The network newscasts over the weekend proved that no occasion is too small to fawn over "rock star" Bill Clinton. Over the course of three days, the morning shows and evening newscasts donated six segments to hyping Clinton's birthday celebration and the "sultry" serenade he received from Lady Gaga.
On Sunday's Today, reporter Richard Liu could barely restrain himself, lauding, "It was Bill Clinton's 65th and this diplomatic rock star celebrated with rock and roll royalty." He included a clip of comedienne Ellen Degeneres enthusing, "In a world where people look for heroes who make a difference, none is bigger than Bill Clinton."
[See video below. MP3 audio here.]
On Monday's Early Show, co-host Erica Hill raved, "A party almost set for a king, or at the very least, a former president, right? Some of Hollywood's biggest names helping Bill Clinton to celebrate his 65th birthday."
Using similar language to Liu, correspondent Hattie Kaufman extolled, "But it was clear Clinton was the night's real rock star."
All the news reports of the Clinton party dutifully avoided connecting the awkward sexual overtones of the bash with a politician known for the Lewinsky scandal, Paula Jones and other affairs.
On Monday's Good Morning America, reporter Chris Connelly played a clip of Lady Gaga, on stage, telling the President, "I wish you would play sax with me tonight, baby."
Connelly simply insisted that Gaga "entertained President Clinton, who recently turned 65 with a smile, a sultry blonde wig and some sassy shout outs."
[Oddly, none of the networks pointed out that Clinton's birthday, in fact, was August 19, almost two months ago. The party was designed to raise money for his foundation.]
On Saturday's Early Show, reporter Seth Doane marveled, "It's classic Bill Clinton. By using his birthday to help the causes he champions, from combating climate change to obesity and even HIV AIDS. Clinton is celebrating today and thinking about tomorrow."
The coverage breaks down this way: CBS's Early Show provided a full report on Saturday. On Sunday, NBC's "Today" and Nightly News offered a full report and a news brief, respectively. On Monday, ABC's GMA and Early Show allowed full reports. Today contributed another news brief.
A transcript of the October 16 Today segment, which aired at 8:18EDT, follows:
LESTER HOLT: It wasn't the Oscars or the Grammys, but the party Hollywood threw for Bill Clinton and his foundation had plenty of star power on Saturday night. Richard Lui is back for that.
RICHARD LIU: Good morning, Lester, again. Yes, it was the place to be last night and ticket prices reflected that, ranging from $50 up to $5,000, all to toast the former President in a gala tailor made for tinsel town. With all the celebrity heat present and performing on stage Saturday night, this was more like a Hollywood awards show than a birthday party. Of course, it wasn't just any birthday being celebrated. It was Bill Clinton's 65th and this diplomatic rock star celebrated with rock and roll royalty. Stevie Wonder, Kenny Chesney, Usher, Lady Gaga and Edge and Bono all turned out to perform. They were all there to promote and support the Clinton foundation which focuses on improving global health, building world economies, as a well as promoting environmental causes.
ELLEN DEGENERES: In a world where people look for heroes who make a difference, none is bigger than Bill Clinton.
LIU: It was a classic Clinton affair, combining celebrity, partying and philanthropy in a grand event. And who would have expected anything less? After all, Bill Clinton does, indeed, love a party and his relationship with Hollywood is legendary. And even though he's been out of office for over a decade, he's managed to maintain his political star power and stay in the Hollywood spotlight.
BILL CLINTON: I am the only person in history who got to be president, who then had a post-presidential birthday party attended by both Lady Gaga and the Secretary of State.
LIU: On this evening, he moved seamlessly between the two. Amidst all the music and fanfare however, the guest of honor made still it clear, this was about more than just him.
CLINTON: Nobody climbs any ladder alone. And we are not ever going to build this country back by telling people they are on their own. We have got to do America and the world together.
LIU: And at age 65, bringing artists and celebrities from around the world together for a common cause seems like a good start. And the family was in on the act as well. Daughter Chelsea, wife Hillary, there for the three-hour celebration. Lester.