During a report on the latest developments in Wisconsin for Wednesday's CBS Early Show, correspondent Cynthia Bowers proclaimed that the 14 Democratic state senators who fled to Illinois to block Governor Walker's budget proposal from passing have "become heroes to protesters." She lamented: "Now comes word, albeit from a Republican, some may be ready to come home and concede."
Bowers used the "hero" label following a sound bite from one of the fugitive state senators, Jon Erpenbach: "For him [Walker] to use dedicated public servants who clear our roads, take care of our sick, teach our kids, as poker chips is ridiculous." At the end of her report, news reader Jeff Glor wondered: "Any timetable right now, as far as you know, of when those Democratic senators might return to Wisconsin?" Bowers replied: "No. But the Senate Majority Leader did indicate to us that some of them want to come home. It's just a matter of how to finesse it, so they don't appear to be the bad guy in this with their constituents, and the protesters."
CBS certainly hasn't hesitated painting Governor Walker as the "bad guy" in its reporting. On the February 18 Early Show Bowers framed the controversy this way: "Tens of thousands of people are expected to once again descend upon this capitol building today to protest what they say are anti-union legislation rules....more than 10,000 protesters rallied against a proposed budget bill they called drastic and extreme."
In an interview with Walker moments later on that same broadcast, co-host Chris Wragge tried to attack the Governor's move as purely political: "Your teachers union, which votes Democratic...hit very hard. Yet your police, state trooper, firemen unions, who all supported and endorsed you, did not get touched in any of this. Why is that?" Wragge later asked: "You understand their position with some of the state workers, saying you're essentially taking away their voice by trying to break these unions. You understand that, correct?"
Introducing Bowers' Wednesday report, Glor described Walker's budget reducing plan: "...deep spending cuts are coupled with proposals to limit union rights." The headline on screen throughout the segment read: "Slashing the Budget; Wisconsin Gov. Proposes $4B in Cuts."
Here is a full transcript of Bowers' March 2 report:
JEFF GLOR: Meanwhile, state budget battles continue, as well. In Wisconsin, Ohio, and else where, deep spending cuts are coupled with proposals to limit union rights. A Senate committee in Ohio is scheduled to vote today, and CBS News correspondent Cynthia Bowers has more from Madison, Wisconsin. Cindy, good morning.
CYNTHIA BOWERS: Good morning, Jeff. You know, here, the Governor, Scott Walker, is one of the newest governors nationally, and already one of the best-known. Despite two and a half weeks of intense protest over his first budget, he gamely introduced another one yesterday. Even as protesters chanted inside and outside his capitol.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Slashing the Budget; Wisconsin Gov. Proposes $4B in Cuts]
BOWERS: Undaunted, Governor Scott Walker Tuesday revealed a two-year budget that cuts $4 billion in spending.
SCOTT WALKER: We are returning to frugality, and making the long-term decisions to balance our budget now, and more importantly, into the future.
PROTESTOR: Let us in!
BOWERS: Just outside the state house, demonstrators continued protesting his previous budget proposal. The one that would effectively strip collective bargaining rights from Wisconsin's powerful public employee unions.
JON ERPENBACH [STATE SEN. D-WI]: For him to use dedicated public servants who clear our roads, take care of our sick, teach our kids, as poker chips is ridiculous.
BOWERS: John Erpenbach is one of 14 minority Democratic senators who ran to Illinois two weeks ago to avoid a losing vote. They've become heroes to protesters, but now comes word, albeit from a Republican, some may be ready to come home and concede. If and when Wisconsin gets past its impasse, protests are under way in other states that are trying to balance budgets by curbing union power. Including Rhode Island, and Ohio. 8,000 protesters showed up in Columbus, Tuesday, ahead of a vote by the Republican-controlled legislature there, to outlaw strikes by public employees. But here the gridlock continues. That is until those Democratic senators come back to allow for a vote. Jeff.
GLOR: Well, let ask about that. Cindy, any timetable right now, as far as you know, of when those Democratic senators might return to Wisconsin?
BOWERS: No. But the Senate Majority Leader did indicate to us that some of them want to come home. It's just a matter of how to finesse it, so they don't appear to be the bad guy in this with their constituents, and the protesters. So we'll see.
GLOR: Alright, Cindy, thanks very much in Madison, Wisconsin this morning.
— Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.