Today Show Hypes Christine O'Donnell's Witchcraft Past

Today co-anchor Matt Lauer, on Monday morning, couldn't wait to tell viewers about the revelation that Christine O'Donnell once admitted to practicing witchcraft, as he greeted viewers at the top of the very top of the show: "Casting a spell. She's already won her state's Republican Senate primary and captured headlines across the country. Now a video surfaces showing Christine O'Donnell admitting she dabbled in witchcraft as a high schooler." Lauer's colleague Kelly O'Donnell, then went on to dredge up clips from Bill Maher's old Politically Incorrect show as she called the Delaware GOP Senate nominee a "tempest in the Tea Party."

While most of Kelly O'Donnell's piece was devoted to Christine O'Donnell's "witchcraft talk" that didn't keep her from mentioning that the Tea Party was causing "tension" in the Alaska Senate race: "And there's more Tea Party tension brewing for Republicans. Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, who lost her primary, jumped back in the race." O'Donnell also aired a clip of Murkowski claiming her victorious primary opponent Joe Miller had "extremist views."

Continuing with the theme of a GOP at war with itself, O'Donnell did manage to note the Democrats had another problem altogether as she observed: "While some Republicans are fighting each other the President, appearing at a dinner for the Congressional Black Caucus, tried to inspire those disinterested Democrats to join the fight for November."

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

MATT LAUER: Now to politics, with the midterm elections only six weeks away, both parties are having to deal with the sudden impact of the Tea Party. NBC's Kelly O'Donnell is in Washington with more on that. Kelly, good morning to you.

[On screen headline: "Tempest In The Tea Party? O'Donnell Admits She 'Dabbled Into Witchcraft'"]

KELLY O'DONNELL: Good morning, Matt. Well the President is trying to help Democrats hold on to a vulnerable Senate seat in Pennsylvania today campaigning and raising money there, while Republicans have more turmoil to deal with. One GOP incumbent won't accept her defeat in a primary and there are more surprises about that newcomer who is certainly becoming a tempest in the Tea Party. Delaware's Republican Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell is stirring the pot.

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: They call us wacky, they call us wing nuts, we call us, "We the People."

KELLY O'DONNELL: Hours after she was cheered at a gathering for social conservatives in Washington D.C. an old clip of O'Donnell hit TV Friday, this strange comment from 1999.

(Begin clip from Politically Incorrect)

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: I dabbled in witchcraft. I never joined a coven, but I did, I did.

(End clip)

KELLY O'DONNELL: Comedian Bill Maher teased that unless she comes on his TV show again, he will release more.

(Begin clip from Politically Incorrect)

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: One of my first dates with a witch was on a Satanic altar and I didn't know it. And I mean there's a little blood there, and stuff like that.

BILL MAHER: That was a date?

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: Yeah we went to a movie and then like had a little midnight picnic on a Satanic altar.

MAHER: Let's have a movie and a sacrifice?

(End clip)

KELLY O'DONNELL: Citing schedule conflicts, O'Donnell backed out on two Sunday morning shows, prime media real estate for a candidate.

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: Late Friday night, her campaign cancelled.

BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS NEWS: She cancelled on us yesterday.

KELLY O'DONNELL: Instead O'Donnell campaigned at a picnic in Delaware where she made light of the witchcraft talk.

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: How many of you didn't hang out with questionable folks in high school. But, no, there's been no witchcraft since. If there was, Karl Rove would be a supporter now.

KELLY O'DONNELL: Democrats worked their own magic with a new TV ad hitting O'Donnell for past tax problems and old debt from her 2008 campaign.

(Begin ad clip)

ANNOUNCER: She'll fit right in, in Washington, O'Donnell spends money she doesn't have.

(End clip)

KELLY O'DONNELL: And there's more Tea Party tension brewing for Republicans. Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, who lost her primary, jumped back in the race. She was narrowly defeated by Tea Party conservative Joe Miller, who was endorsed by Sarah Palin.

LISA MURKOWSKI: We cannot accept the extremist views of Joe Miller.

KELLY O'DONNELL: Murkowski is defying the GOP leadership to run a write-in campaign that even she says will be tough to win.

MURKOWSKI: You don't think we can't fill in an oval and learn to spell Lisa Murkowski, we can figure this out.

KELLY O'DONNELL: While some Republicans are fighting each other the President, appearing at a dinner for the Congressional Black Caucus, tried to inspire those disinterested Democrats to join the fight for November.

BARACK OBAMA: Tell them we can't wait to organize. Tell them that the time for action is now.

KELLY O'DONNELL: And when asked about the influence of the Tea Party, former President Bill Clinton said that the voters responding to those candidates are showing good impulses because of the feelings that are out there this year, but he's not sure what their agenda would be. And Christine O'Donnell's advisers, when I asked them again about this witchcraft thing, reminded me of the kind of fun lines she tried to use there, saying, that if she were still practicing witchcraft, then Karl Rove would be one of her supporters, not her detractors. So they're trying to make light of it. Matt?

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