After More Than A Year, CBS 'Early Show' Does First Full Story on Tea Parties

Harry Smith and Nancy Cordes, CBS While the tea party movement began to take shape in late February of 2009, the CBS Early Show did not offer a complete story on it until nearly 14 months later, with co-host Harry Smith declaring: "Today is tax day, April 15th. And thousands of tea party activists are headed to Washington...a new CBS News/New York Times poll is showing us just who these passionate conservatives really are."

Various co-hosts, correspondents, and guests certainly mentioned the tea party on the CBS morning show over the past year, but Thursday's broadcast was the first to provide a report that actually focused on the movement itself. Correspondent Nancy Cordes summed up the protests: "the tea partiers are planning to hold a series of rallies, not just hear in Washington, but around the country today, tax day. They're calling it the people's tax revolt. They say they're just fed up with the nation's tax burden."

Cordes noted how "Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin rallied an estimated 5,000 tea party protestors in Boston" and explained that a Washington D.C. event would "cap weeks of protests in 47 cities across the country. Tea partiers voicing their frustration with Congress and the White House." The headline on screen read: "Tea'd Off; Upstart Party Holds Final Rally On Tax Day."

Part of the reason for the Early Show's sudden interest in the tea parties was based on a new CBS News/New York Times poll about the movement. Cordes highlighted certain numbers: "The poll also exams the makeup of the tea party. More than a third of members are in the south [36%], 89% are white. 70% attended or graduated from college. While 84% have an unfavorable opinion of the President. 92% say he's pushing the country towards socialism."

On Wednesday's Evening News, correspondent Dean Reynolds played up those numbers and others, portraying the tea parties as mostly white, male, conservative, gun-toting, Fox News watchers.

Following Cordes's report, Smith spoke with Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer and wondered if the tea party opposition to current policies would "end up translating into...significant results come November?" Schieffer replied: "we now have some sense of just how large a group this is. I think it represents about 18% of the voting public. That is a force to be reckoned with and it's something that both Democrats and Republicans have to pay attention to."

Schieffer suggested the movement was a bigger threat to the GOP: "The great fear of Republicans, establishment Republicans, right now, is that this group will sort of break off and become a third party. And if they do that, of course, you may see what happened when Ross Perot siphoned off votes from George Bush and Bill Clinton, the Democrat, was elected."

Citing the poll numbers, Schieffer concluded: "I mean this is not just a bunch of Yahoos who make a lot of noise. We're seeing they're actually more educated than Americans in general. These are people who seem to have a legitimate anger building....And I think that is the thing that both parties have to worry about."

Schieffer added: "There's an intensity here that – that could spread, movements like this spread. We don't know yet where this is going, but it's something, Harry, both parties, and incumbents especially, are going to have to deal with and recognize." Smith replied: "Attention will be paid."

Where was that attitude from CBS over the past 14 months?

Here is a full transcript of the segment:
7:00AM TEASE:

HARRY SMITH: The Tea Party Express heads for Washington on tax day today, after Sarah Palin fires up the base.

SARAH PALIN: Government should be working for us. We should not have to work for the government.

7:04AM SEGMENT:

HARRY SMITH: Today is tax day, April 15th. And thousands of tea party activists are headed to Washington to express their anger and frustration with the Obama administration. As they do, a new CBS News/New York Times poll is showing us just who these passionate conservatives really are. CBS News congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes is on Capitol Hill with the story. Nancy, good morning.

NANCY CORDES: Harry, good morning to you. That's right, the tea partiers are planning to hold a series of rallies, not just hear in Washington, but around the country today, tax day. They're calling it the people's tax revolt. They say they're just fed up with the nation's tax burden.

Tea Party Protest, CBS [ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Tea'd Off; Upstart Party Holds Final Rally On Tax Day]

SARAH PALIN: This is the people's movement.

CORDES: Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin rallied an estimated 5,000 tea party protestors in boston before the final stop of the tea party express here in Washington, D.C.. The tax day demonstration will cap weeks of protests in 47 cities across the country. Tea partiers voicing their frustration with Congress and the White House.

PALIN: The first task is to restore balance and common sense. And the first test will be at the ballot box in November.

CORDES: A New CBS News/New York Times poll shows Palin is overwhelmingly popular with tea party supporters [Favorable 66%, Not Favorable 12%], but only 40% think she would be an effective president [No 47%]. The poll also exams the makeup of the tea party. More than a third of members are in the south [36%], 89% are white. 70% attended or graduated from college. While 84% have an unfavorable opinion of the President. 92% say he's pushing the country towards socialism.

LARRY SABATO: The greatest strength of the tea party is its intensity. Intensity is what defines political involvement and this group has the potential to make a major difference in the November elections.

CORDES: And it does seem that a bit of their anti-government spending message is getting through to Washington. Spending on earmarks, those pork barrel projects that lawmakers like to slip into legislation, is actually down 15% this year. Harry.

SMITH: Nancy Cordes, thank you very much. Appreciate it. Let's bring in CBS News chief Washington correspondent and host of Face the Nation Bob Schieffer. 15% isn't very much to be applauding, I don't guess. Here's the question of the morning. You see this intensity. You see the numbers. Better educated, they make more money than I think a lot of people believe. Will that end up translating into significant ballot – significant results come November?

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, I would say this, Harry. And I think the most important thing about this poll is we now have some sense of just how large a group this is. I think it represents about 18% of the voting public. That is a force to be reckoned with and it's something that both Democrats and Republicans have to pay attention to. The great fear of Republicans, establishment Republicans, right now, is that this group will sort of break off and become a third party. And if they do that, of course, you may see what happened when Ross Perot siphoned off votes from George Bush and Bill Clinton, the Democrat, was elected. That's the problem for Republicans. For Democrats, this really gives you a picture. This is the core anti-Obama, anti-incumbent vote out there. We saw in this poll these people are to the right of Republicans. But they really don't like Barack Obama. They don't like his programs. And they like Congress even less. This is something that everybody's got to worry about if you're in politics and in office right now.

SMITH: Yeah. It's interesting, because in the polling it says 'we're not really interested in a third party.' I think they want to bring the Republican Party closer to where they are. But you bring up a very good point, because as much as they dislike the President, they dislike Congress even more. They're like 'we've had it here.'

SCHIEFFER: Yeah, and I mean, I think you're going to see the impact of this. I think one thing the polls also show, I mean this is not just a bunch of Yahoos who make a lot of noise. We're seeing they're actually more educated than Americans in general. These are people who seem to have a legitimate anger building, where a lot of people, you know, right now are saying the country is moving in the wrong direction and they're disappointed and so forth. These people are angry. And I think that is the thing that both parties have to worry about. There's an intensity here that – that could spread, movements like this spread. We don't know yet where this is going, but it's something, Harry, both parties, and incumbents especially, are going to have to deal with and recognize.

SMITH: There you go. Attention will be paid. Bob Schieffer, thank you very much.

SCHIEFFER: You bet, Harry.
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC