NBC Nightly News on Sunday devoted its “In Depth” segment to Bush-hater Cindy Sheehan’s impact, as anchor David Gregory touted how she “has become both a magnet and a source of controversy in the President's hometown, single-handedly bringing the Iraq debate to Mr. Bush's doorstep.” Reporter Kelly O'Donnell began with how “she's tiny Crawford's biggest draw. This woman said she drove 900 miles from Denver, compelled by Cindy's story." Earlier, filling in for Tim Russert on Meet the Press, Andrea Mitchell blamed Bush’s communications team for what the news media has really done: “How did they let this one woman become the symbol for the entire anti-war movement?” Mitchell added: “It certainly doesn't help when you see the videotape of the motorcade rushing past the protesters on their way to a Republican fund-raiser at a neighboring ranch.” On Saturday’s World News Tonight on ABC, anchor Bob Woodruff introduced a story by trumpeting how Sheehan’s “vigil for her son, killed in Iraq, has given new life to the anti-war movement and a place in Crawford called the 'Peace House.’”
Full rundowns of the Sunday, August 14 NBC coverage:
# NBC Nightly News. Anchor David Gregory: “NBC News 'In Depth' tonight. Anti-war protesters in this country have witnessed the emergence of a new spokeswoman this week. Cindy Sheehan whose son Casey was killed in Iraq, has become both a magnet and a source of controversy in the President's hometown, single-handedly bringing the Iraq debate to Mr. Bush's doorstep. NBC's White House
correspondent Kelly O'Donnell tonight 'In Depth.'"
O'Donnell, over video of people crowding around Sheehan: "This what sudden fame, or some would say sudden notoriety looks like. Her sone killed in war, her cause to speak out against it. Cindy Sheehan has quickly become a lightning rod."
Sheehan: "I had no idea it would turn out like this. No idea."
O'Donnell: "This weekend, she's tiny Crawford's biggest draw. This woman said she drove 900 miles from Denver, compelled by Cindy's story."
Woman: "I have a great deal of empathy for her. If nothing else, Cindy does deserves answers."
O'Donnell: "Empathy delivered in food as well. Iraqis living in the U.S. prepared traditional dishes for her today. She had critics who support the President's Iraq policy trek to her camp site too. Gary Coles [name?] calls lost his son, a Marine in Fallujah last November."
Coles: "She needs to have more respect for our country, our
people and yet alone President Bush."
O'Donnell: "Heated moments have been few. But some Crawford residents have had enough of crowds and chaos. One Bush neighbor, who leases access to his ranch to NBC News, fired his shotgun in the air today in what appeared to be frustration. The Secret Service came by to talk to him, but rancher Larry Matlidge [sp?] broke no law."
Matlidge, on dirt road: "If you had your brother-in-law in your house for five days, wouldn't it start stinking after a while? You're ready for him to go home, won't you."
O'Donnell: "Many demonstrators on both sides have tried to keep calm."
Woman: "Blessed are the peace-makers."
O'Donnell: "Today, a prayer vigil. Political analysts say the President is stuck: Refusing to meet Sheehan a second time may look bad while giving in to her could open a floodgate of similar demands."
Charlie Cook: "This is getting pretty ugly for him and there's really no, politically no way out right now."
O'Donnell concluded: "The President has nearly three more weeks in Crawford, but no more scheduled events for several days. That may give Mr. Bush some needed distance. But Cindy Sheehan vows to stay right here. Kelly O'Donnell, NBC News, Crawford."
# Meet the Press. Andrea Mitchell with Washington Post columnist, and former New York Times reporter, E.J. Dionne, as well as Byron York of the National Review:
“Well, the President goes on vacation and he goes down to Crawford, and look at what he encounters. Some vacation. He's got anti-war protesters on his doorstep and, of course, this woman, whose son died so tragically, Cindy Sheehan. Let's take a look at this recent ad that she prepared, and the people around her now, the political movement around her, prepared this ad for local television down in Texas.”
NBC played the 30-second Gold Star Families for Peace Ad, with Sheehan, in full: “Mr. President, my name is Cindy Sheehan. On April 4th, 2004, my son Casey was killed in Iraq. Mr. President, I want to tell you face-to-face how much this hurts. I love my country. But how many more of our loved ones need to die in this senseless war? How many more soldiers have to die before we say 'Enough’? I know you can't bring Casey back, but it is time to admit mistakes and bring our troops home now.”
Mitchell: “E.J., Mrs. Sheehan, for all of her suffering, has she now become part of a political movement? And is this an unfair approach to the President?”
Dionne: “Well, I don't think it's unfair. In fact, I am still surprised that the president, when she first went down there, didn't say, 'Come on in. Talk to me.’ He can be a very charming guy. And instead, he's let her sit out there. The fact is, that one mother who lost a loved one is more effective than 200,000 demonstrators or God knows how many politicians or commentators.”
Mitchell: “Now, he did meet with her once. He met with her
during a meeting in Seattle, I believe.”
Dionne: “Right. But to have her, when she went down there and said, 'I want to talk to you’ -- there are a lot of Americans who have doubts about this war, including people who may still want to support it. Things aren't going well over there. The polls show that the country has a lot more doubts now than it did six months ago. It seems to me that it would be a good idea, and perfectly legitimate, for the President to say, 'Come on in, let me talk to you.’ He wouldn't persuade her, but I think he would show a lot of Americans that, yes, he understands, a lot of people, including people with kids over there, have doubts about the war.”
Mitchell: “Byron York, it does seem a little ham-handed, politically. This is the crowd that's supposed to be so smart politically. How did they let this one woman become the symbol for the entire anti-war movement?”
York bought up some of Sheehan’s extreme views which most of the media have ignored: “Well, the White House points out that the President has met personally with hundreds of family members of servicemen and women killed in the war. But this has become a very political event. The White House has to deal with her very sensitively because she did suffer this terrible loss, and her son did die in service to the United States. So they, she has standing to be doing what she's doing. On the other hand, the White House knows that the only person who can really damage her credibility is Cindy Sheehan herself. She took part in a conference call I think on Wednesday, which I listened to. It was moderated by Joe Trippi, the Democratic strategist, and another Democratic strategist, Bob Fertig, of a Web site called-”
Mitchell: “This was a conference call with bloggers. So she was setting off another storm about-”
York: “-of a site called Democrats.com. And she said, she thanked her anti-war bloggers for all their support. She said, 'Thank God for the Internet. Without it, we'd already be a fascist state because one party controls everything, and the mainstream media is the propaganda tool of the government.’ Now, this is the kind of rhetoric that you normally associate with fringe elements on the left. And if she does more of that, I think she'll diminish her own credibility.”
Dionne: “But the point is that she has still started this out as a mother of a son who served the country. And I think that any kind of attack against her has the potential of backfiring because she did suffer this loss, regardless of what she says.”
Mitchell: “And it certainly doesn't help when you see the
videotape of the motorcade rushing past the protesters on their way to a Republican fund-raiser at a neighboring ranch. That's not great PR.”