Networks Hail Bill Clinton Campaigning as ‘a Decisive Moment’; ‘Back in His Element’

Following former President Bill Clinton’s first 2016 campaign events on Monday for wife Hillary, the “big three” of ABC, CBS, and NBC proclaimed that Hillary’s use of her “secret” and “most potent” weapon as a surrogate in New Hampshire was “a decisive moment” of this election season.

At the top of NBC Nightly News, anchor Lester Holt explained that the person the former secretary of state “calls both husband and her not so secret weapon has been launched on to the campaign trail” while Clinton campaign correspondent Andrea Mitchell cheered Bill Clinton telling patrons at a Manchester restaurant that he wanted french fries in what she diagnosed as a nod to a Saturday Night Live skit of Clinton in 1992.

Mitchell gushed that Bill was “[l]iving up to a famous SNL parody” with the campaign placing him “[b]ack in his element despite Donald Trump's attack for the former President's past womanizing.”

The correspondent and MSNBC host then applauded Bill for not directly responding to Donald Trump: “Today, Bill Clinton following a campaign decision not to take Trump's bait as much as Clinton clearly wanted to.”

The CBS Evening News shifted to the campaign trail after trumpeting President Obama’s executive orders on gun control with this segue from anchor Scott Pelley: “The President's shot was heard everywhere on the campaign trail today, and with less than four weeks to the first voting, candidates are turning to their own big guns.”

Chief White House correspondent Major Garrett alluded to the near unanimous criticism from Republican presidential candidates and support from Hillary Clinton, but then moved on to Bill by ruling that Hillary had “deployed one of her most potent political weapons” with Bill “admitting the times feel a bit unsettling.”

Meanwhile, ABC’s World News Tonight anchor David Muir led the newscast by informing viewers that there was “a decisive moment” in the 2016 race at the start of “the all-out sprint to Iowa” as Bill Clinton took to the campaign trail with Clinton correspondent Cecilia Vega “getting a moment with him, asking, is Trump making a fair argument?”

After Vega spun Donald Trump bringing up Clinton’s past of sexual misconduct as harsh last week, she reported that the former President “didn't mention Donald Trump by name, or Trump's tactic of dredging up the former President's past sex scandals.”

Prior to Bill taking to the campaign trail, the Monday morning network newscasts previewed the “secret weapon” going to work as a “popular” former President with high poll numbers.

The transcript of the segment from January 4's NBC Nightly News can be found below.

NBC Nightly News
January 4, 2016
7:01 p.m. Eastern

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE CAPTION: Campaign Blitz]

LESTER HOLT: Call it the sprint to the starting line. After all those months of rising and falling fortunes, we’re just now 28 days from the first nominating contest of the 2016 race for president and there is new urgency for those still in it. 28 separate campaign events today alone. Heading into the stretch toward the February 1st Iowa caucuses, the latest poll there shows Ted Cruz ahead of the Republican pack. For the Democrats, Hillary Clinton with a nearly 10-point lead over Bernie Sanders while in New Hampshire, it’s Donald Trump out front for Republicans and for the Dems, Sanders with a two-point lead and with crunch-time here, checkbooks are being opened, strategies refined, and in the case of Hillary Clinton, the man she calls both husband and her not so secret weapon has been launched on to the campaign trail. We have it all covered tonight. Andrea Mitchell begins our coverage. Andrea, good evening. 

ANDREA MITCHELL: Good evening, Lester. Well, this is Bill Clinton’s first solo trip in this campaign, trying to pull Hillary Clinton over the finish line in New Hampshire. Bill Clinton at a popular restaurant in Manchester. 

BILL CLINTON: I’m going to take time to get some of these french fries.

MITCHELL: Living up to a famous SNL parody. 

SNL’s BILL CLINTON [PLAYED BY PHIL HARTMAN]: Say, are you going to finish these fries?

MITCHELL: Both Clintons taking nothing for granted this time. [TO BILL CLINTON] Can Hillary win this one? 

BILL CLINTON: Win here? Sure. But it’s going to be hard. 

MITCHELL: Back in his element. Despite Donald Trump's attack for the former President's past womanizing, to counter Hillary Clinton's charge that Trump is sexist. 

DONALD TRUMP [on CNN’s New Day, 01/04/15]: I said how the hell can she do that when she has one of the great women abusers of all time sitting at her house. 

MITCHELL: Today, Bill Clinton following a campaign decision not to take Trump's bait as much as Clinton clearly wanted to. [TO BILL CLINTON]: How do you feel about the kind of campaign Donald Trump is running, sir? 

BILL CLINTON: The Republicans will have to decide who they will nominate. How I feel is only relevant with sake to their nominee. 

MITCHELL: And Hillary Clinton in Iowa refusing to engage Trump.

HILLARY CLINTON: I've adopted a New Year’s resolution. [SCREEN WIPE] I'm going to let him live in his alternative reality and I'm not going to respond. 

MITCHELL: Hillary calls Bill her not so secret weapon, but he occasionally misfired. In 2008, for ridiculing Barack Obama. 

BILL CLINTON [on 01/07/08]: This whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I've ever seen.

MITCHELL: This time, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is giving Hillary Clinton a run for her money in neighboring new Hampshire. Ahead there and raising $33 million in the last three months, only $4 million less than Clinton's $37 million. All of this, as both Clintons try to stick this their game plan, ignoring Donald Trump. Andrea Mitchell, NBC News. Exeter, New Hampshire. 

Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck is the Managing Editor of NewsBusters for the Media Research Center