NBC Hypes Spat Between McCain and 'One of the Tea Party's Most Provocative Figures'

Friday's NBC Nightly News played up the latest dust-up between Senators John McCain and Ted Cruz over the latter's criticism of three of the Republican Party's presidential candidates, including Bob Dole. Brian Williams underlined the apparent "genuine and palpable tension today in Washington," after Senator Cruz criticized Dole, McCain, and Mitt Romney's campaigns during a speech at CPAC: "When you don't stand for principle, Democrats celebrate."

Kelly O'Donnell zeroed in McCain's shot back at Cruz on Andrea Mitchell's MSNBC program, and hyped how "[Cruz], one of the Tea Party's most provocative figures...triggered a new Republican rift" with his remark. O'Donnell also hyped the Texas senator's Friday statement reacting to his colleague from Arizona: [MP3 audio available here; video below the jump]

KELLY O'DONNELL: Senator Cruz did not apologize. Today, his office released a statement – saying Cruz 'greatly respects the heroic military service of Senators Dole and McCain. Suggesting anything otherwise is just an unnecessary distraction.' But added that Cruz will not back down on 'matters of conservative principle – even if others may disagree' – fueling a battle that cuts across generations, in a party struggling to find its future voice.

Williams led into the correspondent's report with his "genuine and palpable tension" phrase, and continued that "a comment by Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas rubbed some of his Senate colleagues the wrong way. It had John McCain defending the honor of his former colleague – fellow decorated veteran and fellow presidential candidate, Bob Dole."

O'Donnell began with her "one of the Tea Party's most provocative figures" labeling of Cruz, and quickly added her "triggered a new Republican rift" line. She included two sound bites from the Texas politician's CPAC speech, where he acknowledged that Dole, McCain, and Romney were "good...[and] decent men" before launching his critique of the three former Republican presidential candidates.

The NBC journalist then pointed out that Cruz's speech "brought out the warrior in John McCain today on 'Andrea Mitchell Reports' – defending 90-year-old Bob Dole, who is deeply admired by Republicans as a hero in World War II, and the party's choice for president in 1996." After playing a clip from McCain's counterattack, O'Donnell added that "Dole, who is in frail health, chided Cruz in a statement today: 'Cruz should check my voting record before making comments. I was one of President Reagan's strongest supporters, and my record is that of a traditional Republican conservative.'"

Towards the end of her report, the correspondent emphasized that "McCain, who has had a prickly relationship with Cruz, says he went up to him on the Senate floor Thursday – to say that he and Romney are fair game – but told Cruz not to go after Dole." She concluded by asserting that Senator Cruz's Friday statement was "fueling a battle that cuts across generations, in a party struggling to find its future voice."

Back in December 2013, Williams hyped how "a private battle blows wide open in public as the most powerful Republican in Washington says he's had enough, coming out swinging against members of his own party" over conservatives' attack on a proposed budget deal at the time. O'Donnell later added that "[Speaker John] Boehner took the lid off his long-simmering frustrations aimed at conservative political groups."

The full transcript of Kelly O'Donnell's report from Friday's NBC Nightly News:


BRIAN WILLIAMS: In this country, there was genuine and palpable tension today in Washington among some of the top names in the Republican Party, after a comment by Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas rubbed some of his Senate colleagues the wrong way. It had John McCain defending the honor of his former colleague – fellow decorated veteran and fellow presidential candidate, Bob Dole.

We get more on all of it tonight from NBC's Kelly O'Donnell.

KELLY O'DONNELL (voice-over): One of the Tea Party's most provocative figures-

SEN. TED CRUZ, (R), TEXAS (from speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference): Of course, all of us remember President [Bob] Dole and President [John] McCain and President [Mitt] Romney.

O'DONNELL: Texas Senator Ted Cruz triggered a new Republican rift – not with that attempt at humor, but with this pointed claim about principles.

CRUZ: Now look, those are good men. They're decent men. But when you don't stand and draw a clear distinction; when you don't stand for principle – Democrats celebrate.

O'DONNELL: That brought out the warrior in John McCain today on 'Andrea Mitchell Reports' – defending 90-year-old Bob Dole, who is deeply admired by Republicans as a hero in World War II, and the party's choice for president in 1996.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R), ARIZONA (from interview on MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports"): I wonder if he thinks that Bob Dole stood for principle on that hilltop in Italy, when he was so gravely wounded and left part of his body there fighting for our country.

O'DONNELL: Dole, who is in frail health, chided Cruz in a statement today: 'Cruz should check my voting record before making comments. I was one of President Reagan's strongest supporters, and my record is that of a traditional Republican conservative.'

O'DONNELL (on-camera): McCain, who has had a prickly relationship with Cruz, says he went up to him on the Senate floor Thursday – to say that he and Romney are fair game – but told Cruz not to go after Dole.

MCCAIN: I hope that – that Ted Cruz will apologize to – to Bob Dole.

O'DONNELL (voice-over): But Senator Cruz did not apologize. Today, his office released a statement – saying Cruz 'greatly respects the heroic military service of Senators Dole and McCain. Suggesting anything otherwise is just an unnecessary distraction.' But added that Cruz will not back down on 'matters of conservative principle – even if others may disagree' – fueling a battle that cuts across generations, in a party struggling to find its future voice. Kelly O'Donnell, NBC News, Washington.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center