'Today' Spouse Segment: Bill the Thrill, Thompson the Troublemaker

A Google alert this morning brought an article about a speech in which NBC's Lester Holt claimed that he and his MSM colleagues "are perfectly capable of putting [their] personal bias aside." Holt went to state that "the level of organized attacks against news organizations from the blogosphere and even from competitors in recent years is unprecedented and disturbing."

Less than an hour later there was Holt on the Today show . . . which proceeded to run a segment typifying the very kind of bias he claims the MSM is "perfectly capable" of putting aside.

The subject was presidential candidate spouses. Now if there's one candidate who has caused problems for a spouse in recent days, it's Bill Clinton. His analogizing to "swiftboating" of criticism of Hillary over her licenses-for-illegals evasions was roundly panned, not only as over-the-top but as making Hillary look weak for needing to rely on Bill to defend her. Bill's defense was so counter-productive that it prompted Chris Matthews to wonder whether Bill actually wants Hillary to win.

So when Today ran dual segments on candidate spouses, surely the one on Bill Clinton would focus on the serious problem he recently caused Hillary -- right? Wrong. The Bill segment was all sweetness and light, epitomized by the closing scene shown here [one of two shots of the loving couple hugging each other]. Any hint of criticism or controversy was reserved for the segment on Jeri Thompson, wife of Republican candidate Fred.

The Bill segment began with him telling a New Hampshire crowd what a great job she had done at the CNN debate. Cut to two older ladies waiting in line to hear Bill. One lamented that he couldn't be made vice-president. The other proclaimed that Bill had been a good president and that Hillary would do the same. Edgy stuff! On to clips of Bill's stump speech for Hillary. NBC reporter Mike Taibbi mentioned that Bill avoided any criticism of Hillary's Dem opponents, noting that he "stuck to a purely supportive script." Taibbi breathed not a word of the mess that Bill had caused with his swiftboating allegations.

But when it came to Kelly O'Donnell's interview of Jeri Thompson, controversy and criticism were the order of the day. O'Donnell excerpts:
  • "Were you ready for the demands of being a candidate's wife?"
  • "Despite fewer public appearances, Jeri Thompson has been described as a power player behind the scenes, and blamed for a big shake-up by staffers who left."
  • "Did you cause any friction in the early campaign?"
  • "You're comfortable with thinking that you are helping to form his decisions, to make decisions for the campaign?"
  • "She hears the persistent criticism that Fred Thompson has not shown a passion for running."
So NBC dredges up an old controversy about Jeri Thompson, but can't be bothered to mention one from just last week about Bill Clinton. Question to Lester: what do you find more "disturbing": that kind of bias, or the fact that we in the blogosphere criticize it?
Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.