FLASHBACK: The Media Lovefest That Kicked Off Hillary’s 2016 Campaign

January 28th, 2023 9:20 AM

Ten years ago this week, CBS’s 60 Minutes eagerly assisted in producing what could be regarded as the first infomercial of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. That interview was the centerpiece of the liberal media’s celebration of Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State, which included feminist reporters beseeching their heroine to run for President again and break the “glass ceiling” on behalf of all women.

60 Minutes correspondent Steve Kroft jointly interviewed Clinton and President Obama just days after the outgoing Secretary of State testified about her role in the Benghazi disaster which included the deaths of four Americans, among them the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, in a terrorist assault four months earlier.

The media’s reaction to Clinton’s January 23, 2013 testimony proved their complete lack of interest in holding her accountable. “The indignation. And then, the tears in her eyes....It was a valedictory that showed her indignation and emotion as she ends this tenure on the public stage,” ABC anchor Diane Sawyer gushed on World News that night.

“She was at times, combative, charming, disarming and clearly ready for a fight,” ABC correspondent Martha Raddatz cooed on Good Morning America the next day.

Hillary’s media fan club was upset that she even had to go through the exercise of defending herself before Congress — “not how the Secretary of State had planned to wind up what is widely viewed as a stellar term as the nation’s top diplomat,” NBC’s Andrea Mitchell harrumphed on the January 23, 2013 Today show.

Two days later, the Obama White House asked CBS to book the President and Clinton on 60 Minutes, an offer that Steve Kroft was only too happy to accept. “I understand, Mr. President, this was your idea,” Kroft began the interrogation. “Why did you want to do this together, a joint interview?”

Because, Obama said, “I just wanted to have a chance to publicly say thank you. Because I think Hillary will go down as one of the finest Secretary of States we’ve had.”

Viewers tuning in on January 27, 2013 heard softball after softball. “This administration, I mean, you’ve generally gotten high marks, particularly from the voters for your handling of foreign policy,” Kroft told the Democratic duo. “What do you think the biggest success has been, foreign policy success, of the first term?”

As MRC President Brent Bozell and NewsBusters Executive Editor Tim Graham explained in their weekly column, this was a far cry from the way the venerable CBS newsmagazine approached Republicans:

60 Minutes used to be synonymous with “gotcha,” and it certainly was when it broke the Abu Ghraib story to hurt Bush in 2004, and when Dan Rather flaunted fake Texas Air National Guard documents to hurt Bush months later. In the 2008 election cycle, 60 Minutes asked John McCain why he would “let the Wall Street executives sail away on their yachts and leave this [bailout] on the American taxpayer?” They hammered Romney about avoiding military service — and his five sons avoiding military service....

But this was Barack & Hillary Show, and [Kroft] focused on that wondrous relationship. “How would you characterize your relationship right now?” He asked Hillary: “What did he promise you? And has he kept the promises?” He asked the President: “Has she had much influence in this administration?” He asked them both: “What do you think the biggest success has been, foreign policy success, of the first term?”

As free publicity for Clinton’s next presidential campaign, it was a smash: nearly 12 million viewers tuned in that night, according to Nielsen. But as Democratic PR operatives knew, CBS’s would be a gift that kept on giving, as the rest of the liberal media inundated their own audiences with similar tributes.

“Lovefest. The President and Hillary Clinton in a revealing and rare joint interview, has everyone reading the tea leaves,” fill-in host Elizabeth Vargas chirped on ABC’s Good Morning America on January 28, the morning after the 60 Minutes broadcast.

“They were leaning into each other. There was clearly a warmness between them,” CBS This Morning co-host Norah O’Donnell marveled. “It was fascinating to watch the body language,” her colleague Charlie Rose agreed, “how they seemed to be really enjoying the process.”

“The President said he simply wanted to thank Hillary Clinton for being what he called one of the finest Secretaries of State we have ever had. But the mutual gushing did not end there. There they were, side-by-side, at times chuckling together, it seemed even finishing one another’s sentences,” NBC’s Peter Alexander recounted on Today.

That night, Kroft proudly told CNN’s Piers Morgan that he suspected Obama chose 60 Minutes because he knew it would be a safe space: “I think he knows that we’re not going to play ‘gotcha’ with him, that we’re not going to go out of our way to make him look bad or stupid, and we’ll let him answer the questions.”

But the media’s fond farewell for Hillary wasn’t yet over. On ABC’s Nightline on January 29, co-anchor Cynthia McFadden begged Clinton to run for the White House again: “You might be the person who could actually break through that glass ceiling and become the first female president of this country.” Ending the interview, McFadden tried again, as she noted the presence of a statue of Thomas Jefferson in the room: “Jefferson looks over our shoulder, who I would only point out was Secretary of State who went on to become President.”

“I’ve heard that. Thank you,” Clinton replied.

Clinton’s next stop was with NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, who actually asked her guest a few tough questions about Benghazi. Yet she couldn’t help but salute Hillary’s flamboyant feminism, touting her “lifelong commitment to equal rights for women and girls.”

The following Monday saw another fluffy tribute, this time on the front-page of The New York Times: “As she leaves the State Department, the simplest yardstick for measuring Mrs. Clinton’s legacy has been her tireless travels: 112 countries, nearly a million miles, 401 days on the road. Historians will point to how she expanded the State Department’s agenda to embrace issues like gender violence and the use of social media in diplomacy.”

There was no disguising the media’s slanted approach. “It really was something you would expect from, like, the state-run media,” Democratic pundit Kirsten Powers cracked on FNC’s America’s Newsroom the morning after the 60 Minutes segment.

“When we saw Steve Kroft sitting down with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama last Sunday, things were so lovey-dovey, it almost sounded like a therapy session,” CNN’s Howard Kurtz scoffed on Reliable Sources a week later (February 3, 2013). “Could you see any Republican outgoing cabinet member getting that kind of treatment?”

Of course not. The double-standard speaks for itself.

For more examples from our flashback series, which we call the NewsBusters Time Machine, go here.