Today Show Highlights Christine O'Donnell 'Struggling' in Debate, Ignores Chris Coons Fumble

  NBC's Meredith Vieira previewed Thursday's Today show coverage of the Delaware Senate debate by teasing viewers about "the one question that left [Christine] O'Donnell struggling for an answer" but Vieira, nor Kelly O'Donnell in her full report, bothered to note her Democratic opponent, Chris Coons, completely fumbling a basic question about property taxes. NBC's Kelly O'Donnell excerpted a moment from the debate unfavorable to Christine O'Donnell as she relayed: "On the Supreme Court O'Donnell stumbled much like Sarah Palin, when asked to name a recent decision she opposes." However Kelly O'Donnell failed to excerpt an embarrassing moment for Coons when he stumbled on a question about raising property taxes three times in one year, as he awkwardly responded: "Research into what would reveal that, it's difficult, it's complicated."

NBC's O'Donnell also, not surprisingly, highlighted Christine O'Donnell's "controversial witch comments" as she accompanied a sound bite from the debate on the topic with a clip from Bill Maher's old Politically Incorrect show, but when it came to mentioning Coon's past the NBC correspondent matter of factly noted: "Coons comes from a wealthy family and has two graduate degrees from Yale."

The following teaser and full segment were aired on the October 14 Today show:

[7:00am]

MEREDITH VIEIRA: Feisty debate. Delaware's Senate candidates exchange jabs on everything from taxes to health care to each other's past.

CHRIS COONS: Miss O'Donnell has experience at running for office, but not at really running anything...What would you do in Washington?

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: You're just jealous that you weren't on Saturday Night Live.

VIEIRA: This morning the one question that left O'Donnell struggling for an answer.

...

[7:06am]

MEREDITH VIEIRA: Here at home, the midterm elections are now just 19 days away and one of the more interesting races is in Delaware to fill Vice President Joe Biden's old Senate seat. Last night the candidates faced off in their first debate. NBC's Kelly O'Donnell is in Newark, Delaware with details. Kelly, good morning to you.

[On screen headline: "Delaware Debate, O'Donnell & Coons Clash On Policy And Personality"]

KELLY O'DONNELL: Good morning, Meredith. There has been so much spectacle around this race since Christine O'Donnell's upset win in the primary. A lot of attention paid to things that she said years ago on television and relatively little notice given to the Democrat who's actually leading in most polls. But here, for a longer than ususal 90 minutes, it was nearly all about substance.

(Begin debate clip)

MODERATOR: Under President Bush. Yes or no?

CHRIS COONS: Yes.

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: No.

(End clip)

KELLY O'DONNELL: Stark differences on policy and personality. Delaware Democrat and county executive Chris Coons defined the choice.

COONS: Miss O'Donnell has experience at running for office but not at really running anything. At delivering catchy slogans but at not delivering on any real solutions.

KELLY O'DONNELL: The Tea Party's Christine O'Donnell defined her opponent.

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: My opponent has a history of promising not to raise taxes, on the campaign trail, and then breaking those promises as soon as he takes office.

KELLY O'DONNELL: On tax cuts Coons seemed to break from President Obama.

COONS: I support extending the Bush tax cuts for the overwhelming majority of Americans. I don't think we should draw an arbitrary line at $250,000.

KELLY O'DONNELL: O'Donnell wants more and deeper cuts.

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: A temporary two-year tax holiday on the capital gains tax.

KELLY O'DONNELL: Polar opposites on Obama's health care reform.

COONS: Not a pretty process that passed it, but I would stand for it.

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: What I want to do is to fight to fully repeal that, so that we can begin to enact real reform.

KELLY O'DONNELL: O'Donnell differs from many Tea Party candidates who say the Department of Education should be eliminated.

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: I don't think that we need to go that drastic of a step.

KELLY O'DONNELL: On the Supreme Court O'Donnell stumbled-

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: Oh gosh.

KELLY O'DONNELL: -much like Sarah Palin had-

SARAH PALIN: Hmm. Well let's see.

KELLY O'DONNELL: -when asked to name a recent decision she opposes.

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: I'm very sorry, right off the top of my head, I know that there are a lot, but I'll put it up on my website.

KELLY O'DONNELL: Coons comes from a wealthy family and has two graduate degrees from Yale. His irritation toward O'Donnell often showed.

(Begin debate clip)

COONS: We're gonna try and have a conversation here this evening rather than just a diatribe, if we possibly could.

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: But I do support-

COONS: Miss O'Donnell profoundly mischaracterizes her own position.

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: -responsible guest worker-

COONS: If you can reconcile all those comments, you're an even more talented reporter than I think you are Nancy...There's so much there Wolf, I don't know.

(End clip)

KELLY O'DONNELL: And O'Donnell turned aggressive, calling Coons a Marxist.

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: My opponent has recently said that it was studying under a Marxist professor that made him become a Democrat.

KELLY O'DONNELL: Coons called himself "a bearded Marxist" in a college paper but says it was a joke.

COONS: I am not now, nor have I ever been anything but a clean shaven capitalist.

KELLY O'DONNELL: O'Donnell dismissed her controversial witch comments-

(Begin old clip from Politically Incorrect)

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: I never joined a coven.

(End clip)

KELLY O'DONNELL: -but didn't mind teasing Coons about her parody on SNL.

(Begin Saturday Night Live clip)

KRISTEN WIIG AS O'DONNELL: Thanks for having me.

(End clip)

(Begin debate clip)

COONS: What would you do in Washington?

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: You're just jealous that you weren't on Saturday Night Live.

COONS: I'm dying to see who's going to play me, Kristen.

(End clip)

KELLY O'DONNELL: And not long after the debate O'Donnell came up with an answer to that question, she put out a written statement pointing to a 2005 case, where the Court allowed local governments to take private property, in order to make way for commercial development. She said it was tough to come up with a recent case -- and that was the question -- because she complimented the four conservative judges on the Court. 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.