CBS's Pelley Plays Up Republicans Likening Party to Hijacked Plane

Scott Pelley led Friday's CBS Evening News by touting how unnamed conservatives bewailed the previous evening's Republican presidential debate: "Conservatives described it with words including, 'embarrassing,' 'suicide,' and 'implosion.'" Pelley continued by spotlighting how others likened the GOP to a hijacked airplane after the debate: "It left many Republicans feeling that they were banging on the cockpit door of a party that had been hijacked, with no idea where the GOP was headed, or whether it would land in one piece." [video below]

The anchor teased the report from correspondent Major Garrett by trumpeting "a party in chaos." Pelley introduced the segment by reporting that "Donald Trump retreated from his pledge to torture terrorists and kill their families....Trump said that as commander-in-chief, he would not order U.S. troops to commit crimes. But it was just last night, in the eleventh Republican debate, that Trump boasted the military would not refuse his orders. That debate sank deeply into pointless insults."

Once the anchor used the hijacking comparison, Garrett underlined that "Donald Trump today sought to take control of the Republican Party just hours after clashing with his rivals at the eleventh GOP debate." He continued with a clip from the Fox News debate, and noted that Trump "canceled his scheduled Saturday appearance before an annual conference of conservative activists — drawing ridicule from Ted Cruz."

The CBS journalist soon played a soundbite from his interview of Reince Priebus, where he asked the RNC chairman, "Is your party coming apart at the seams?" When Priebus denied that this was the case, Garrett followed up by wondering, "What are the probabilities of an open or contested convention?"

Tell the Truth 2016

A report from correspondent Nancy Cordes on the Democratic presidential race followed Garrett's two minute and 40-second segment. However, Cordes's one minute and three-second segment was just a straight news item on Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders campaigning in Michigan.

The full transcripts of Major Garrett and Nancy Cordes's reports, which aired back-to-back on the March 4, 2016 edition of CBS Evening News:

SCOTT PELLEY: Today, Donald Trump retreated from his pledge to torture terrorists and kill their families. Both would be illegal until the laws of war. In a statement, Trump said that as commander-in-chief, he would not order U.S. troops to commit crimes. But it was just last night, in the eleventh Republican debate, that Trump boasted the military would not refuse his orders. That debate sank deeply into pointless insults.

Today, conservatives described it with words including, 'embarrassing,' 'suicide,' and 'implosion.' It left many Republicans feeling that they were banging on the cockpit door of a party that had been hijacked, with no idea where the GOP was headed, or whether it would land in one piece.

Here's Major Garrett.

DONALD TRUMP, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (from campaign event): Millions and millions of people are coming to vote for the Republicans and joining the Republican Party because of me.

MAJOR GARRETT (voice-over): Donald Trump today sought to take control of the Republican Party just hours after clashing with his rivals at the eleventh GOP debate.

TRUMP (from Fox News Channel presidential debate): This little guy has lied so much—

MARCO RUBIO, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Here we go!

TRUMP: About my record— (audience boos)

RUBIO: Here we go with the personal stuff—

TRUMP: He has lied so much.

GARRETT: The rift between Trump and the Republican establishment continues to grow. Trump canceled his scheduled Saturday appearance before an annual conference of conservative activists — drawing ridicule from Ted Cruz.

TED CRUZ, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (from 2016 Conservative Political Action Conference): He was told there were conservatives that were going to be here. (audience cheers)

GARRETT: Those conservatives were skeptical of Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 1: If he doesn't show up, I think he's kind of dodging what's going on here.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 2: I don't think he represents our values at all.

MITT ROMNEY: Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud.

GARRETT: As Mitt Romney and other GOP leaders plot ways to deny Trump the nomination, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said the turmoil would not hurt the party's chances in the fall.

GARRETT (on-camera, from pre-recorded interview): Mr. Chairman, is your party coming apart at the seams?

REINCE PRIEBUS, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: No! Not at all. I think what you see is some drama and some intrigue; and I think that's good for our party.

GARRETT: What are the probabilities of an open or contested convention?

PRIEBUS: You know, I don't know about that. I mean, I still believe that it's likely that we wouldn't go to a contested convention. But, you know, whatever the case is, we're going to be prepared.

CRUZ (from Fox News Channel presidential debate): Please, I know it's hard not to interrupt, but try—

TRUMP: Yeah, I know. But that's not what you said in the op-ed—

CRUZ: Breathe, breathe, breathe—

TRUMP: Lying dead—

GARRETT: And despite the rancor at last night's debate, all the candidates pledged to support the eventual Republican nominee.

CRUZ:  Because I gave my word that I would.

GARRETT (live): At the conservative conference Trump is skipping, Ben Carson today formally ended his campaign. Scott, Carson offered no endorsement; but in a jab at the remaining candidates, said he left behind being boisterous and loud in high school.

PELLEY: Major Garrett, thanks very much.

The next contest for the Democrats are tomorrow in Kansas, Louisiana, and Nebraska — Michigan on Tuesday.

Here's Nancy Cordes.

HILLARY CLINTON, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (from campaign event): There were so many insults flying back and forth, it was hard to keep track.

NANCY CORDES (voice-over): In Detroit, the Republican debate drew a brief mention from Clinton, but she quickly turned to Michigan's economy — taking a tough line on trade in a state hard hit by outsourcing.

CLINTON: And we don't take action until after the damage is done — which often means after workers are laid off. That is ridiculous.

CORDES: In Traverse City, Bernie Sanders argued he, not Clinton, has consistently opposed free trade deals.

BERNIE SANDERS, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (from campaign event): NAFTA and permanent normal trade relations with China have cost this country millions of decent-paying jobs.

CORDES (on-camera): For both candidates, winning Michigan is about more than just delegates. They have both visited water-stricken Flint; and both want to show, Scott, that they are the ones who are equipped to solve crises, like that one, when they arise.

PELLEY: Nancy Cordes, thanks.

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