Today Show Hero-Worships Rising Democratic 'Star' Cory Booker

NBC's Jamie Gangel gave Cory Booker the full liberal media rock star treatment in her Tuesday Today show profile of the Democratic Newark, New Jersey mayor as she cheered that he's "a celebrity with friends like Bon Jovi" and gushed he has "more than a million followers on Twitter."

Calling Booker "a young ambitious politician often compared to Barack Obama," Gangel proclaimed: "He truly is a force...and despite what he says, watch out. In a few years, his friends say they believe they will see him on the national stage." This prompted Today co-anchor Ann Curry to respond to her NBC colleague: "Well he is very impressive" admitting that she's also a fan, "By the way I'm a Twitter follower."

Curry teased the Gangel story by hailing Booker as "one of the biggest rising stars of the Democratic Party" and added: "Everywhere you look nowadays, from Oprah to Facebook, Bon Jovi to Brad Pitt, Newark's charismatic mayor Cory Booker is enlisting help for his troubled city." During her piece Gangel covered everything from Booker's early years noting, "Booker was an academic star, class president, and all-American tight end who went on to Stanford, a Rhodes scholarship at Oxford, and Yale Law School," to his future plans as she prodded: "Do you think about running for governor? Senator? White House?"

(video and transcript after the jump)

The following is the full story as it was aired on the March 22 Today show:

ANN CURRY: Back now at 8:39 with one of the biggest rising stars of the Democratic Party. Everywhere you look nowadays, from Oprah to Facebook, Bon Jovi to Brad Pitt, Newark's charismatic mayor Cory Booker is enlisting help for his troubled city. Well today, national correspondent Jamie Gangel recently tried to keep up with the busy mayor. Hey Jamie, good morning.

JAMIE GANGEL: That's true, Ann. Good morning. Let's face it, most ambitious politicans might have looked for an easier city than Newark. But then again, Cory Booker is not your usual politician. And his high profile has led to speculation he might be interested in running for higher office. But we started by talking with Booker about his latest challenge, a personal one.

(Start Video)

GANGEL: (Voiceover) As if being mayor of Newark isn't tough enough, these days Cory Booker has taken on a new challenge – losing weight.

GANGEL: Why are we here at the crack of dawn?

BOOKER: I actually got up to 290 pounds. So right now, about 275. But it was ridiculous, and in all of life, if you really want to make a change, you've got to be that change.

BOOKER: (Video Clip) What's up fellas, what's up?

GANGEL: (Voiceover) It is vintage Cory Booker. Driven, charismatic, a man on a mission, trying to turn around one of the toughest cities in the country.

BOOKER: (Video Clip) I have no right to think anything else. But Newark, New Jersey is going to shock the world.

GANGEL: And it's not just talk, as shown in this award-winning documentary series, Booker has been known to personally patrol the streets-

BOOKER: (Video Clip) How are you guys doing tonight?

GANGEL: -find people jobs-

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Video Clip) Hey you gonna get me a job?

BOOKER: Yeah, well let's talk about it.

GANGEL: -mentor students-

BOOKER: (Video Clip) You've gotta study for the test.

GANGEL: Even shovel snow. It's made him a celebrity with friends like Bon Jovi and more than a million followers on Twitter. But Booker admits it's been a roller coaster, with extraordinary highs, like this grant for Newark schools from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg-

OPRAH WINFREY: (Video Clip) One-hundred million dollars!

GANGEL: -and devastating disappointments.

BOOKER: (Video Clip) June, seven murders! July, eight murders!


GANGEL: (Voiceover) For a young ambitious politician often compared to Barack Obama, he could have picked an easier city. Raised in an affluent Jersey suburb, his parents were IBM executives, and Booker was an academic star, class president, and all-American tight end who went on to Stanford, a Rhodes scholarship at Oxford, and Yale Law School.

BOOKER: My father would tease me, he says boy you were born on third base. Don't be fooled into thinking you hit a triple.

GANGEL: You have an expression that you got – I think you got your B.A. and your M.A. at Stanford, but you got your –

BOOKER: PhD on the streets of Newark.

GANGEL: (Voiceover) But he sounds a little like Don Quixote –

BOOKER: I want to return us to a nation that believes in impossible dreams again.

GANGEL: (Voiceover) Booker is also pragmatic. He supported President Obama's decision to maintain tax cuts for the rich.

BOOKER: To me, I thought that was one of the high moments of his presidency.

GANGEL: Even though that $700 billion could have helped you?

BOOKER: If he fought that, we would still be in a stalemate.

GANGEL: And one of his closest political allies is Republican Gov. Chris Christie.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, NEW JERSEY: I've watched Cory be able to do some really great things in this city. And I know he's just starting.

GANGEL: (Voiceover) One thing the 41 year-old mayor hasn't done – settle down.

GANGEL TO BOOKER: You frequently say you're a failure in your social life.

BOOKER: Yes.

GANGEL: But not for lack of trying?

BOOKER: Well, I think for lack of prioritization. I do believe in the Jewish conception of bashart – destiny – that you will, that there is somebody that is meant for you and I'll find her and discover her, or maybe she's even already in my midst. And that woman will have to have a very charitable heart.

GANGEL: (Voiceover) As for his political future, Booker still has three more years as mayor. But like his friend the governor, he's often asked what's next.

GANGEL TO BOOKER: Do you think about running for governor? Senator? White House?

BOOKER: It is – the first two are presented to me on a regular basis. And it's hard to even get my mind around doing those things when there's so much work here to do.

GANGEL: You ever look at Barack Obama and say, that could have been me?

BOOKER: No, because that was not a path I wanted to take. Even on the most discouraging days, I feel like I'm in the right place, right time, taking on the right fights.

GANGEL: (Voiceover) So for now, Booker says Newark remains his inspiration.

BOOKER: I always say my first professor is somebody we just buried last month. It was Virginia Jones. When I was a young man, I showed up on her doorstep like John Wayne. I was like "I'm Cory Booker, I'm from Yale Law School. I'm gonna – I'm here to try to help you out." And she looked at me in the way Newarkers do, like who the heck do you think you are? And I'll never forget, she looks at me, and says boy, you need to understand something. The world you see outside of you will always be a reflection of what you have inside of you. If you see hope, opportunity, love, if you see the face of God, then you can help me out. And you can make a difference. And I remember looking down to myself and saying okay grasshopper, thus endeth the lesson. And that is Newark.

(End Video)

GANGEL: He truly is a force, and he is so committed. And despite what he says, watch out. In a few years, his friends say they believe they will see him on the national stage. Ann?

CURRY: Well he is very impressive. Jamie Gangel, thanks. By the way, I'm a Twitter follower.

—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.