NBC: 'Under Assault' From Tea Party, Arlen Specter 'Bolted to the Democratic Party'

In an obituary for former Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter on Sunday's NBC Nightly News, correspondent Kelly O'Donnell summarized his shift in political allegiance this way: "Specter's views, supporting abortion rights, immigration reform, and gun control, made him too liberal for the Tea Party movement...Under assault, he bolted to the Democratic Party."

Introducing O'Donnell's report, anchor Lester Holt declared Specter to be "a longtime voice of moderation in Washington, and at times a figure of controversy." As evidence of Specter's controversial nature, O'Donnell cited him questioning the credibility of Anita Hill during a 1991 Supreme Court hearing: "Specter angered many women over the spectacle around Anita Hill, who claimed Clarence Thomas sexually harassed her."

Here is a full transcript of the October 14 report:

6:37PM ET

LESTER HOLT: And in the midst of this contentious campaign, we learned today that a longtime voice of moderation in Washington, and at times a figure of controversy, has died. For decades Arlen Specter battled the gridlock in the Senate, while at the same time battling serious health issues. Today he lost his final battle with cancer and NBC's Kelly O'Donnell looks back on his life and legacy.

KELLY O'DONNELL: From his days as a scrappy Philadelphia prosecutor to decades as that rare Washington moderate, Arlen Specter was always influential and irascible.

ARLEN SPECTER: I've been imbued with what I think has been accurately characterized as independence, perhaps fierce independence.

O'DONNELL: A fighter admired for how he kept going.

SPECTER: I beat a brain tumor, I beat bypass surgery a few years back, I've beaten a lot of tough political opponents.

O'DONNELL: Swept into Congress under Ronald Reagan in 1980, but Specter's views, supporting abortion rights, immigration reform, and gun control, made him too liberal for the Tea Party movement.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I'm sorry sir, I just don't believe you.

O'DONNELL: Under assault, he bolted to the Democratic Party.


SPECTER: My change in party will enable me to be re-elected.

O'DONNELL: But Specter lost.

SPECTER: It's been a great privilege to serve the people of Pennsylvania.

O'DONNELL: He knew controversy well. At the Warren Commission, he wrote the single bullet theory that explained how Lee Oswald, acting alone, assassinated President Kennedy. In 1991, as Judiciary Chairman, Specter angered many women over the spectacle around Anita Hill, who claimed Clarence Thomas sexually harassed her.

SPECTER: The testimony of Professor Hill in the morning was flat-out perjury.

O'DONNELL: But Specter is also remembered for his wit and his devotion to the Senate.

SPECTER: I leave with great optimism for the future of our country, a great optimism for the continuing vital role of the United States Senate and the governance of our democracy.

O'DONNELL: Arlen Specter was 82. Kelly O'Donnell, NBC News, Washington.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC