Let me begin by stating the obvious, the media has overblown the coverage of Vice President Cheney’s hunting accident, and nowhere was that more clear than on CBS’s "The Early Show" this morning. There were a total of 6 stories dealing with the subject this morning, as well as one story tease. Four of these stories plus the story tease occurred in the first fifteen minutes of the broadcast.
Julie Chen opened the program:
Julie Chen: "Good morning, I'm Julie Chen. Hunting for answers, there's a growing firestorm over the delay in reporting Vice President Dick Cheney's hunting accident as White House spokesperson Scott McClellan was pounded with questions at a press briefing Monday, we'll have all the latest"
The only reason this is "a growing firestorm" is because media elites are upset that they weren’t immediately informed of the incident and that a community newspaper in Corpus Christi Texas was the first to break the story.
In the top story, Hannah Storm continued to hype the firestorm while Jim Axelrod subtly accused the Vice President of wanting to cover up the incident.
Hannah Storm: "But first we want to get right to our top story this morning and that's the firestorm over Vice President Dick Cheney's hunting accident. It took nearly a day for news of the accident to get out, and that has put the White House in the line of fire, triggering a very contentious press briefing."
Mr. Axelrod, after showing some clips from yesterday’s press briefing, claimed the Vice President’s team has advanced communications equipment, implying there should not have been a delay in the information being released to the press.
Jim Axelrod: "But the Vice President's Secret Service and military details which travel everywhere with him had sophisticated communications."
Later in the piece, Axelrod accused Cheney indirectly of trying to cover up the incident:
Jim Axelrod: "But, if Dick Cheney wanted the story of the first Vice Presidential shooting since 1804 and Aaron Burr to get out, then it would have gotten out much sooner."
In the very next segment, viewers were updated on the condition of Mr. Whittington, the victim, but there were still some cheapshots taken in the story by reporter Lee Cowan. Cowan referred to Mr. Whittington while at least acknowledging that the shooting was accidental:
Lee Cowan: "He's the Vice President's unintended hunting trophy"
And to make light of the fact that most of the bird shot will not be removed from his body, Cowan implies that they will be souvenirs for Mr. Whittington:
Lee Cowan: "Doctors say most of the birdshot will stay right where it is, tokens of his more than memorable hunting trip with a member of the White House elite."
Later in the show, Harry Smith talked with Bill Plante about the incident. You can read some of the exchange here, but the important point is where Plante tells why the press is so angry.
Bill Plante: "But, if it were up to Dick Cheney, he wouldn't tell us if our shirts were on fire, for heaven's sakes. I mean He likes to hold things close and he and his office drove this. They did not take the sugges, McClellan, the Press Secretary, didn't even find out about this until about 12 hours later at 6:00 Sunday morning. And then he didn't tell us. They let the local hostess put it out."
Plante is outraged not because they delayed, but because in letting the local hostess put this story out, the White House let the local Corpus Christi media break a story, a story any reporter in Washington would have killed to break.
The final story in the first 15 minutes of the broadcast, was in regards to how the late night comedians were handling this story, and the implication was the comedians were having a field day with it.
With 5 mentions in 15 minutes, this coverage of the media created firestorm on the Early Show is reminiscent of the way they treated another media created firestorm: the NSA "domestic spying" scandal.