In '99 When Clinton Was Hailed for Kosovo, NBC Didn't Find 'Over the Top' Ovation

June 11th, 2007 9:00 AM

Earlier today, Mark Finkelstein found that NBC thought the reaction to President Bush in eastern Europe was "over the top," which suggests their own dismissive judgment of his worth. "Over the top" was not a designation NBC used when President Clinton was hailed by large, adulatory crowds in eastern Europe. On June 22, 1999, as Brent Baker noted at the time, the NBC Nightly News featured the late reporter David Bloom touting how Clinton was greeted as a "liberator" – unlike President Bush?

BLOOM: In a refugee camp filled with mud and misery, but also today, hope, President Clinton, with his wife and daughter, walked hand-in-hand with children who escaped Kosovo's hell, but who cannot escape their own nightmares. 'The children,' Mr. Clinton says, 'have a glazed-over look in their eyes, full of hurt and terror and loss.' This woman tells the president, "My little boy has seen people killed. He's still afraid." But with the war over, these refugees, many still afraid to go home, fearing the unknown, greet the president like a liberator.

CHILDREN, cheering: Clinton! Clinton!

BLOOM: For a moment, hope replaces fear, anger at the Serbs gives way to gratitude toward America.

The entire story wasn’t syrupy. Things were still portrayed as difficult on the ground, but Clinton’s heroic status wasn’t questioned. In the next story, NBC’s Martin Fletcher relayed that a teenaged girl was disappointed she couldn’t speak before the great American president, the symbol of freedom:

FLETCHER: It is now one hour before her big performance. Saranda anxiously waits at home, a tent that houses two families, 13 people. Finally, the president arrives. Thousands of overjoyed refugees celebrate, chanting "NATO, NATO," and "Thank you, America." But the teen-ager is nervous, focused on remembering her lines. But the crowd is so large, she climbs up for a better view. Now Saranda is anxious. Things are running late. The kids rehearsed, they were ready, but the organizers couldn't guarantee they'd get to perform for the president. Then, at the last minute, disappointing news, Saranda and the children are told, now they will not be allowed to perform for the president. Security problems, they're told. Then suddenly, the president emerges in the crowd. She sees him in the distance, while his photograph is passed hand to hand. A teen-ager caught up in excitement of the crowds, a young girl who wanted to tell the president she understands about freedom. Martin Fletcher, NBC News, Skopje, Macedonia.