CBS Hits Holder's 'Outrageous Overreach', But Defers to Obama to Act

Friday's CBS This Morning, unlike NBC's Today, briefly picked up on NBC journalist Michael Isikoff's significant reporting from Thursday that Attorney General Eric Holder's "signed off on a controversial search warrant" against Fox News' James Rosen and "authorized seizure of his private emails." However, unlike their strong "Obama's war on journalism" label of the scandal on Thursday, Gayle King and Bob Schieffer gave a more subdued response to this new detail.

King pointed out that "Holder signed off on allowing an investigation into some reporters' e-mails", but merely wondered if President Obama was in an "awkward position" as a result. Schieffer did assert that "there's no question in my mind this was an outrageous overreach", but didn't call for an investigation into the administration's surveillance of Rosen and the AP [audio available here; video below the jump].

The CBS morning show anchor raised the issue of Holder's involvement in the second half of a segment with the Face the Nation host. King noted that "the President also said yesterday...that he wants to protect journalists from the government's overreach" and continued by spotlighting the revelation about attorney general's role in the Rosen investigation, without mentioning the journalist by name. She then asked her "awkward position" question.

Schieffer didn't directly spotlight the conflict of interest with President Obama asking the official responsible for the pursuing the Fox News correspondent. He only gave a vague statement about "what's interesting here – the President has said that he wants Attorney General Holder to be the one who does this review about their protecting reporters' rights and all of that, when it is the Justice Department, of course, that has caused all this controversy."

The veteran CBS host then gave his take on how media outlets will react to the President's apparent interest in protecting journalists:

Bob Schieffer, CBS News Journalist; Screen Cap From 24 May 2013 Edition of CBS This Morning | NewsBusters.orgBOB SCHIEFFER: I think a lot of journalistic organizations and the people who run them are going to view this with skepticism. They'll go back to the old Ronald Reagan 'trust, but verify', because the last time they introduced the shield law, it was the President and this administration that watered it down and it – and it just laid there. Nothing ever happened. They're going to now reintroduce that same legislation. But I think a lot of people are just waiting to see how serious the President is about this, because there's no question, in the minds of many journalistic organizations – and there's no question in my mind – this was an outrageous overreach when they subpoenaed all these records at the Associated Press and some of these other instances as well.

By contrast, Schieffer led the December 16, 2005 edition of CBS Evening News by hinting that then-President George W. Bush's administration had crossed the line with the National Security Agency's surveillance of communications between terror suspects in the U.S. and those overseas: "It is against the law to wiretap or eavesdrop on the conversations of Americans in this country without a warrant from a judge, but the New York Times says that is exactly what the President [Bush] secretly ordered."


The CBS host also shot down comparisons between the current Obama scandals and Watergate just over a week earlier on the May 16, 2013 edition of CBS This Morning: "This is not the Nixon administration, where you had burglars and people talking about blowing up the Brookings Institution. This is more of a case – is anybody home?"

[Update: The transcript of the relevant portion of the Bob Schieffer segment from Friday's CBS This Morning is available at MRC.org].

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