Like Father Like Son, NBC's Today Show Covers Ben Quayle Like He's a Joke

NBC's Kelly O'Donnell, in a story aired on Friday's Today show, traveled to Arizona to profile Republican Ben Quayle's run for Congress and in the process gave Dan Quayle's son the same sort of treatment the former Vice President received from the media, as the NBC correspondent treated him like a joke. While O'Donnell briefly mentioned that Ben Quayle is a small business owner, the thrust of her piece was making light of foibles of the son and even father.

In her story O'Donnell aired a joke from her NBC colleague Jay Leno to make fun of a Quayle campaign mailer, pressed Quayle to deny he "wrote under the name Brock Landers, a porn star character from the movie Boogie Nights" for a blog and of course dredged up old footage of his dad misspelling the word potato and being ridiculed by Lloyd Bentsen in a 1988 vice presidential debate. [audio available here]

The following is the full O'Donnell story as it was aired on the August 20 Today show:

MEREDITH VIEIRA: As Vice President, Dan Quayle became well acquainted with the rough-and-tumble world of politics. Now his son is jumping into the fray running for Congress in Arizona and he is already facing some criticism. NBC's Kelly O'Donnell is in Scottsdale with details. Kelly, good morning to you.

[On screen headline: "Like Father, Like Son, Ben Quayle Runs For Congress"]

KELLY O'DONNELL: Good morning, Meredith. Well Tuesday is the Republican primary here in Arizona and Ben Quayle says growing up with all those pressures in politics and being a small business owner today has prepared him. Well it sure helps to have a thick skin because he is already taking some knocks and drawing attention.

(Begin ad clip)

BEN QUAYLE: Barack Obama is the worst President in history.

(End clip)

O'DONNELL: It is brash. And with that, the Quayle name is back in national politics.

(Begin ad clip)

BEN QUAYLE: Somebody has to go to Washington and knock the hell out of the place.

(End clip)

BEN QUAYLE TO O'DONNELL: I have great respect for the Office of the President and I didn't take those, this statement lightly.

O'DONNELL: Ben Quayle was just a kid when his father Dan served as Vice President under George H.W. Bush. Now 33 and newly married, Ben is a lawyer and has a small investment firm with about 20 employees, running for an open seat in Congress, in Phoenix and Scottsdale, where his parents Dan and Marilyn and siblings now live.

BEN QUAYLE: I saw the bad side of politics. I saw what they did to my father and what my family had to go through and I didn't know if I wanted to put my own family through that.

(Old clip of Dan Quayle)

DAN QUAYLE: Potato.

O'DONNELL: Dan Quayle's stumbles made him a punch line, mocked with no mercy when he misspelled the word "potato" adding an "e" and that stinging jab at the vice presidential debate.

LLOYD BENTSEN: I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy.

O'DONNELL: Did you expect your father might take a few hits with you as a candidate?

BEN QUAYLE: Well as a Quayle you kind of know you have a target on your back. We're used to that. Doesn't make it any easier.

O'DONNELL: Now Ben gets the late night treatment.

JAY LENO: Now Dan Quayle, remember Dan Quayle, former Vice President?

O'DONNELL: Jay Leno and Quayle's Republican opponents took shots at this campaign mailer, where Quayle talks about raising a family in Arizona.

LENO: The trouble is he doesn't have any kids. They're rented for the brochure!

O'DONNELL: In fact, those little girls are Quayle's nieces. But for a family values candidate, another controversy has caused quite a stir. Quayle admits he wrote racy blog posts for a website called the Dirty Scottsdale a few years ago. That site says Quayle wrote under the name Brock Landers, a porn star character from the movie Boogie Nights, but he denies that.

(Clip from the movie Boogie Nights)

BEN QUAYLE: I am not Brock Landers.

O'DONNELL: Do you regret even being involved at all?

BEN QUAYLE: The only downfall of this whole thing is that a terrible website has gotten a lot of attention and a lot of free publicity.

O'DONNELL: But do you regret your own contribution?

BEN QUAYLE: You know I can't look back and, and think about regrets. I'm looking forward to the future. That's what the American people want.

O'DONNELL: Well, Ben Quayle certainly has the name recognition here, but he is in a crowded field, one of 10 Republicans trying to get the nomination. He also has the most money. He's raised more than a million dollars and former President Bush, George H. W. Bush, even held a fundraiser for him at his home. Meredith?"

VIEIRA: Alright, Kelly O'Donnell, thank you very much.

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