On Day of GOP House Takeover, Today Show Finds Time to Celebrate NY's Democratic First Couple

On the day the Republicans took over the House, NBC's Today show found time to send correspondent Peter Alexander out to profile New York's "First Couple" of the newly elected Governor Andrew Cuomo and his Food Network chef girlfriend Sandra Lee. While Alexander devoted most of his Wednesday report to Lee's biography, he did air political consultant Dan Gerstein observing that an unmarried First Couple in New York wasn't a big deal considering that Cuomo was following a governor "who was discredited in a prostitution scandal and another governor who admitted not just infidelity but cocaine use." Of course neither Gerstein or Alexander bothered to mention that those two respective scandalized former governors (Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson) were Democrats.

The following is Alexander's puff piece on Cuomo and Lee as it was aired on the January 5 edition of the Today show:

MEREDITH VIEIRA: Andrew Cuomo was sworn in as the governor of New York over the weekend and his girlfriend Food Network star Sandra Lee was by his side. NBC's Peter Alexander has more on the Empire State's new First Family. Peter, good morning to you.

[On screen headline: "New York's 'First Girlfriend,' From The Kitchen To The Governor's Mansion"]

PETER ALEXANDER: Meredith, good morning to you. Of course usually when a candidate is elected to higher office you know their name, but not the First Lady. Not the case in this place, it may be the other way around here in New York. Andrew Cuomo's longtime girlfriend, Sandra Lee, is herself a household name.

SANDRA LEE: That's all I'm gonna do here. Now for that great honey dip.

ALEXANDER: She's perhaps most at home in the kitchen.

LEE: Those herbs smell so good.

ALEXANDER: Sandra Lee is one of the Food Network's stars, a glamorous celebrity chef with a passion for simple solutions around the house. These days Lee has taken her homemaking skills to New York's Governor's Mansion. The state's First Girlfriend held the Bible for her newly inaugurated boyfriend Andrew Cuomo when he was sworn into office last week. While an unmarried First Couple would surely have raised eyebrows when Cuomo's father was the state's top executive, it doesn't any more, and certainly not here in New York.

DAN GERSTEIN, POLITICAL CONSULTANT & COMMENTATOR: The fact that he's following a governor who was discredited in a prostitution scandal and another governor who admitted not just infidelity but cocaine use.


ALEXANDER: Like most First Ladies Lee has already adopted a cause, helping the millions of New Yorkers fighting hunger, reflecting her own rags to riches story, as told in her memoir, Made From Scratch. Lee grew up in poverty, the daughter of an abusive drug addicted mother, even raising her four younger sisters and brothers herself.

LEE: If it wasn't for, you know, food banks and if it wasn't for food stamps and the welfare system that's how I grew up.

ALEXANDER: It's a second shot of love for them both. Cuomo, recently named one of People magazine's Sexiest Men Alive, is divorced from Kerry Kennedy, the daughter of Robert F. Kennedy. Lee told the New York Post, Cuomo's kids are incredibly important to her. That the three teenage girls come first, even featuring them on her cooking show. The modern family went to church together on Sunday. Still Lee admits the governor's parents first told the girls about their dad's love affair. They are, by all accounts, one happy family, complete with a new pet. A baby cockatoo - Lee's Christmas gift from the governor. The only thing missing? A wedding band. And because Sandra Lee and Andrew Cuomo are not married, Lee says she will have no staff, no security detail. But having authored 23 cook books you don't have to worry, she's doing just fine. She says she will use a private security company if it's ever needed. Matt, Meredith?

VIEIRA: Alright Peter Alexander, thank you very much.

—Geoffrey Dickens is the Senior News Analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here

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