NBC Plays Up Hillary's Chicago 'Home,' Even Her Ersatz Cub-Fandom

As NBC’s Today reported from Chicago on Monday, they went a little overboard in playing up Hillary’s Chicago credentials – especially her Chicago Cub fan credentials. It’s a little odd for NBC to tout her as a Cub fan just a few weeks after NBC’s Tim Russert asked her in a September 26 debate who she would root for in a potential Cubs-Yankees World Series and she straddled: "I would probably have to alternate sides." The Russert exchange was omitted from the gooey story oozing that "Not since Abraham Lincoln debated Stephen Douglas have two Illinois homegrowns drawn so much attention."

Matt Lauer welcomed viewers to Chicago and strangely and inaccurately claimed Hillary is "these days" claiming Chicago as her home: "Welcome to a split edition of our show on this Monday morning from New York and Chicago. Of course they call this place the Windy City but it's not because of the weather, it's because some long-winded politicians. And these days two very prominent politicians are calling this place home, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. And that's made for some tough choices among the locals. NBC's Lee Cowan joins us now to find out if either of these people has a home-field advantage. Lee, good morning to you."

MRC’s Geoffrey Dickens did the transcript:

LEE COWAN: Good morning, they sort of both do, actually. Because Senator Obama, obviously he's the hometown senator here, he's lived here for 20 years. Hillary Clinton, however, was actually born here, so she's technically a native. So it's making for one, so far, very friendly political turf war. At local bookstores the battle-lines are drawn. Two hometown heroes, two bestselling books and one big identity crisis.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: That's a very tough call. We're proud of both of 'em.

COWAN: The book shelf poll is shaping up this way.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Both are popular, Obama is selling more.

COWAN: Not since Abraham Lincoln debated Stephen Douglas have two Illinois homegrowns drawn so much attention.

THOMAS SERAFIN, political strategist: It should be Senator Obama's state, however Hillary Clinton has a national appeal that filters down.

COWAN: Last time they were in Chicago for a debate they each raced to plant the hometown flag.

BARACK OBAMA: Home of the NFC champion Chicago Bears.

HILLARY CLINTON: My late father was a fanatic Bears fan.

COWAN: Senator Clinton grew up in the Chicago suburbs, on this corner, one that now actually bears her name. Her elementary school, just down the street, still has her sixth grade picture hanging in the library. (To Ebeling) Have people forgotten that Hillary grew up here too?

BETSY EBELING: I haven't. I mean there is quite a few people here who haven't.

COWAN: Betsy Ebeling was her best friend, still is. Whether on the campaign trail or defending her roots here at home. I know she said that she's not gonna concede any voters, anywhere.

EBELING: No we're not, not going to.

COWAN: Not even, not even in his backyard but it's not really just his backyard.

EBELING: It's our backyard and you know, he's my senator, but she's my friend.

COWAN: So whose backyard is it, really?

VALERIE JARRETT: Oh it's definitely Barack's backyard.

COWAN: Longtime Obama friend, Valerie Jarrett, says not just Chicago but the South side of Chicago. That's where the senator worked as a community organizer, where he later taught law and where his children were born.

JARRETT: He's grounded here. You know he married a South side girl from Chicago. He's very close with her family and his roots are here now. He, he is a Chicagoan.

COWAN: There's little each candidate won't claim about Chicago but they do disagree on one thing, baseball. Senator Clinton is a Cubs fan, Senator Obama roots for the Sox. At the end of the day it really is, sort of an embarrassment of riches for Democrats here because they have two hometown powerbrokers that have a pretty good shot at the White House.

LAUER: Yeah, they have a lot to be proud of. Lee Cowan, joining us here in Chicago. Lee good to see you, thanks very much.

Here’s how Russert addressed the September 26 debate exchange on Hillary the Cubs Fan on the September 30 Meet the Press:

RUSSERT: We talked about baseball. And I found this exchange particularly interesting. Let's watch. (To videotape)

RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, what about a World Series Yankees and Cubs?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, you know, I've worried about that because I think, given the Cubs' record, which of course I, I hope it happens, but it could very well be a sign of the coming apocalypse were that to ever occur. It would be so out of history that you'd have the Cubs vs. the Yankees, then I'd be really in trouble. But I...

RUSSERT: But who would you be for?

CLINTON: Well, I would probably have to alternate sides.(End videotape)

RUSSERT: Well, the Cubs are in the playoffs, David.

GREGORY: Yeah.

RUSSERT: Cubs, Yankees. You going to seat -- sit behind each dugout?

GREGORY: You can't have it all. In the sports world, you can't have it all.

BUCHANAN: But, Tim...

GREGORY: That reeks of calculation, which is a potential downside for her.

BUCHANAN: The term "Nixonian" comes to mind on that response.

RUSSERT: How so?

BUCHANAN: In the good sense of the word.

RUSSERT: How so, Pat?

BUCHANAN: Well, I mean, which--"on the one hand, on the other."

Or as New York Times columnist Clyde Haberman put it,

Can’t you just see Jon Stewart at this point staring in wide-eyed disbelief into the camera? She actually said that? She would flip back and forth? You mean that, Kerry-like, she would have rooted for the Yankees before she rooted against them?

Granted, we’re talking here only about baseball, not a war resolution. But a common knock against Mrs. Clinton is that her favorite sport is not baseball but dodge ball. Her Yankees-Cubs response struck even some of her supporters as symptomatic of someone who tends to be too evasive, too measured, too, if you will, Clintonian. It never helps any public figure to say or do things that reinforce unfavorable perceptions.

That may be why NBC only reinforced the favorable Chicago perceptions on Monday.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis