NBC Grants Bill Clinton 63 Seconds to Defend Hillary; ABC Spotlights Mrs. Clinton's Absence

On Wednesday's NBC Nightly News, Brian Williams continued his network's defense of Hillary Clinton by setting aside 63 seconds of air time to a soundbite of Bill Clinton "firing back at Karl Rove, after comments Rove made about Hillary Clinton's health." Williams trumpeted how "shades of the old political warrior Bill Clinton were on display today," as he introduced the extended clip of the former president.

By contrast, on ABC's World News, Jonathan Karl detailed how the former New York senator was "not seen in public for nearly a month as secretary of state" in late 2012, and how State Department officials "downplayed her [Mrs. Clinton's] condition:" [MP3 audio available here; video below the jump]

JONATHAN KARL: ...They did not reveal she suffered from a concussion until days after it happened. When she returned to work, she wore special glasses to deal with double vision, and she acknowledged she had not fully recovered yet.

HILLARY CLINTON (from interview on CBS's "60 Minutes"): I still have some lingering effects. But, you know, the doctors tell me that that will all recede.

Williams pointed out during his short report that Rove used "the phrase 'brain damage' while questioning whether she suffers any lingering effects from the concussion she suffered after a fall back in 2012." After playing the minute-plus soundbite, the NBC anchor added that the "former president predicted the attacks on his wife were just starting, and he added, you just can't be too upset about it – of course, following his own advice is something else entirely."

On ABC, anchor Diane Sawyer previewed Karl's report at the top of World News by hyping how the 90s-era politicians was "firing back," and noted that "former President Bill Clinton takes on Hillary Clinton's big critics – the critics who raised questions about her health." She used the same phrase as she led into the segment:

DIANE SAWYER: And now, back here at home, a kind of point/counterpoint today about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and an insinuation by a Republican about her health. Today, her husband, the former president, fired back at Republican power player Karl Rove.

The ABC correspondent first highlighted that "Hillary Clinton was all smiles today – totally ignoring her political opponents, and leaving it to her husband to take on Republican strategist Karl Rove, who had suggested Mrs. Clinton may have a serious brain injury." He continued with a much shorter clip from the former president that lasted only eight seconds.

Karl also included a soundbite from Rove himself, who asserted, "I didn't say she had brain damage. She had a serious health episode. This will be an issue in the 2016 race, whether she likes it or not." He then gave his outline of Mrs. Clinton's poor health in late 2012:


KARL: This much is not in dispute: Mrs. Clinton was not seen in public for nearly a month as secretary of state, beginning in December 2012, when she suffered from a virus; a concussion caused by a fall; and a blood clot. At the time, the Clinton team downplayed her condition.

VICTORIA NULAND, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN (from December 2012 press briefing): She is still under the weather. She does not have a public schedule today.

[ABC News Graphic: "December 15, 2012: '...fainted, sustaining a concussion.' Philippe Reines, State Department"]

KARL: They did not reveal she suffered from a concussion until days after it happened. When she returned to work, she wore special glasses to deal with double vision, and she acknowledged she had not fully recovered yet.

HILLARY CLINTON (from interview on CBS's "60 Minutes"): I still have some lingering effects. But, you know, the doctors tell me that that will all recede.

The journalist ended his report by pointing out the former first lady's apparent improvement with her health:

KARL: Hillary Clinton's spokesman said she is 100 percent recovered, 100 percent healthy. And she is about to be out in public in a big way, Diane. She has a new book coming out next month. You can expect a national book tour that will look a lot like a grueling presidential campaign.

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