When CBS’s longtime Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer sits down in Boca Raton, Florida, tonight to moderate the final 2012 presidential debate, he’ll be following three journalists who became targets for criticism over how they handled their moderating duties.
Upset liberals scorned PBS’s Jim Lehrer for taking a hands-off approach in the first debate on October 3, with MSNBC analyst Howard Fineman slamming him as “practically useless” for not jumping into the debate on behalf of President Obama.
The Big Three networks (ABC, CBS and NBC) gave the faux furor over Mitt Romney’s “binders full of women” statement in Tuesday’s debate a whopping 22 mentions through Friday morning. Yet when Vice President Joe Biden, on Thursday, told an audience member that Republican “young guns” like Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan had “bullets” aimed at him the networks delivered just a scant two total mentions (on NBC and CBS, ABC skipped the gaffe entirely.)
On the morning after the debate ABC’s Elizabeth Vargas, on Good Morning America, singled out the “binders” comment: “You remember the Big Bird line that dominated the conversations online and around the water cooler, in essence, after the first debate? Last night, it was another Romney comment, ‘binders full of women’ that caused the heat to turn on.”
On Friday's CBS This Morning, John Dickerson was all too eager to pour cold water on the latest Gallup daily tracking poll that has Mitt Romney with a seven-point lead over President Obama: "There is a lot of debate about that...poll - whether it lags behind where the race really is....there's also other criticisms about...the way it looks at likely voters...it's a bit of an outlier from some other polls. So, if you're Mitt Romney, you like it, but we should, with all polls, be really, really skeptical."
The CBS political director raised no such objections back in mid-September, when the morning newscast spotlighted the same poll at a point where the two candidates were in a statistical dead heat, with Obama slightly ahead among both registered voters and swing state voters.
Gayle King's support of President Obama - both vocal and financial - emerged on air on Thursday's CBS This Morning, as the newscast covered Mitt Romney's much-ballyhooed "whole binders full of women" answer at Tuesday night's debate. King blustered, "I think it's going to be the joke that keeps on giving. I really do." [audio available here; video below the jump]
Correspondent Seth Doane hyped "Romney's now-infamous phrase", and spotlighted how "on Twitter, a conservative binder backlash unfolded." Strangely, Doane cited a Tweet from Obama-defending journalist Mark Halperin as an example of a "conservative."
While CBS This Morning hosts served Vice President Joe Biden softball questions on mostly horserace issues and debate optics, they challenged Paul Ryan to defend his voting record.
"Does Governor Romney believe the President was right to sign the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law? You voted against that act, didn't you?" pressed co-host Anthony Mason. In contrast, when Biden was asked about the Libya fiasco at the very end of his interview, Norah O'Donnell molded it into a more friendly question.
All three morning shows on Tuesday highlighted Hillary Clinton "falling on her sword" and "taking blame" for the growing scandal over Libya. But NBC and ABC avoided specifics. On Good Morning America, reporter Reena Ninan failed to press the Secretary of State on details concerning Barack Obama's role.
In contrast, CBS reporter Margaret Brennan pushed for details on what the administration knew and when. She singled out United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice and her initial claims that the murder of Chris Stevens was a result of an anti-Islamic movie: "Who briefed Ambassador Rice that day? Did you sign off on that briefing and those speaking points?" Clinton said no and curtly replied, "You would have to ask her...Everybody had the same information." Yet, according to ABC's Ninan, "...Clinton appeared to fall on her sword."
On Monday, the Cato Institute's Michael F. Cannon spotlighted how more than 150 employers inside the District of Columbia have signed onto a protest letter that decries the local ObamaCare board's "dismantling and recasting the separate health insurance marketplaces that serve small employer groups and individuals." One of the signatories was Chef Geoff's, owned by Geoff Tracy, who happens to be married to CBS This Morning anchor Norah O'Donnell.
This puts Tracy in, perhaps, an uncomfortable position, as O'Donnell has a record of defending the President's health care law. Here a few examples from the MRC's archives from the past few months:
The ABC and NBC morning shows on Friday showed no interest in fact checking some of Joe Biden's misstatements during Thursday's vice presidential debate. CBS This Morning partially debunked some of Biden's claims, ignoring the Vice President's suggestion that he opposed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
During the debate, Biden asserted, "It came from this man [Paul Ryan] voting to put two wars on a credit card...I was there. I voted against them. I said, ‘No, we can’t afford that.’" Actually, the then-senator voted to authorize force in both Afghanistan and Iraq. However, this point was ignored by ABC's Good Morning America, NBC's Today and CBS.
While CBS This Morning asked only one tough question on the Obama administration and Libya on Friday, guest Newt Gingrich came out swinging and dismantled Democratic guest Jennifer Granholm's defense of the administration. CBS has at times been friendly to the administration over the fiasco.
"I think with regard to the debate and the election, I don't think people are going to be voting on Benghazi. I think they are going to be voting on who do you trust," Granholm ridiculously argued. "You want to talk about trust? Having an American ambassador and three other Americans killed while the President lies to you is a pretty big question," Gingrich shot back. [Video below the break. Audio here.]
On Thursday's CBS This Morning, co-hosts Charlie Rose and Norah O'Donnell waited until the fifth interview question to press Obama adviser David Axelrod about the fiasco in Libya. The question wasn't even a tough one, basically asking for the administration's spin.
"David, the consequences of what happened in the death of the Ambassador in Libya has caused some scrutiny in those incidents in the security there, and people are writing in editorials this morning that perhaps there was some pressure on Ambassador Rice to say what she said," Rose brought up the charges against the administration. "What is the response of the President to these questions and charges?" he asked.
While the ABC and CBS morning shows on Thursday focused on a tightening presidential race following Mitt Romney's winning performance in the first debate, on NBC's Today, political director Chuck Todd used the network's new swing state polling to argue that the debate was "not as helpful to Romney as he might have hoped." Prompting co-host Savannah Guthrie conclude: "Alright, so the debate had maybe not as much of an impact."
In contrast, opening CBS This Morning, co-host Charlie Rose announced: "New polls show the race between President Obama and Governor Mitt Romney is getting tighter." Similarly opening ABC's Good Morning America, co-host George Stephanopoulos proclaimed: "High stakes and high pressure as new polls show Mitt Romney closing the gap in some key states."
Norah O'Donnell hounded Republican strategist Mike Murphy on Wednesday's CBS This Morning, repeatedly hinting that Mitt Romney flip-flopped on the issue of abortion during his Tuesday interview with The Des Moines Register. O'Donnell conspicuously failed to mention that during the same interview, Romney promised to "reinstate the Mexico City policy....that foreign aid dollars...would not be used to carry out abortion in other countries." [Update, 3:55 pm Eastern: audio clips available here; video below the jump]
By contrast, the anchor's former employer, NBC, pointed out on Wednesday's Today show that "Romney did say he would instead use an executive order to reinstate a ban on using American foreign aid to fund abortions."
Charlie Rose badgered former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani on Tuesday's CBS This Morning over the "few specifics" of Mitt Romney's foreign policy speech on Monday. During the interview, Norah O'Donnell boosted former Clinton Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's "full of platitude and free of substance" blast at Romney's speech.
Rose changed subjects midway through the segment and also hounded the former U.S. attorney on whether the Romney campaign has "decided to be more moderate" in the last days of the presidential race.
The 2007 video of then-Senator Barack Obama hinting at racism in the federal government's response to Hurricane Katrina isn't the only news story that NBC's Todayshow stuck up its nose at during the first days of October. The morning newscast has conspicuously ignored covering the latest developments in the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. It hasn't devoted a full segment or even a news brief to the issue since September 29.
As Today devoted air time to how Mitt Romney's debate performance was supposedly "completely overshadowed" by "hunting" Big Bird, ABC's Good Morning America and CBS This Morning devoted full reports on Monday to a former security official's charge that the State Department ignored repeated requests for extra security at the diplomatic facility in Libya.
On Friday's CBS This Morning, Nancy Cordes trumpeted that the Obama campaign is "turning lemons into lemonade" as she reported that the Democratic operation is "arguing that Romney had a great performance at the debate, but only because he was untethered from the truth." Not once did the correspondent or colleagues Norah O'Donnell and Bill Plante critically examine the claims from the incumbent or his operatives.
O'Donnell even spotlighted how "we heard David Axelrod say that they're going to change some things. They're even suggesting that Mitt Romney is a liar for what he said in the debate."
The sole political guest on Friday's CBS This Morning was Howard Dean, the ultraliberal failed presidential contender who was once the governor of Vermont. Co-host Norah O'Donnell asked him to comment on the vice president's statement on Thursday insisting the Democrats absolutely want to raise a trillion dollars in taxes on the rich.
Biden had "some comments that people are calling a gaffe, where he said Obama and Biden want to raise taxes by a trillion dollars," she said. "Well guess what, yes we do. Is that the right kind of message?" O'Donnell ignored that the actual 'gaffe' was that Biden strangely insisted it wasn't a "tax raise."
In response, Dean blamed the majority of the media for its incessant criticism and constant "hand wringing" when the president fails to live up to expectations or when the vice president says something inane. It appears that someone is still a little bitter about his own public mishaps. [ MP3 video below the page break, audio available here ]
Given the recent death of Ambassador Chris Stevens in Libya, one would expect the three news networks to investigate the grotesque failures by the federal government to protect our embassies overseas.
Unlike NBC’s Today, ABC and CBS’s Friday morning shows both covered recent State Department emails showing they denied a request by officials in Libya for increased security in May leading up to the terrorist attack on our Libyan Embassy last month.
On Thursday's CBS This Morning, just hours after Mitt Romney's "crisp" debate performance, Norah O'Donnell stuck to her fixation on playing up the Republican's supposed negatives. O'Donnell maligned how Romney phrased his opposition to the federal government's subsidization of PBS: "This may have been the first time in a presidential debate that Big Bird was mentioned. It seems kind of like a silly thing to bring up."
Gayle King, an admitted friend of Michelle Obama and donor to the President's reelection campaign, also spotlighted a Tweet that referenced a decades-old anecdote about Romney placing his dog, Seamus, in a carrier on top of his car: "This wasn't a debate so much as Mitt Romney just took Obama for a cross-country drive strapped to the roof of his car."
President Obama left his "greatest hits on the cutting room floor" for Wednesday night's debate, claimed CBS This Morning co-host Norah O'Donnell after the debate. According to her, "contraceptive rights" and "free mammograms" in ObamaCare are some of the President's "greatest hits."
"There was no mention of Bain," she said on Wednesday night's Charlie Rose. "There was no mention of the auto industry saved. There was no mention of the wars ended, and in the discussion about ObamaCare, he didn't mention that that would turn back many provisions that protect women's health, free mammograms, contraceptive rights." [Video below the break. Audio here.]
When push came to shove, CBS's Charlie Rose caved to the wishes of Obama adviser Robert Gibbs on Wednesday's CBS This Morning. Gibbs derided CBS for hammering a controversial video of Obama from 2007, and Rose quickly changed the subject.
"I have to say I'm a little amazed that, as you mentioned, a widely-covered speech, likely by people at your network, has somehow caused a kerfluffle five years later because somebody like Sean Hannity decided to re-air what was covered extensively," mocked Gibbs, to which Rose replied "Let me move on." [Video below the break. Audio here.]
Talk about missing the elephant (or is it donkey?) in the room – on Tuesday's CBS This Morning, Nancy Cordes reported that Senator John Kerry is "playing Mitt Romney in mock debates" with President Obama before Wednesday's debate. But she didn't once mention that Kerry's debate skills didn't help him in 2004, when he lost a presidential race to President George W. Bush.
Cordes did note that "Romney and...Kerry know each other well. They're both longtime politicians from Massachusetts." She also twice emphasized that Obama's campaign was "working hard...to try to lower expectations about his performance" during the upcoming presidential debates.
UPDATE: Still no ABC, CBS, NBC coverage of Univision's Fast and Furious report on Monday's evening newscasts or Tuesday's morning shows.
Over the weekend the Univision network broke major news in the Fast and Furious gunwalking scandal. They found 57 previously unreported guns used in crimes by Mexican cartels, but ABC, CBS and NBC have yet to report the Spanish-language network’s findings.
There were zero mentions on Sunday night’s ABC's World News and CBS's Evening News (NBC's Nightly News was pre-empted by Ryder Cup coverage) or on any of Monday’s morning shows. The blackout on ABC’s broadcasts is particularly confounding since they have an excerpt from Univision's September 30 report on ABC's official Web site. (video after the jump)
Norah O'Donnell made it clear on Monday's CBS This Morning that her job as anchor is to repeat her stick-a-fork-in-Romney mantra and boost President Obama. On the issue of the upcoming debates, O'Donnell asserted, "We already know he [Romney] has high negatives - perhaps, a likeability problem." She later asked if "we see the competitive President Obama...or will we see the cool, constitutional law professor?"
The anchor couldn't be bothered to bring up the continuing unrest in the Middle East; the related issue of the Obama administration's changing story as to what happened in the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya; or the new developments in the Fast and Furious controversy.
ABC's Jake Tapper's Thursday report on World News stands alone as the only Big Three coverage so far of what The Daily Beast's Eli Lake reported on Wednesday - that U.S. intelligence officials had "strong indications" within a day that Islamist terrorists were behind the September 11, 2012 attack on the American consulate in Benghazi - not a mob enraged at a controversial Internet video.
By contrast, former NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw tried to point the finger at Mitt Romney on Friday's Today show for the media's apparent lack of curiosity at the inconsistencies in the Obama administration's narrative about the terrorist attack. Otherwise, NBC only aired two reports on the story since Wednesday - twice running the same Ann Curry interview of Libyan President Mohammed Magarief.
Norah O'Donnell was ready to tie the toe tag on Mitt Romney's presidential campaign on Wednesday's CBS This Morning, as the morning newscast hyped the latest numbers from the Quinnipiac University/CBS News/New York Times poll, especially President Obama's 10-point lead in Ohio. After mentioning Romney's latest 60-second TV spot, O'Donnell twice wondered, "Is it too late? The voting in Ohio starts next week."
Charlie Rose spotlighted the President's "growing lead" in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida, according to his network's poll. But it took the program more than an hour to mention only in passing that "Republican voters remain more enthusiastic about voting than the Democrats," without mentioning the specific numbers.
Sunday's 60 Minutes couldn't be bothered to air Steve Kroft pursuing President Obama about "nasty and negative campaign ads under your name, or under the name of your various PACs." Obama begrudging admitted, "Do we see, sometimes, us going overboard in our campaign, or the mistakes that are made, or...areas where there's no doubt that somebody could dispute how we are presenting things? You know, that happens in politics." The news program relegated the exchange to CBSNews.com.
Despite the fact the clip didn't make it on the air, correspondent Jan Crawford mentioned it on Monday's CBS This Morning: "And even last night...the President, on that 60 Minutes interview, acknowledged that some of his attacks - some of his ads - have gone, as he put it, 'overboard', and he said there is no dispute that someone could have an issue with the way the campaign has been presenting some things."
On Monday, ABC's Good Morning America and NBC's Today failed to air any full reports on the continuing inquiry into the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and mentioned the issue only in passing. CBS This Morning did devote a full segment to the dispute between the State Department and CNN over their use of a Ambassador Chris Stevens' personal journal, but didn't mention President Obama or Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by name.
Matt Lauer vaguely referenced the "new wave of anti-Americanism" in the Islamic world during an interview of Tony Blair, but it took the former British prime minister to specifically point out the "tragic death of your ambassador" in Libya. During a report on the presidential race, ABC's Jake Tapper did briefly note how the President "described some of the events as bumps in the road. The Romney campaign saying that the death of four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador in Libya, is far worse than a bump in the road."
One might have thought that Charlie Rose received an extra dose of caffeine before Friday's CBS This Morning, as the normally-subdued anchor hounded Romney campaign adviser Dan Senor on how the Republican presidential nominee would change policy toward Iran. Rose wouldn't let Senor complete an answer, interrupting six different times in 50 seconds. [audio available here; video below the jump]
By contrast, 11 days earlier, the veteran TV host tossed softballs at Democratic Senator Dick Durbin on the issue of ObamaCare, and merely prompted Durbin on the issue of the Chicago teachers strike.
The three networks devoted less than seven minutes to a "blistering" new report from the Justice Department on the Fast and Furious scandal. In comparison, the same programs deluged the public with coverage of Mitt Romney's "secret" tax tape, hyping it for 88 minutes.
From Wednesday night through Friday morning, World News, the NBC Nightly News, CBS This Morning,Good Morning America, Today and CBS This Morning allowed just six minutes and 40 seconds. In a brief report on Wednesday, Nightly News anchor Brian Williams called the gun running story a "rallying point" for Republicans and explained, "Tonight, a blistering report lays out the blame for what happened there." Yet, NBC has, thus far, only given the latest details one minute and 40 seconds.
More than an hour into the program, Wednesday's CBS This Morning finally acknowledged that "this race is not over for Mitt Romney," based on the network's own polling. Norah O'Donnell noted that "in our new polls...Republicans are more enthusiastic than Democrats about voting this year in general, and that enthusiasm has actually...grown since early August."
O'Donnell's reporting came almost an hour after Bob Schieffer's apocalyptic spin about the Republican presidential nominee's campaign. Before getting to the poll numbers, she pressed Frank Luntz on whether the hidden camera videos were "a turning point in the campaign," and claimed that "Romney was suggesting that those people are mooching off the system. He wasn't offering a helping hand in that statement, or, at least, that's how they might interpret it."