the jobs. He made it clear he is not budging.

PROTESTER: Show me what democracy looks like.

CROWD: This is what democracy looks like.

YANG: At the Wisconsin state capitol thousands of students, teachers and union members joined for a fourth straight day of mass protests. They're denouncing Republican Governor Scott Walker's plan to attack a projected $3.6 billion budget deficit.

LINDA O’BRIEN, TEACHER’S ASSISTANT: He's not thinking. He could sit down and rationally discuss this, but he's a chicken.

REGGIE WILLIAMS, TEACHER: We're not here just for money and salary, it's for rights.

YAMG: The most controversial parts of Walker's proposal would limit state workers collective bargaining rights and increase how much they pay for their pensions and health insurance. It would exempt police, firefighters and state troopers, groups that endorsed Walker in last year's election, but not teachers or prison guards, who did not back him.

STATE SENATOR GLENN GROTHMAN (R): People say I can't live with an 8 or 9 percent cut in take-home pay. I think my goodness, you should be happy to have a job.

YANG: Senate Democrats, who lost the majority last year, are blocking a vote by fleeing the state. They hope to force the Governor to the bargaining table. Senator John Urbenbach (sp a guess) spoke on MSNBC’s The Daily Rundown.

STATE SENATOR ON MSNBC: The Governor’s got to bring us to the table. He’s got to get everybody to sit down and come up with a better idea to repair the budget.

YANG, IN CROWD: This may look and sound like a sports arena, but this is the rotunda of the Wisconsin state capitol. Tens of thousands of public workers have come here to make their voices heard. Hundreds of teachers called in sick to join the protests. With so many here, at least 16 districts across the state were closed, including Milwaukee, the state's biggest, much to the dismay of parents.

NADINE WELLINGTON, PARENT: I'm stunned. We arrived here, ring the doorbell, no answer.

YANG: Milwaukee high school teacher Jim O'Brien blamed the Governor.

JIM O’BRIEN, TEACHER: We were kind of forced into this by our Governor not allowing us to have a voice in government.

YANG: At his news conference, the Governor rebuffed a proposed compromise put forward by the head of the biggest union representing public workers here in Wisconsin. He made clear he is not interested in negotiations.

CBS Evening News:

ERICA HILL: Thousands of protesters in the streets, teachers staging a mass sickout, the police hunting down lawmakers boycotting a controversial vote. It’s not happening in the Mideast, but right here in the American Midwest. Wisconsin is one of 45 states across the nation facing major budget shortfalls. And to cut the red ink, the state’s Republican Governor is targeting public employees and they are fighting back. Cynthia Bowers is in the state capital in Madison tonight. Cynthia?



CYNTHIA BOWERS: Good evening Erica. For a fourth straight day, this Wisconsin state capitol has been the scene of rowdy protests against the Governor’s plan. And again today, demonstrators announced their intention that they are not backing down. In Madison today, protesters upped the ante in numbers and in noise. In what began as a battle over one state budget, is now being billed as a national assault on unions. At issue is new Republican Governor Scott Walker’s plan to plug what he says is a $136 million hole in this year’s state budget by cutting benefits to nearly 300,000 public workers. But what has public sector workers at fever pitch is a call to end their rights to collective bargaining.

DAVE FRY, TEACHER: A lot of blood, sweat and tears went into getting to where we’re at now and we don’t want to let that go.

BOWERS: What they say they’d lose is the ability to negotiate as a group on wages and working conditions. For a second straight day, Senate Democrats refused to show up to work in order to delay a vote on the proposal and state troopers made a show of looking for them. Teachers too are playing hooky for a third day now, like Milwaukee school teacher Mary Ellen Sheehan.

MARY SHEEHAN: Wisconsin, I think, is one of the last strong states left in the country and that's why this is so important. And I do hope that-

BOWERS TO SHEEHAN: This is really kind of Ground Zero?

SHEEHAN: This is Ground Zero, yes.

BOWERS: The battle against the bill has also been joined by police and firefighters whose unions are not even affected by the bill as well as private sector unions.

BOWERS TO PROTESTER: This is a taxpayer issue, right?

PROTESTER: No, it's workers' rights issue.

BOWERS: Republican lawmakers say they hear the protests but are not going to change their vote.

STATE REP ROBIN VOS (R) We told people they were going to pay for their pensions and their health care and they overwhelmingly voted for the Republicans and conservatives across our state.

BOWERS: More protests are planned for tomorrow and for the first time conservative activists are calling upon their supporters -- including Tea Party groups -- to hold rallies of their own. Erica?

— Brent Baker is Vice President for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.

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