Norah O'Donnell: Republicans More Uncomfortable With Fox Commentator as Presidential Candidate Than Mormon

UPDATE AT END OF POST: O'Donnell contacts NB to clarify poll numbers.

CBS's new chief White House correspondent said this weekend that Republicans are more uncomfortable with a Fox News commentator as presidential candidate than they are a Mormon.

She claimed on "The Chris Matthews Show" she found this information in the crosstabs of a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll (video follows with transcript and commentary):

NORAH O’DONNELL, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT CBS NEWS: I went in the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll and I checked the cross tabs on the amount of people that find that they are uncomfortable with a Mormon as a candidate, and actually among Republicans, they’re more uncomfortable with a Fox commentator than they are a Mormon.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Who’s the Fox commentator?

O’DONNELL: Any Fox commentator.

[Laughter]

O’DONNELL: They’re more uncomfortable with them being a Fox commentator than being a Mormon according to the cross tabs of our NBC/Wall Street Journal poll.

MATTHEWS: Hmmm.

I'm not questioning the new White House correspondent, but I examined the 31 pages of the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Thursday and I can't find what O'Donnell was talking about.

The only reference to Fox is on page 28 in a question about where respondents get their news from. As for the word "Mormon," it appears twice on page 31 in questions about respondents' religious beliefs.

As such, I have no idea where O'Donnell got this from.

*****Update: Our friend Ann Coulter may have found the poll O'Donnell appears to have been referring to. It comes from early April. However, from what I can tell, O'Donnell misread it.

Some of the questions were asked exclusively of people who said they would vote in the Republican primaries. This was true of questions 17a, 17b, and 18 all on page 18. However, the question O'Donnell appeared to be referring, Q19 on page 19, did not have such a delimiter. It was asked of the larger respondent pool NOT just Republicans.

As such, it appears O'Donnell misrepresented these crosstabs assuming this was the poll she was referring to.

Her mistake should have been obvious to her because almost as many respondents said they were uncomfortable with a Tea Party candidate as a Fox News commentator. Do you really think many Republican primary voters would say they were uncomfortable with a Tea Party candidate?

What also should have tipped O'Donnell off was that more respondents were uncomfortable with an Evangelical Christian candidate than a Mormon. Again, would many Republican primary voters say they were uncomfortable with an Evangelical Christian candidate?

*****Update II: O'Donnell contacted me by phone to clarify these numbers.

First, she was referring to the April poll not the June one as I had speculated. However, she cited information not available in the PDF made to the public.

In that data made available only to NBC and the Journal, for question 19, under Republicans, 60 percent were either enthusiastic or comfortable with a Mormon candidate versus 37 percent that had some reservations or were very uncomfortable. By contrast, 50 percent were enthusiastic or comfortable with a Fox News commentator candidate as opposed to 49 percent that had some reservations or were very uncomfortable.

This does support what she represented on "The Chris Matthews Show."

O'Donnell shared some other data from those crosstabs that readers will likely find interesting. Amongst Republicans surveyed in this poll, 62 percent were enthusiastic or comfortable with a Tea Party candidate versus 34 percent that had some reservations or were very uncomfortable.

Makes you wonder why so many Republicans are anxious about the Tea Party.

Also odd was that 34 percent of Republicans surveyed had some reservations or were very uncomfortable with an Evangelical Christian candidate. Makes you wonder what kind of Republicans these pollsters dug up.

In fairness, the pollsters in question were Peter Hart and Bill McInturf who are both highly-respected on both sides of the aisle.

On a personal note, I wanted to say what a pleasure it was for O'Donnell to reach out this way to not only clarify her statements, but also share with me other details from the poll that she felt we'd find interesting.

I wish more journalists would be willing to do so.

Thank you, Norah.

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.