CBS’s Smith Presses Hillary on the ‘Ugly Tone’ of Democratic Campaign

NewsBusters.org - Media Research CenterIn contrast to Robin Roberts’s fawning interview on "Good Morning America," CBS’s Harry Smith directed some tough questions to Hillary Clinton during her appearance on Friday’s "The Early Show." In his first question, Smith referenced The New York Times’s endorsement of the former First Lady, and their advise for her to "take the lead and changing the tone of the campaign."

In her response, Clinton brushed off the reference to the continuing war of words between her campaign and Barack Obama’s campaign, and emphasized that she has been "trying to keep us focused on the real differences between the Democrats and the Republicans [and] the legitimate contrast between me and my opponents."

Smith did not miss a beat and pressed her on the tone of her campaign, essentially endorsing the advise of the New York Times. "But Senator, would you at least then take responsibility for the ugly tone that has turned here in the last couple of weeks?... [I]t's gotten to the point where there's almost a black backlash against this, especially your husband's tactics."

Clinton defended her husband and his recent anti-Obama statements. "I know that my husband has spent a lifetime bringing people together, working across a lot of the divides that sometimes set us against one another. And, you know, obviously, you know, he gets excited. He gets really passionate about making the case for me. He said several times yesterday that maybe he got a little bit carried away." She then suggested that there’s a need to "try to bring this debate and this campaign back to the issue that are most important."

In his last question, Smith then brought up Michelle Obama’s recent accusation that Hillary’s campaign had "willfully distorted Barack’s record," particularly with regards to a radio ad that criticized Obama’s recent comments on Ronald Reagan. He voiced his agreement with Mrs. Obama’s point.

SMITH: We just showed some pictures of Michelle Obama in a fund-raising appeal. She put it this way: 'what we didn't expect are the win-at-all-cost tactics we've seen recently. We didn't expect misleading accusations that willfully distort Barack's record.' This also goes to a radio ad that your campaign was running that purposefully distorted Barack Obama's remarks about Ronald Reagan. Now, that ad has subsequently been pulled. But why -- why -- why run a campaign like this?

Clinton rejected Smith’s account of what happened surrounding the ad and went back to the need to "go forward about the issues," naming the "economic meltdown," the "home mortgage crisis," and "other costs... that’s coming down on middle-class families."

The full transcript of the short interview, which aired at the top of the 7 am Eastern hour of Friday’s "The Early Show:"

HARRY SMITH: Let's get right down to politics then. 'The New York Times' selecting its choices for president -- as we said, Hillary Clinton and John McCain. And from South Carolina this morning, Hillary Clinton joins us live. Good morning, Senator.

SENATOR HILLARY CLINTON, NEW YORK: Good morning, Harry.

SMITH: You must be happy with the endorsement. But I want to get to something a couple of paragraphs in, because they not only endorse you, they also say, 'We urge Mrs. Clinton to take the lead and changing the tone of the campaign. It's not good for the country, the Democratic party, or for you.' Do you know what they're talking about?

CLINTON: I do, Harry, and, of course, I'm honored to have the endorsement, because they've clearly looked very hard and evaluated all of us running. So, it means a great deal to me personally, and I agree with what they said. You know, I have been trying to keep us focused on the real differences between the Democrats and the Republicans, the legitimate contrast between me and my opponents, because it is important that we recognize we will come out of this nominating process a united party. There is nothing more important than electing a Democratic president, to undo the damage of the Bush presidency and to lead us with confidence and real optimism into the future, to tackle the problems that we face.

(CROSSTALK)

SMITH: But Senator, would you at least then take responsibility for the ugly tone that has turned here in the last couple of weeks? There's, on especially on black talk radio, on blogs -- there is even -- it's gotten to the point where there's almost a black backlash against this, especially your husband's tactics.

CLINTON: Well, I think that there's been a lot that has been said on both sides, and some of it has been, you know, kind of generated and certainly stoked, and that all needs to just calm down, and everybody needs to take a deep breath. We are proud of the fact that the Democratic party has an African-American and a woman vying for the nomination for the toughest job in the world. And I know that my husband has spent a lifetime bringing people together, working across a lot of the divides that sometimes set us against one another. And, you know, obviously, you know, he gets excited. He gets really passionate about making the case for me. He said several times yesterday that maybe he got a little bit carried away. So, we're all going to, on both sides, I think, you know, try to bring this debate and this campaign back to the issues that are most important.

SMITH: We just showed some pictures of Michelle Obama in a fund-raising appeal. She put it this way: 'what we didn't expect are the win-at-all-cost tactics we've seen recently. We didn't expect misleading accusations that willfully distort Barack's record.' This also goes to a radio ad that your campaign was running that purposefully distorted Barack Obama's remarks about Ronald Reagan. Now, that ad has subsequently been pulled. But why -- why -- why run a campaign like this?

CLINTON: Well, Harry, you know, first of all, I don't think that's what happened. I understand that when questions are raised about someone's record, it's natural to respond that you're distorting it. But I think that is just not what happened. But regardless of what has happened, let's go forward about the issues because the American people want this election to be about them. They want it to be about their families, about their jobs. We're in an economic meltdown in our country. We have a home mortgage crisis that is absolutely causing millions of families to worry about whether they're going to have their homes or whether they're going to maintain the value of their homes. We've got to take quick action to stimulate the economy and deal with all these other costs -- at the gas pump and health care and college and everything that's coming down on middle-class families. I think that's what voters want to hear us talk about, and that is what I am talking about.

SMITH: Senator Clinton, we thank you so much for your time this morning. Do appreciate it.

CLINTON: Thank you. Great to talk to you.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center