O'Reilly Scolds Nets for 'Softball' Pelosi Interviews, Goldberg Contrasts with Gingrich
Indeed, as the MRC documented back in 1994, the mainstream media greeted Gingrich's victory with hostility. Days before the election, CBS's Eric Engberg treated as newsworthy how the “bombastic and ruthless” Gingrich “was attacked for McCarthyism" and has “a record filled with contradictions: the family values candidate who divorced his ailing first wife, the avowed enemy of dirty politics who bounced 22 checks at the House Bank...” Time magazine snidely declared: "His ideas, which don't often come to grips with the particulars of policymaking, may be less important than his signature mood of righteous belligerence." ABC's Sam Donaldson confronted Gingrich: "A lot of people are afraid of you, they think you're a bomb thrower. Worse, you're an intolerant bigot.”
To put it mildly, that isn't the tone with which the mainstream media have greeted Pelosi's victory. The Wednesday NewsBusters item, “NBC and CBS Champion Pelosi for 'Making American History' as First Female Speaker,” recounted how NBC anchor Brian Williams gushed to Pelosi about how “I know history was riding along with you as you watched the results last night” and a glowing Katie Couric wondered: "A lot has been made of the fact that you, if elected, and it appears that you will be, that you will be the first woman Speaker of the House and the highest ranking woman in the United States government. What does that mean to you?"
To illustrate the media's hostility to Gingrich, two articles from the MRC's old monthly MediaWatch newsletter:
From the November 1994 MediaWatch:
Newt Gingrich, "Radical Geek"
The New House Speaker's Journalistic Welcome Wagon
The dramatic Republican takeover of both houses of Congress delivered to Washington a brand new Republican Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich. Before the deluge, reporters shuddered at the very thought of it.
The Center for Media and Public Affairs found that in political stories on the networks between Labor Day and October 20, Gingrich drew 100 percent negative evaluations from reporters and talking heads.
CBS Evening News reporter Eric Engberg stayed negative on November 2: "From the start, modesty was not his style. Rejecting the House's gentlemanly ways, he waged such constant guerrilla war against the Democrats he was attacked for McCarthyism."
Engberg sounded like a negative ad: "It's a record filled with contradictions: the family values candidate who divorced his ailing first wife, the avowed enemy of dirty politics who bounced 22 checks at the House Bank, and runs a big-dollar political action committee that won't disclose its contributors." Engberg concluded: "Gingrich himself, bombastic and ruthless, would be the most dramatic change imaginable, a change the administration can only dread." [For a complete transcript of Engberg's story, see this May 9 NewsBusters posting]
On the Nov. 4 World News Tonight ABC's Jim Wooten said the Georgian's "slash-and-burn rhetoric against Democrats has made him the poster boy for political resentment and rage, and he's proud of it."
Time's November 7 cover story argued: "Gingrich has been perfecting his ability to disrupt the majority and move the opposition into an increasingly radical position on the right." Richard Lacayo found Gingrich less intellectual than obnoxious: "His ideas, which don't often come to grips with the particulars of policymaking, may be less important than his signature mood of righteous belligerence."
Newsweek took the attack to another level with an article on Gingrich's personal life titled "How 'Normal' Is Newt?" Reporter Mark Hosenball explained: "The answer is just as normal as many Americans -- at least the ones who see their marriages fail, change their views and don't always practice their professed beliefs." Hosenball unearthed such scoops as his student protests at Tulane in favor of "obscene" pictures. Newsweek captioned an old photo: "RADICAL GEEK." NPR's Sunni Khalid remarked on C-SPAN's Journalists Roundtable Oct. 14 that Gingrich was "looking at a more scientific, a more civil way of lynching people."
After all this, NBC's Tom Brokaw and CNN's Bernard Shaw asked on election night if Gingrich would "moderate" his tone. The next morning between 5:30 and 10, CNN employed the words "partisan bomb-thrower" three times, "combative" three times, and "fierce partisan" once.
An article in the December 1994 MediaWatch:
An "Intolerant Bigot"?
TV Tirades on Gingrich
Reporters have pounced on every "controversial" utterance from House Speaker-elect Newt Gingrich, instead of providing a sober look at the substance of his policies.
On the November 13 This Week with David Brinkley, Sam Donaldson claimed: "A lot of people are afraid of you, they think you're a bomb thrower. Worse, you're an intolerant bigot. Speak to them." Donaldson identified Newt's problem: "It's the way you talk. You talk about the Clintons as members of the counterculture, the elitists, the left-wingers, how can you have an accommodation with the President when you read him out of 'the Americans,' as you put it?" Donaldson charged: "When you talk about people, you don't talk about it just in terms of the differences, and arguments over policy, or theology, or philosophy, but you talk about it in terms of the American way, your way, and their way, which you suggest isn't American."
On that night's CBS Evening News, Joe Klein noted "like [basketball star] Charles Barkley, Gingrich also has a tendency to get carried away, to throw elbows." Citing Gingrich's comments that the Great Society was a "disaster," Klein contended: "political insiders were wondering...would Newt's new responsibilities make him more statesmanlike, more responsible, less flagrant? Naah!"
Tom Brokaw got personal in the first network magazine profile of Gingrich, on the November 15 Dateline NBC, focusing on the "archconservative" Speaker's "controversial" statements, personal life, and ethics. For refusing to discuss his divorce, Brokaw found hypocrisy: "Gingrich, who makes so much of family values, is touchy on this issue." Brokaw delved into Gingrich's religious life: "He was more combative, perfecting his trademark scorched-earth tactics. That change caused a split between Gingrich and his Baptist minister." Brokaw called Gingrich's criticism of FDA Commissioner David Kessler as "very ominous."
Ignoring the Republicans' prior status as the minority party, Brokaw maintained that "Gingrich has distinguished himself, not for his legislative record, but for carrying the conservative torch and burning Democratic initiatives." Brokaw failed to consider that "burning Democratic initiatives" may have been the legislative record voters preferred.