CBS's Rodriguez: Will Christine O'Donnell 'Play Media Victim' Like Palin?

Following a report on Monday's CBS Early Show that slammed Delaware Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell for comments she made on Bill Maher's 'Politically Incorrect' in the 1990s, co-host Maggie Rodriguez suggested O'Donnell's response: "Well, she could do what Sarah Palin has done and which has worked so beautifully for Sarah Palin, and that is to play media victim." [Audio available here]

Rodriguez made the comment to political analyst John Dickerson, who added: "That's right. And the victim card is one that Sarah Palin has played, Rand Paul has done the same thing. It's a bit of a time-honored technique and it works with your supporters, who are apt to believe the things you say..." He then warned: "...but if you're trying to get to voters in the middle or independents....they're not just going to take it at face value that you are a victim and rally to your side." Neither Rodriguez nor Dickerson questioned whether media coverage of Palin and O'Donnell had been fair.

In the prior report, correspondent Nancy Cordes touted how "O'Donnell says she's a devout Catholic, but in the video she describes her experimentation with witchcraft. And the man who released the clip says there's a lot more where that came from." Later, Cordes mentioned how "The 1999 clip was released by comedian Bill Maher," without noting his left-wing ideology.

After playing the clip of O'Donnell explaining that she hung around people in her high school days that practiced witchcraft, Cordes placed the admission on the same level as the candidate's religious views: "[O'Donnell] was already dealing with the fallout from this 1996 MTV documentary, where she equated masturbation to adultery." In a September 14 report for the Early Show, Cordes similarly portrayed O'Donnell's social conservatism as bizarre: "[She] has crusaded for abstinence and against porn. Writing once that 'when a married person uses pornography, it compromises the spouse's purity.'"

Concluding her Monday report, Cordes declared: "Bill Maher says he has a many more clips of O'Donnell and will release one a week until she comes on his show." Rodriguez asked Dickerson about the political fallout: "O'Donnell's critics, some of whom are members of her own party, are really taking her to task over these old clips. How damaging do you think they'll be to her campaign?" Dickerson explained: "...it's not just one of these clips, they're coming out one after another. And it's, if nothing else, it's a distraction and it's a barrier between her and trying to tell voters what she actually believes....The problem is just the tonnage of these clips."

Here is a full transcript of the September 20 segment:
 7:00AM TEASE

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: Politically incorrect. A video comes back to haunt the new darling of the tea party, Delaware Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell.

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 was a little blood there.

RODRIGUEZ: We'll take you inside the bizarre political showdown between D.C. and Hollywood.

7:03AM SEGMENT

RODRIGUEZ: Time now for politics and tea party candidate Christine O'Donnell, who surprised everyone by winning her primary in Delaware last week. Well, there's another surprise now, as a video from her past comes back to haunt her. CBS News congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes has more from Washington this morning. Good morning, Nancy.

NANCY CORDES: Maggie, good morning and welcome back. O'Donnell says she's a devout Catholic, but in the video she describes her experimentation with witchcraft. And the man who released the clip says there's a lot more where that came from.

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: I dabbled into witchcraft, I hung around people who were doing these things.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Politically Incorrect; Tea Party's New Star Responds to Old Tape]

CORDES: The 1999 clip was released by comedian Bill Maher, who frequently invited O'Donnell to appear on his show, 'Politically Incorrect,' back in the 1990s, when she was an abstinence activist.

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 was a little blood there and stuff like that-

JAMIE KENNEDY: Your first date was a satanic altar?

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

CORDES: Delaware's Republican senatorial candidate was already dealing with the fallout from this 1996 MTV documentary, where she equated masturbation to adultery.

O'DONNELL: The Bible says that lust in your heart is committing adultery. So, you can't masterbate without lust. He already knows what pleases him and can please himself, then why am I in the picture?

CORDES: O'Donnell canceled her scheduled appearances this weekend on CBS's Face the Nation and Fox News Sunday, but at a campaign picnic, she made light of her witchcraft experimentation.

O'DONNELL: I was in high school. How many of you didn't hang out with questionable folks in high school? There's been no witchcraft since.

CORDES: Sarah Palin, who endorsed O'Donnell, urged her via Twitter to ignore the, quote, 'Nat'l media seeking ur destruction.' And, instead, use her time '2 connect w/local voters whom you'll be serving.'

SARAH PALIN: Thank you so much, Iowa!

CORDES: Palin herself was connecting with voters in Iowa this weekend, speaking at the Republican Party's annual Ronald Reagan dinner, fueling speculation that she's laying the groundwork for a presidential run in 2012.

PALIN: It's time for renewal, restoration of honor, and those time-tested truths. And it may take some renegades going rogue to get us there.

CORDES: Bill Maher says he has a many more clips of O'Donnell and will release one a week until she comes on his show. O'Donnell says she has no regrets about what she said on his program. She said, 'Hey, Bill wanted ratings and I gave him ratings.' Maggie.

RODRIGUEZ: CBS's Nancy Cordes. Nancy, thank you. CBS News political analyst John Dickerson joins us now from Columbus, Ohio, to talk more about this. John, good morning.

JOHN DICKERSON: Good morning, Maggie.

RODRIGUEZ: O'Donnell's critics, some of whom are members of her own party, are really taking her to task over these old clips. How damaging do you think they'll be to her campaign?

DICKERSON: Well, we're in a very weird place in this Senate race, talking about issues we certainly weren't expecting to. And that's the problem, is it's not just one of these clips, they're coming out one after another. And it's, if nothing else, it's a distraction and it's a barrier between her and trying to tell voters what she actually believes. And in Delaware, a blue state, she's going to have to convince independent voters outside of the tea party group that has already elected her and so this is going to give them some questions about her.

RODRIGUEZ: Does she have to answer those questions or can she, as she did this weekend, just make light of it? Karl Rove, for one, says that this raises serious questions about her character and she has to address these seriously.

DICKERSON: Well, she seemed to have kind of brushed this one off pretty well, that's the way these candidates have to do things. The problem is just the tonnage of these clips. And Bill Maher obviously sees an opportunity to promote himself here and so his self-interest is aligned with essentially taking her down. And so she has to find a way to deal with this, what's going to be, or seems to be, a kind of a daily set of explosions of old videotape.

RODRIGUEZ: Well, she could do what Sarah Palin has done and which has worked so beautifully for Sarah Palin, and that is, to play media victim.

DICKERSON: That's right. And the victim card is one that Sarah Palin has played, Rand Paul has done the same thing. It's a bit of a time-honored technique and it works with your supporters, who are apt to believe the things you say, but if you're trying to get to voters in the middle or independents who you have to convince that you have another set of ideas, they're not just going to take it at face value that you are a victim and rally to your side. And so it might work a little bit, but she still has that big job to convince voters that she can be their senator.

RODRIGUEZ: John, we saw Sarah Palin this weekend at that event in Iowa, where the road to the White House usually begins for a lot of people. But she wasn't going the traditional route, she wasn't out there going door to door and shaking voters' hands. Do you think she has time to work that if she wants to be a serious contender in the Iowa caucuses?

DICKERSON: She has time. Sarah Palin, at the moment in the – in conservative politics, makes her own weather. And so, she can – she can do as she pleases for the moment in Iowa and if she needs to kind of get an organization together quickly. But, of course, you can wait too late and candidates who've tried to sort of have these new-fangled organizations in Iowa, Fred Thompson tried to do this and it was a dismal failure. You have to actually do it. She can delay doing it, but she will, in the end, have to do that retail painstaking politics that works in Iowa.

RODRIGUEZ: And she's a lot more popular than Fred Thompson was at the time. So we will see. John Dickerson, thanks so much. At 7:09-

DICKERSON: Indeed, she was – is.
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC