On Today: Will Democrats Lose 'Ted Kennedy's Seat?'

With Massachusetts State Senator Scott Brown surging in the polls, NBC's Today show, on Friday, assigned Kelly O'Donnell to highlight the race for the open Senate seat in Massachusetts pitting Brown against Martha Coakley and the NBC reporter – even after airing Brown's zinger that "it's not the Kennedy seat...it's the people's seat," – ordained it "the Kennedy seat."

Today co-host Matt Lauer, in introducing the O'Donnell piece (that incidentally was accompanied by the on screen headline: Will Democrats Lose Ted Kennedy's Seat?") also read from the same song book: "Now to politics and the race to fill Ted Kennedy's Senate seat."

Over on ABC's Good Morning America Jake Tapper avoided describing the seat as the Kennedy family's personal property in his report that noted "there's a big question...as to whether President Obama will campaign in that special election for the Massachusetts Senate seat...because if the Democrat loses, all bets are off," and warned "It looks like health care might sink." CBS's The Early show aired nothing about the Senate race.

The following is a complete transcript of O'Donnell's profile of the race as it was aired on the January 15 Today show:

MATT LAUER: Now to politics and the race to fill the late Ted Kennedy's Senate seat. A special election will be held next week in Massachusetts, and right now, a Republican leads in the polls. NBC's Kelly O'Donnell's in Washington. Kelly, good morning to you.

KELLY O'DONNELL: Good morning, Matt. This really is a stunner. Even a week ago, few would have imagined that the seat held by the late Ted Kennedy, John F. Kennedy, for half a century could be in trouble for Democrats, but now two candidates who are very interesting are getting a lot of attention. Predictions that Martha Coakley could raise a glass to an easy win faded fast. The popular Massachusetts attorney general has the national Democratic Party nervous. The 60th seat needed for their majority, on the line.

[On screen headline: "Senate Showdown, Will Democrats Lose Ted Kennedy's Seat?"]

MARTHA COAKLEY: We know the whole country's looking at this race.

O'DONNELL: While Republicans across the country are delighted about their less well-known candidate, state senator Scott Brown.

SCOTT BROWN: With all due respect, it's not the Kennedy seat and it's not the Democrat's seat. It's the people's seat.

O'DONNELL: The idea that the Kennedy seat could go red jolted the Democrats' national campaign team to spend hundreds of thousands on TV time.

(Begin ad clip)

ANNOUNCER: Brown wants to be the deciding vote to kill Ted Kennedy's legislation.

(End ad clip)

O'DONNELL: Politics can be full of hard knocks, but even this is unusual. A Coakley aide seen on video body-blocking a reporter from the conservative Weekly Standard.

(Clip of confrontation)

O'DONNELL: And Scott Brown's campaign has its own twists. First, Brown's wife, Gail Huff, a veteran Boston TV reporter, stays out of his campaign ads and events to avoid a conflict as her TV station covers the race.

GAIL HUFF: Live from Harvard I'm Gail Huff, Newscenter 5.

O'DONNELL: While their daughter-

(Clip from American Idol featuring daughter singing on American Idol)

SIMON COWELL: For the first time, for me, I saw some emotion.

(End clip)

O'DONNELL: -is very visible and earned her own pop fame. An American Idol in 2006. And wow! Voters have seen a little bit more than they expected of Scott Brown, when this 1982 nude photo layout resurfaced. Brown had won a sexiest man contest in Cosmopolitan magazine. For Coakley, her first international attention and controversy came in 1997, prosecuting the case known as the shaken baby nanny trial of Louise Woodward. The verdict from Massachusetts voters could come down to turnout.

GLENN JOHNSON, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: Nobody's really sure of the group who's going to turn out and how best do you actually measure who's gonna go out on a cold winter day and vote in an election that a lot of people still haven't even actually heard about.

O'DONNELL: And that's really the key, because a special election tends to only draw the most fervent voters. Democrats do have an advantage in numbers. There are more registered Democrats in Massachusetts, but the intensity seems to be on the conservative side. And of course, this has so many implications, Matt. The Obama White House is watching it very closely. Matt?

LAUER: I would imagine, Kelly. Thank you very much.

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.