Brian Williams Tempted to Cuss at Mark McGwire for His Lies; Not So on NBC When Bill Fessed Up About Monica

Greg Pollowitz at NRO Media Blog noted that NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams made it personal on Tuesday night, suggesting "Because this is a family broadcast, we probably can’t say what we’d like to about the news today that Mark McGwire...stopped lying" about steroid use during his baseball career.

What about the night that Bill Clinton finally stopped lying about Monica Lewinsky? It’s quite a contrast. On NBC Nightly News, Tom Brokaw wondered if all the prudes and their "compulsive fascination" with Clinton’s testimony hadn’t ruined politics for a generation: "The last guest that we had from California said, ‘Who would go into politics now?’ He insisted to Randy Tate of the Christian Coalition that Clinton’s apology offered "a lesson to the nation’s children."

This is how Williams introduced the McGwire story on Tuesday:

Because this is a family broadcast, we probably can't say what we'd like to about the news today that Mark McGwire, the home run hitter, the fan favorite for the St. Louis Cardinals, stopped lying today and admitted that he did it while on steroids. For those of us who were raising young baseball fans and young baseball players who looked up to Mark McGwire, that summer of '98 was magical stuff, as he and Sammy Sosa traded dingers for the title of Home Run King. He didn’t tell the truth to Congress or his fans until finally, formally coming clean today. He’s been unable to get into the Hall of Fame, and apparently, even for him, the shame here was too much."

Brian's throwing hardballs. But on August 17, 1998, MRC’s Brent Baker found a different picture when it was a president instead of a baseball star. Tom Brokaw wasn't tempted to use naughty words in front of the children:

Still hoping the end is near, Brokaw plaintively asked Tim Russert: "The last guest that we had from California said, ‘Who would go into politics now?’ Is this possibly a kind of bottoming out of this kind of compulsive fascination that this entire country has had with this subject and the polarization that it has brought about. And is there a possibility that out of all of this the country will now find a way of healing itself somewhere in the middle ground?"

Here are Brokaw questions to Randy Tate, who was a former Republican Congressman:

"One of the basic tenets of the Christian faith, Mr. Tate, is forgiveness. Does the President deserve the forgiveness of the nation tonight?..."

"But once the President does make the kind of critical lapse in judgement, the wrong mistake, as he described it tonight, once he says he regrets that is that not also a lesson for the nation’s children?"

Here’s more of the NBC flavor from Baker’s report:

From East to West NBC discovered public joy with Clinton’s speech and hope it will all go away. Bob Kur drove to Towson, Maryland to watch Clinton with a cross section of voters which supposedly included Dole backers. Kur told Brokaw: "I must say going in Tom that this group, most of them believed that the President, what he was going to say tonight, should be the last word in all of this."

These voters didn’t let any facts get in the way as Kur explained: "There are reports tonight that the President was not completely candid in his responses. He didn’t give detailed answers. If that’s the case would it bother any one of you? [Chorus of no’s] And can I see a show of hands if anyone would want the President to resign. Show of hands please. One out of this crowd of 14 or 15."

Later, Maria Shriver checked in from "the Broadway Deli. Very busy restaurant in Santa Monica, California. When the President spoke here not too long ago you could hear a pin drop in this restaurant. I’m here with Debra Castiglione and Bruce Williams, he’s a teacher, she’s a sales exec. You said that you were really interested in what the President had to say. Did he come clean enough for you?"

Debra Castiglione: "Yes, he certainly did."

Shriver: "You still proud to have him as the President?"

Castiglione: "I am proud to have him as our President, yes."

Shriver: "Was it enough of an apology for you?"

Castiglione: "Yes I think he owes it to Hillary and his daughter and that should be it. It’s over."

Shriver: "Debra said that she was most concerned, at the end of the speech, about Hillary and Chelsea. Bruce you were saying that you are not a Clinton fan but you thought this was remarkable grace under pressure."

Bruce Williams: "Yes I did. I’m not a Clinton fan because actually I think he’s become too much of a Republican. But I can’t imagine anyone being in that position and I think any of us, any of us if we had $40 million aimed at our private lives would be in trouble. And I think that this pursuit of Clinton has been vicious and is politically motivated...."

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