With over two years to go until the 2016 presidential election, the media are already trying to ban unflattering topics about Hillary Clinton. From Tuesday morning through Thursday morning, NBC, ABC, and CBS aired 9 full stories – totaling 20 minutes 12 seconds – defending Clinton from health questions raised by Republican strategist Karl Rove.
NBC was first to go after Rove and devoted the most coverage to issue, with 4 stories adding up to 7 minutes 42 seconds of air time. On Tuesday, Today hosts declared that Rove had "stepped a little bit into it" with his "explosive new claims" and Nightly News anchor Brian Williams proclaimed it to be a "nasty" Republican "smear campaign."
ABC and CBS didn't pick up on the story until Wednesday morning, with Good Morning America and This Morning reporting on the "backlash" against Rove, emphasizing how he "took some friendly fire" from fellow Republicans on the issue.
Nightly News provided a second night of coverage on Wednesday, giving 63 seconds of uninterrupted air time to Bill Clinton defending his wife. Meanwhile, on ABC's World News, correspondent Jonathan Karl looked at the issue more critically, noting the lack of public information about Hillary Clinton's 2012 health scare.
ABC did 3 full stories – totaling 6 minutes 53 seconds – between Wednesday and Thursday, while CBS had 2 full stories totaling 5 minutes 38 seconds in the same time period.
All three network morning shows offered full reports on Thursday.
At the top of Today, co-host Savannah Guthrie announced: "On offense. Bill Clinton firing back at Republican critics who questioned Hillary Clinton's health." Introducing the segment later, she touted how the former president was "hitting back at what he considers ridiculous suggestions that Hillary Clinton's health might impact a potential White House run for her."
National correspondent Peter Alexander hyped: "You've got the Clintons going head-to-head with Karl Rove....Bill Clinton strikes back...The former president mocking comments from Republican strategist Karl Rove, who last week reportedly questioned whether Hillary Clinton may have brain damage."
Alexander observed: "Reviled by Democrats, Rove, analysts say, was stirring the pot."
On Good Morning America, Karl heralded: "Bill Clinton also predicted there will be harsher attacks to come against Hillary. And his response sent a clear message to her political opponents, when you take on one Clinton, you're taking on both of them."
On CBS This Morning, fill-in co-host Anthony Mason told viewers: "Former President Bill Clinton is defending his wife Hillary Clinton against attacks questioning her health." Co-host Norah O'Donnell chimed in: "At a forum in Washington on Wednesday, the former President said he is dumbfounded by Rove's comments."
In the segment that followed, political director John Dickerson actually saw some success for Rove in raising health questions about the former secretary of state: "If his goal was to get people talking about this a lot earlier and in this kind of weird twilight period where Hillary Clinton isn’t a candidate, can't respond as a candidate, but also has to respond because she doesn't want it out there, so he has succeeded."
Dickerson also pointed out: "And it's usually the Democrats who are the ones who are beating up on Republicans. They did it with Bob Dole, Ronald Reagan, and they did it with John McCain."
The media certainly thought such questions about Republicans were reasonable at the time, but when it comes to Hillary Clinton, it's off limits.