On CBS, Gloria Borger Highlights GOP YouTube Moments, Especially 'Stupid' Allen

Thursday's CBS Evening News pondered the new technology used by political campaigns at YouTube, but national political correspondent Gloria Borger dwelled on the videos embarrassing to Republicans -- Sen. George Allen's "Macaca" remarks, a Florida House candidate's blacks-can't-swim comment, and Sen. Conrad Burns snoozing. (There was fleeting attention on the George W. Bush-Joe Lieberman "kiss" and its clearly Bush-loathing flavor.)

At least when CBS's The Early Show had Bill Plante study the phenomenon on Tuesday morning, he balanced Allen with a Democrat, Sen. Joe Biden joking about needing an Indian accent to walk into a 7-Eleven. Borger underlined Allen as an idiot: "Virginia Senator George Allen has become a poster child for what can go wrong when a candidate gets caught saying something stupid...the controversy paved the way for new charges this week that Allen has a racist past."

Katie Couric introduced the latest way to rehash the Allen remark into one of the most media-transmitted gaffes by a Senate candidate in recent history:

Katie Couric: "Now that the Republicans have chosen Minneapolis-St. Paul as the site of their 2008 national convention, the Democrats say they are down to a choice between New York and Denver. Meanwhile, since the last conventions, running for office has become even more unconventional, thanks to the Internet. Politicians are finding that once they put their foot in their mouth, it's hard to get it out. Gloria Borger has tonight's Eye on Politics."

Gloria Borger: "Back in the '90s, a forgettable movie, EdTV, made comedy out of the idea of following someone around with a camera 24/7."

Clip from movie: "I can't take it anymore, Ed! I have no privacy!"

Borger, over YouTube images of the Bush-Lieberman "kiss," Conrad Burns nodding off and George Allen: "Well, fiction has become reality in political campaigns across the country. The idea is to catch candidates making mistakes and then post them on the Internet where they can be seen worldwide with the click of a mouse on Web sites like YouTube.com."

George Allen at campaign event, via YouTube: "This fellow over here with the yellow shirt, Macaca, or whatever his name is."

Borger: "Virginia Senator George Allen has become a poster child for what can go wrong when a candidate gets caught saying something stupid."

Allen: "Let's give a welcome to Macaca here. Welcome to America."

Borger: "Macaca means monkey to some, not at a smart thing to call your opponent's campaign aide when he's got a camera pointing right at you. It all wound up on YouTube and the controversy paved the way for new charges this week [montage of headlines] that Allen has a racist past. And he's not the only politician who's been caught on tape. Florida Republican Tramm Hudson lost his primary this month [to replace U.S. Rep. Katharine Harris, who's running for Senate] after this video appeared on a political Web site."

Tramm Hudson at campaign event: "I know this from my own experience that blacks are not the greatest swimmers or may not even know how to swim."

Borger: "The video was posted on the Web on a Thursday. By Friday, the story was making headlines in the local press. On Tuesday, the once-unknown Tram Hudson was a punch line on the Daily Show." [Comedy Central is a Viacom network, just like CBS.]

Daily Show "senior black correspondent" Larry Wilmore: "Exactly, Jon, blacks can't swim? Come on man, everybody's known that since 1973."

Borger: "Hudson's political consultant, Dan Hazelwood, did his best to control the damage."

Dan Hazelwood, pointing to video on a computer screen: "What you see here is the political equivalent of a drive-by shooting."

Borger: "Hudson may have shot himself, but his campaign believes the video was shot and delivered to the Web by his political enemies, a form of guerrilla warfare that's now a fact of life."

Hazelwood: "You have to have your person out there videotaping the other side. You got to have the staff traveling with you taping them, and you probably need a backup in case one of them needs to run an errand. It's 24/7 now for everybody."

In a good example of fake balance, Democrats are featured in the story, but only to underline how savvy they are about the new technology:

Borger: "Including the candidate. Democratic Senator Evan Bayh is running for President and he's even joined the popular college site Facebook to woo young voters. But he also knows negative news can pop up on line instantly, anonymously, and cheaply."

Senator Evan Bayh, D-Indiana: "There's no such thing as open and off-Broadway anymore. It's all prime time and it's all real time, so everything you say is out there are for public consumption for better and occasionally for worse."

Borger, over YouTube video of Burns nodding off in front of a microphone: "Its used to be that 90 percent of life was showing up. Well, not anymore. Watch Montana Senator Conrad Burns. Now you have to stay awake, too. Gloria Borger, CBS News, Washington."

On The Early Show Tuesday, Bill Plante had the same story, with a more balanced spin, using Republican and Democratic experts as well as Republican and Democratic candidates:

Bill Plante: Today the newest political phenomenon on the net, YouTube, the video-sharing website, also known for phony diaries and stupid animal antics. YouTube video postings of this picture helped fuel Joe Lieberman's primary loss to anti-war candidate Ned Lamont. And Virginia Senator George Allen, running for re-election, has seen his once large lead in the polls slip to just a few points. One big reason? This video on YouTube of Allen's remarks to the man with the camera, seen by many as a racial slur."

Matthew Dowd: "With the internet and YouTube, there is no discussion. It's automatically posted."

Bill Plante: "Matthew Dowd and author of the book 'Applebee's America' is a long-time Bush strategist. He worries about a loss of spontaneity in politics."

Matthew Dowd: "When at a time the public wants authenticity, I think the internet and 'Youtube' is causing people and politicians to actually be less authentic because they worry about what's going to get caught on the internet."

Bill Plante: "Because politicians do get caught being, well, let's say, less than perfect."

Joe Biden, Delaware Senator: "You cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. I'm not joking."

Bill Plante: "But the newest tool in techno-politics is welcome news to some political pros."

Joe Trippi: "You can influence it, but you can't control it anymore. And so, you have to let go a little bit."

Bill Plante: "Democratic strategist Joe Trippi ran the internet-fueled Dean campaign in 2004, and he sees 'Youtube' as a tool for weeding out overly manufactured candidates."

Joe Trippi: "I think if you think you have to be perfect all the time, you're finished now. The best way to think about it is, no, I have to be who I am all the time, and I have to hope and believe that the American people will like who I am."

Bill Plante: "So just be yourself? Well, it might work better for some politicians than others. But you better get used to it, though, because it doesn't matter where you are, the whole world could be watching and listening. Bill Plante, CBS News, somewhere in cyberspace."

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