What About Williams? Vieira Claims Only Blogs Went After Palin Family Matters

Hard to believe, but Meredith Vieira is apparently not a regular NewsBusters reader.  The Today co-anchor would otherwise have avoided an embarrassing lapse.  On Today this morning, Vieira claimed that it was only "blogs" that went after Sarah Palin's family matters.  That left her vulnerable to McCain senior adviser Steve Schmidt's zinger, pointing out that one of her own network's anchors had questioned Palin's ability to serve as vice-president while attending to her children' needs.

Schmidt was presumably referring to Brian Williams.  As we noted yesterday in Williams Hides Behind Pantsuits to Take 'Who's Minding Baby?' Shot, the Nightly News anchor, on MSNBC yesterday, asked former Mass. governor Jane Swift:
Are the women who consider themselves feminists, and are perhaps working women with several children, are they wrong when they express fears or doubts that she should be able to do this, that she should be doing this?
Here was the exchange between Vieira and Schmidt:
MEREDITH VIEIRA: A lot of press bashing at the convention: we are suddenly the enemy. Why is that?

STEVE SCHMIDT: Well, Meredith, I think there was a lot of anger at the coverage of a private family matter with regard to Governor Palin --

VIEIRA:  But those were blogs, Steve. That wasn't the mainstream press.

SCHMIDT: But the press, Meredith, plays a very important role in these campaigns. And one of the things that makes our country great is the free working press. The system doesn't work without the press. A free press is one of the foundations --

VIEIRA: And it's the press's job, Steve, to ask questions.

SCHMIDT: Of course it is, and it's their job to ask questions of Senator Obama, too. And we hope we'll have some questions asked of Senator Obama as we move forward during the remainder of this race.  We look forward to the scrutiny, both Senator McCain and Governor Palin --

VIEIRA: But Steve, you go on the attack. I don't know that you look forward to the scrutiny, because you go immediately on the attack. It sounds like you're trying to organize your base by going after the media. Trying to shut us up. That's what it feels like.

SCHMIDT: I think that's wrong, Meredith.  But when an anchor on your network says, can Governor Palin do her duties because she has a Down syndrome child, we object to that.  We think it's outrageous and inappropriate.

We're assuming that Schmidt was referring to Williams' words, above, though there may be another instance of the phenomenon within the NBC/MSNBC family. There certainly are other examples of it in the "mainstream press" that Meredith claimed not to be involved.

As detailed here, ABC's Bill Weir said to McCain campaign political director: "The Palin family also has an infant with special needs. What leads you, the Senator, and the Governor to believe that one won't affect the other in the next couple of months? . . . She has an infant -- she has an infant with special needs. Will that affect her campaigning?"

CNN's John Roberts got the ball rolling on the subject, infamously suggesting she might neglect her special-needs child: "The baby is just slightly more than four months old now. Children with Down's syndrome require an awful lot of attention. The role of Vice President, it seems to me, would take up an awful lot of her time, and it raises the issue of how much time will she have to dedicate to her newborn child?"

Vieira ended the interview on a gracious note, thanking Schmidt for his accessibility. In return, we're going to offer Meredith a free online subscription to NewsBusters for the remainder of the campaign.  Check us out, Meredith: a great way to stay abreast of what's happening in that "mainstream press," even right there at  Rockefeller Center.

Note: Beyond the "who's taking care of baby?" issue, the MSM has also been all over the story of Bristol Palin's pregnancy.  The NY Times, for example, has run more than one story on it, including: Palin’s Teen Daughter Is Pregnant; New G.O.P. Tumult

The false and scurrilous rumors suggesting Palin daughter Bristol is the mother of Trig have, to my knowledge, been confined to the blogs, and it's possible that's what Meredith had in mind.  But with the other MSM intrusions into Palin family life out there, Vieira was obviously venturing onto thin ice with her assertion.

Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.