Nets Embrace 'Respected' Lugar on Iraq as 'Tipping Point' and 'Turning Point'

The network anchors have found their new favorite Republican: Senator Richard Lugar, whose call for a change in policy direction on Iraq led the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts on Tuesday. Referring to Lugar's remarks Monday night on the Senate floor which were later echoed by Republican Senator George Voinovich, ABC anchor Charles Gibson engaged in some hyperbole as he teased: “Tonight, a Republican rebellion over the war: More Senators say the mission in Iraq is no longer in America's best interest.” With “Tipping Point?” on screen, Gibson bucked up Lugar's credibility: “There is no more respected Republican Senator in the area of foreign policy than Indiana's Richard Lugar. Senator Lugar took the floor of the U.S. Senate last night to say for the first time that he feels the U.S. Iraq policy is not working and U.S. troops should start coming home.”

NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams matched Gibson's esteem for Lugar: “He's been around a long time, he doesn't speak out often, and so when he does, people listen up. Last night, in the U.S. Senate chamber, Senator Lugar gave a speech in which the respected Republican broke with the President on the Iraq war. Today, another Republican Senator did the same, and so tonight many are wondering if we're witnessing the beginning of some kind of turning point?” Williams earlier teased the newscast with the same formulation: “Is this a turning point in the war?” NBC, however, has a poor record of picking Iraq war “turning points.” In 2005 the network hailed Cindy Sheehan's protest near Bush's ranch as a “turning point” and last October Williams heralded comments from Senator John Warner as he asked: “Is this a new turning point?”

On the August 25, 2005 NBC Nightly News, reporter Carl Quintanilla asserted:
Quintanilla: "Sheehan, say some historians, may be evolving as an icon in the war's turning point, if this is one. For three weeks, she's dominated headlines, mobilized protesters-"

Man: "She's taking a stand."

Quintanilla: "-both with and without relatives in Iraq."

Cindy Sheehan: "They don't have what I like to call skin in the game, but we are all affected."

Quintanilla: "Making it safe, her supporters say, to voice doubts about the war, just as Walter Cronkite did on the Evening News in 1968."
For the entire story check the 2005 NewsBusters posting, or MRC CyberAlert posting with different screen shots, both of which noted how on MSNBC's Countdown that night, fill-in host Amy Robach framed Quintanilla's story around how "there are those who wonder if attitudes toward the war could be reaching a tipping point and whether the Gold Star mom could be the driving force."

A little over a year later, on the October 6, 2006 NBC Nightly News, Williams highlighted Republican Senator John Warner's warning that Iraq is drifting "side-wise," a comment trumpeted by Williams in his tease:
"When a key Republican Senator comes home from Iraq and says the U.S. has to re-think its strategy, is this a new turning point?"
The MRC's Brad Wilmouth took down how the anchors led the June 26 evening newscasts on ABC, CBS and NBC:

Charles Gibson on ABC's World News (see first paragraph above for his tease):
Good evening. When it comes to the war in Iraq, President Bush needs reinforcements. There is no more respected Republican Senator in the area of foreign policy than Indiana's Richard Lugar. Senator Lugar took the floor of the U.S. Senate last night to say for the first time that he feels the U.S. Iraq policy is not working and U.S. troops should start coming home. Then, today, Ohio Republican George Voinovich expressed similar sentiments. And there are signs other Republicans might soon follow suit. Our Jake Tapper is joining us tonight from Capitol Hill. Jake?
Fill-in anchor Harry Smith teased the CBS Evening News:
Tonight, pressure on the President from his own party. Two respected Republican Senators tell the President flat out it's time to start leaving Iraq.
Smith then opened:
Good evening. Katie is off. Tonight, President Bush finds himself increasingly isolated on the Iraq war. In the past 24 hours, two more Republican senators have told the President in blunt language they believe the troop surge is not working, and they want American troops to start coming home. More now on this major development from our chief White House correspondent, Jim Axelrod.
Brian Williams teased the NBC Nightly News:
Tonight, the President loses two key Republican allies on Iraq. Is this a turning point in the war?
Williams led:
Good evening. In this current media age of nonstop sound and fury and videotape, where sometimes it seems like everybody in Washington steps in front of a camera every day to make their opinions known, Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana is decidedly old school. He's been around a long time, he doesn't speak out often, and so when he does, people listen up. Last night, in the U.S. Senate chamber, Senator Lugar gave a speech in which the respected Republican broke with the President on the Iraq war. Today, another Republican Senator did the same, and so tonight many are wondering if we're witnessing the beginning of some kind of turning point. We begin our coverage here tonight with NBC's Chip Reid on Capitol Hill.
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center