ABC and NBC's morning shows on Thursday actually noticed something interesting was happening with the Fast and Furious scandal. Both networks covered the vote by a House committee to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt. However, Good Morning America and Today spent more time focusing on a heat wave hitting the east coast than they did the controversy involving a murdered border agent.
Good Morning America allowed a scant minute and 21 seconds for Fast and Furious, but that was only after first touting, for two minutes and 49 seconds, warm weather in the summer. NBC's Today featured a single report on the swirling controversy (one minute, 58 seconds), but only following two minutes and seven seconds on people sweating. News reader Natalie Morales highlighted the congressional action as partisan: "...A Republican-lead House panel voted along party lines to cite [Holder] for contempt of Congress."
CBS This Morning provided the most coverage of the three networks. The show devoted two full reports to the gun running case, a total of six minutes and 15 seconds. Showing the restraint that NBC and ABC lacked, the program dismissed the heat wave in 19 seconds.
This Morning stood out from both the morning shows and Wednesday's nightly newscasts in pointing out potential hypocrisy on the part of Barack Obama. On March 24, 2007, then-Senator Obama told CNN: "There's been a tendency, on the part of [the Bush] administration, to try to hide behind executive privilege every time there's something a little shaky that's taking place."
Of course, now-President Obama claimed executive privilege in regard to Fast and Furious. This Morning was the only program to feature this clip or even to reference it.
Reporter Nancy Cordes balanced, "Where Republicans see a cover-up, Democrats see a witch hunt."
In a follow-up segment, host Erica Hill wondered about compromise: "Is there any indication this morning, Major Garrett, over, for lack of a better term, which side will blink first here?"
This subject also interested Good Morning America anchor George Stephanopoulos. Talking to reporter Jake Tapper, he pressed, "Any chance either side is going to bend before that contempt vote, which would be historic?"
To see how Wednesday's evening newscasts covered the story, go here.
A transcript of the first CBS This Morning segment can be found below:
07:03 am EDT
ROSE: Democrats and Republicans in Washington are at each other's throats over the controversial gun-running program called 'Fast and Furious.'
ERICA HILL: On Wednesday, the Obama administration claimed executive privilege for the first time, and a House committee voted to charge Attorney General Eric Holder with contempt of Congress. This morning, the attorney general is speaking out.
Nancy Cordes is on Capitol Hill with the latest. Nancy, what is he saying?
[CBS News Graphic: "Fast And Furious Fallout: Obama And GOP Battle Over DOJ Documents"]
NANCY CORDES: Well, Erica, he's traveling through Copenhagen in Denmark, and he just said that the contempt vote is 'unwarranted, unnecessary, and unprecedented.' He went on to say he still thinks that this conflict can be resolved, but right now, neither side is showing any sign of conceding.
REP. DARRELL ISSA, (R), CALIFORNIA (from congressional hearing): The ayes have it, and a contempt report is ordered.
CORDES (voice-over): Republicans argue the move was the only way to force Attorney General Eric Holder to hand over documents they asked for eight months ago.
REP. MIKE KELLY, (R), PENNSYLVANIA: When you keep getting stonewalled, as Mr. [Blake] Farenthold just said, why? What is it about these documents that are so sensitive?
CORDES: The White House added an extra layer of intrigue by claiming executive privilege over the documents, a tool the administration can use to protect internal discussions. Where Republicans see a cover-up, Democrats see a witch hunt.
REP. JOHN TIERNEY, (D), MASSACHUSETTS: It's painful to sit here and watch it turn into a partisan political theater.
CORDES: Their disagreement centers around an ATF operation called 'Fast and Furious,' which allowed traffickers from Mexican drug cartels to buy more than 2,000 weapons from U.S. gun dealers. The goal was to track the guns and take down a major cartel, but it didn't work. Two of the guns were found at the murder scene of a U.S. Border Patrol agent in 2010.
Holder has handed over nearly 8,000 pages of documents, but Republicans want more, and say the White House use of executive privilege brings up new questions about the documents.
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY, (R), IOWA: It raises a lot of suspicion about how high up in this administration the decision to have 'Fast and Furious' goes.
CORDES: This is the first time President Obama has exerted executive privilege. In 2007, then-Senator Obama criticized President Bush for the practice.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA (from March 24, 2007 interview on CNN's "Larry King Live"): There's been a tendency, on the part of this administration, to try to hide behind executive privilege every time there's something a little shaky that's taking place.
CORDES: Now that a contempt vote is headed to the House floor, former House of Representatives counsel Stanley Brand says he expects both sides to give a little.
STANLEY BRAND, FMR. UNITED STATES HOUSE COUNSEL: So, there's always this back and forth, and some portion or some elements of the documents will be made available to Congress.
CORDES (on-camera): If the full House votes in favor of contempt next week, it will be the first time that an administration official from the top levels of the Cabinet has been held in contempt. But, then, Charlie and Erica, this matter gets handed over to the local U.S. attorney, who is unlikely to do anything with this matter, because he's not going to prosecute his own boss, Eric Holder.
ROSE: Nancy, thank you.