CBS on Kerik: 'Poster Child as to Why Giuliani Shouldn't Be President'

The CBS Evening News, which has aired only one full story on the scandal surrounding Hillary Clinton's fugitive donor Norman Hsu, on Friday night ran its second full story on the impact on Rudy Giuliani of Bernard Kerik's indictments as Byron Pitts told Kerik that “people” say you're “a poster child as to why Giuliani shouldn't be President.” Back on August 31, in the newscast's only full story on Hsu, fill-in anchor Harry Smith didn't even mention Hillary Clinton's name in his introduction, but on Friday Katie Couric put Giuliani front and center: “Kerik isn't the only one who could face trouble. It's also bad news for his friend and mentor, Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani.”

In the Hsu story, CBS reporter Sandra Hughes didn't warn about any negative impact on the Hillary Clinton campaign or speculate about what Hillary Clinton knew about Hsu's criminal past or suspect bundling. But in the Giuliani piece, Pitts predicted: “Kerik's legal problems could mean political problems for Giuliani and the inevitable questions of the presidential candidate: What did he know and when did he know it?” In an exchange with Kerik, Pitts proposed: “There are people who say that you, forgive me, are a poster child as to why Giuliani shouldn't be President, because of your own troubles.”

Since the Hughes piece aired the Friday night of Labor Day weekend, August 31 (see transcript below), the CBS Evening News has run three brief anchor-read updates as Hsu has moved through the legal process on his fraud charges and the Clinton campaign returned $850,000 he was responsible for donating, but CBS has already aired two full stories on Kerik/Giuliani as well as a brief item. The first full story, from Bob Orr on Wednesday night, looked at the impact on Giuliani of the expected indictments against Kerik.

The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video to provide this transcript of the November 9 CBS Evening News story:
KATIE COURIC: Meanwhile, here at home, former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik pleaded not guilty to a 16-count federal indictment today. Kerik isn't the only one who could face trouble. It's also bad news for his friend and mentor, Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani. Our national correspondent Byron Pitts has more.

BYRON PITTS: Charged with conspiracy, corruption, tax evasion, doing favors for companies linked to the mob, Bernard Kerik, New York's former police commissioner, described his legal woes this way:

BERNARD KERIK, FORMER NYPD COMMISSIONER: This is a battle I'm going to fight.

PITTS: But literally before he could even make it to his car, at least two Republican candidates for President were throwing campaign grenades at Rudy Giuliani.

MITT ROMNEY: The indictment of Bernie Kerik is obviously very sad and disappointing.

PITTS: Senator John McCain on Kerik's short term in Iraq.

JOHN MCCAIN: Supposedly his mission was to help train Iraqi police. He stayed a couple of months, got up and left. That should have been part of anybody's judgment before they would recommend that individual to be head of the Department of Homeland Security.

PITTS: A not-so-subtle dig at Giuliani who recommended Kerik for Secretary of Homeland Security to President Bush. The two men rode a wave of celebrity after 9/11. Now Kerik's legal problems could mean political problems for Giuliani and the inevitable questions of the presidential candidate: What did he know and when did he know it? Long-time GOP political strategist Ed Rollins:

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: It's already a distraction to his campaign. It's a question of judgment. This is a guy who was his top police commissioner. He can't just argue he's one of 5,000 people I appointed. This is the most important job in a city government outside the mayor himself.

RUDY GIULIANI: And I should have done a better job of checking him out. I didn't. I apologize for that.

PITTS TO KERIK: There are people who say that you, forgive me, are a poster child as to why Giuliani shouldn't be President, because of your own troubles.

KERIK: Well, I think people have to also look at my record.

PITTS: Tonight, it's two careers at stake -- the man who dreamed of being a policeman and a man still dreaming of being President. Byron Pitts, CBS News, New York.
Friday's MRC CyberAlert, “CBS's Early Show Focuses on Giuliani Scandal, Never Touched Hsu,” recounted a Thursday morning story on Kerik from Pitts:
Thursday's Early Show on CBS featured a full story on the likely indictments of former NYPD Commissioner and Rudy Giuliani friend, Bernard Kerik, but the Early Show never aired a story on Hillary Clinton's fugitive fundraiser, Norman Hsu. News reader Russ Mitchell set up the story: "Republican presidential hopeful, Rudy Giuliani, has stood by his good friend and associate, Bernard Kerik, through good times and bad. But that could change now that Kerik maybe in some big trouble." Reporter Byron Pitts explained how "CBS News has learned former New York City Police Commissioner, Bernard Kerik, could face indictment as early as today on criminal charges, including tax fraud and other counts." While the Early Show had no hesitation in reporting a possible Giuliani scandal, the morning news program failed to mention the Hillary Clinton fundraising scandal involving fugitive Norman Hsu even once. That was true even when Early Show co-host, Harry Smith, had reported the story on the August 31 and September 7 CBS Evening News broadcasts, while filling in for anchor Katie Couric.
The August 31 NewsBusters item, “ABC and CBS Catch Up with Fugitive Clinton/Democratic Donor Norman Hsu,” included a transcript of the CBS Evening News story that, by comparison to the piece two months later on Giuliani and Kerik, went much softer on Hillary Clinton:
FILL-IN ANCHOR HARRY SMITH: There's another political scandal unfolding. A top Democratic fundraiser named Norman Hsu surrendered to authorities in California today, 15 years after he skipped out on felony charges. All that time he was raising money for candidates and hiding, apparently, in plain sight. Here's Sandra Hughes.

SANDRA HUGHES: He's known as a big money man in the Democratic Party, donating a quarter of a million dollars to various candidates over the last three years. But Norman Hsu is also known in California as a wanted man. Today he turned himself in on charges he defrauded investors in a pyramid scheme back in the early '90s.

HILLARY CLINTON: I was surprised like everyone else who knew him and I think he's done the right thing, turning himself in.

HUGHES: Senator Clinton's campaign christened Hsu a "Hill Raiser" for all the money he generates. But yesterday Clinton gave Hsu's $23,000 donation to charity. Other candidates were quick to wash their hands of his money, too, returning it or donating it [on screen pictures and amounts for five Democrats, including $7,000 for Obama]. Hsu is famous for bundling, getting other people to donate on behalf of a candidate, a modern day passing of the hat. But some say this practice can be dangerous to a campaign. A large group of Hsu's bundling checks came from this little green house in Daly City, California that Hsu once listed as a home address. The Paw family, which lives here has given $45,000 to Hillary Clinton since 2005 and $200,000 to other Democratic candidates.

MEREDITH MCGEHEE, CAMPAIGN LEGAL CENTER: Because some of these people appear to be of modest means, it raises questions about whether or not this money has been underwritten by someone else, by Mr. Hsu or really if the people who gave this money could really afford it.

HUGHES: So far, there is no evidence that Norman Hsu reimbursed the Paw family for their donations. In today's case, he's accused of stealing $1 million. That could put the Democrats' big fundraiser behind bars. Sandra Hughes, CBS News, Los Angeles.
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