Reminiscent of the high dudgeon Washington press corps reaction after a few hours passed before they were notified of Vice President Cheney's hunting accident, on Tuesday some reporters denounced the White House for failing to publicly announce how last month First Lady Laura Bush had a skin cancer growth removed from one of her legs. On FNC, Brit Hume played a montage from the daily briefing showing how journalists “demanded to know why they hadn't been told earlier." NBC's Kelly O'Donnell, for instance, asked “how was the decision reached not to disclose this publicly until questions were asked?" And she challenged White House Press Secretary Tony Snow: "Do you feel any obligation as a person of public status to talk about this?"
On the CBS Evening News
, Katie Couric framed the story not around the cancer but around how the White House didn't reveal it: "Laura Bush has been treated for skin cancer, and today she and others in the administration were defending her decision to try to keep that story out of the press.” CBS reporter Jim Axelrod at least noted the lack of threat to the First Lady's health: "In October, Mrs. Bush noticed a sore that wouldn't heal. A biopsy confirmed squamous cell carcinoma, among the most common and treatable skin cancers."
In contrast to CBS, which fallowed Axelrod's story with a look at skin cancer from Doctor Jon LaPook, the ABC and NBC evening newscasts skipped the DC press corps' whining and used the disclosure only as a hopping off point to examine the symptoms and treatment of skin cancer. ABC anchor Charles Gibson, for example, set up a medical-based story: “We learned late yesterday that First Lady Laura Bush had a skin cancer tumor removed from her leg last month. She is said to be healing well, but one in five people in the U.S. will develop some form of skin cancer.”
On the December 19 Special Report with Brit Hume
on FNC, Hume played a montage of clips from the White House press briefing:
Kelly O'Donnell, NBC News: “Tony, can you tell us about Mrs. Bush's skin cancer, how is she doing and how was the decision reached not to disclose this publicly until questions were asked?”
Victoria Jones, Talk Radio News Service: “Which was it, was it that it was medical privacy that was the reason for not informing us, or was it that it was no big deal?”
O'Donnell: “Do you feel any obligation as a person of public status to talk about this?”
Jessica Yellin, ABC News: “Did the White House doctor treat her?”
Kathleen Koch, CNN: “Does the First Lady say she actually does not plan to come out in any way? She could potentially have a great influence on a lot of people's lives, especially young women.”
Tony Snow: “You guys are really stretching it. I mean, it is now officially a really slow news day.”
The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video for the CBS Evening News
Katie Couric: “Laura Bush has been treated for skin cancer, and today she and others in the administration were defending her decision to try to keep that story out of the press. Jim Axelrod has the latest."
Jim Axelrod: "It was at last night's White House Hanukkah party when a reporter asked about a bandage on Mrs. Bush's shin. Until then, not a word had been said about the First Lady's skin cancer."
Tony Snow, White House Press Secretary: "And, again, it's no big deal. In this case, it's just not a big deal."
Axelrod: "In October, Mrs. Bush noticed a sore that wouldn't heal. A biopsy confirmed squamous cell carcinoma, among the most common and treatable skin cancers."
Dr. Elizabeth Hale, New York University School of Medicine: "There is a very low chance of any serious consequence from a squamous cell cancer confined to the skin."
Axelrod: "The tumor was removed. End of story, says the White House. This was not Nancy Reagan's or Betty Ford's breast cancer, but a smaller, private medical matter, more like the flu, according to Tony Snow."
Snow: "They did local anesthetic, they removed it."
Axelrod: "First Lady's aides say she didn't miss a step, traveling to Asia, and then hosting 24 holiday parties for 12,000 guests in the first few weeks after the procedure."