As Britain Says Goodbye, Networks Tout Ugly Attacks on 'Polarizing,' 'Divisive' Margaret Thatcher

In the days leading up to Margaret Thatcher's funeral on Wednesday, the three networks repeatedly hyped hateful, ugly attacks on the former Prime Minister of Britain, describing her as a "polarizing," "divisive" figure. On Rock Center, his low-rated Friday night show, Brian Williams explained that it was "sad, but necessary to report" that, while Americans may like Thatcher, "It's been a harsh couple of days ...Tonight, the number one song on iTunes in Great Britain is the Wizard of Oz classic [Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead], in this case celebrating the death of the Iron Lady." [See video below. MP3 audio here.]

On Sunday's Today, Lester Holt began by insisting, "Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is proving to be as polarizing in death as she was in life." He, too, highlighted angry liberals in Britain gleefully playing the mocking song. Leftist journalist Martin Bashir appeared on the program to bemoan the "controversial" Thatcher. He touted, "An online campaign has pushed the song Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead up towards the top of the British music charts."

Bashir made sure to play a clip of a protester complaining, "I'm here to remember the victims, the victims of Margaret Thatcher and her society-- her type of government."

On Wednesday, CBS This Morning reporter Mark Phillips lectured, "Well, this funeral was going to be a tense and controversial affair even before [the Boston bombing.]" It was going to be "controversial' to bury Thatcher, the woman elected three times in massive landslides?

On the April 17 Today, Keir Simmons reported live from the funeral route and deemed Thatcher a "divisive figure for many people in Britain." He did allow that there were "many people here in the streets to pay their last respects."

This last point, the massive outpouring of people who actually admired Thatcher, hasn't received as much attention from the network reports.

In contrast, Washington Post writers Anthony Faiola and Eliza Mackintosh recounted:

"She truly was an Iron Lady. She is what made Great Britain great," said Maureen Mann, 71, whose husband and son fought in the 1982 Falklands War. Mann’s family traveled hours from central England to stand along the procession route. "Thatcher fought fiercely for that little island and the people on it. We feel a great sense of pride in that."

In another story, the Post actually delved into the positive impact of the former Prime Minister's economic policies:

In the 1980s, Thatcher supported the regeneration of abandoned docklands into a wholly new financial district that today looks like a mini-Manhattan. Its glistening majesty was given its shine by her government’s "Big Bang" — the name for a massive deregulation of British financial markets that catapulted London into a global banking capital rivaled only by New York.

The ensuing rush of foreign banks, hedge funds and international dealmakers to Britain funneled fabulous wealth into London, contributing to an urban renaissance that has made the city more affluent than at any other point in its storied past. Today, the value of the real estate in just 10 central London boroughs is worth more than all the land in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland combined.

John van Reenen, head of the Center for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics, said his wife, who was working in London’s financial district at the time of the Big Bang, noticed "an immediate change from the long boozy lunches and not working on Friday afternoons." He added, "The whole culture shifted. London took off."

Good Morning America on Wednesday offered only two brief reports. Josh Elliott made sure to feature the signs of protesters, including one that read "Respect is earned in life not death."  Last week, ABC identified Thatcher as a "controversial" "titan" who was "both adored and vilified."

[Thanks to the MRC's Kyle Drennen and Jeff Meyer for assistance with transcripts.]

A transcript of the April 12 Rock Center segment is below:


10:54PM ET

BRIAN WILLIAMS: The music news this week actually has to do with Maggie Thatcher. This is sad but necessary to report. It's safe to say Americans have a warmer memory of her than many, especially working class Brits. She's more like a Meryl Streep character to us, but over there, because she was so tough and upended the British economy and union labor and the like, it`s been a harsh couple of days since first word of her death. One website had to close down its comments section. And tonight, the number one song on iTunes in Great Britain is the Wizard of Oz classic, in this case celebrating the death of the Iron Lady.

[CLIP OF WIZARD OF OZ SONG, "DING DONG THE WITCH IS DEAD"]

For the woman who once said feminism was poison, the reaction to her death has been every bit as tough as she was.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org