Andrea Mitchell Fondly Remembers Anti-GOP Hearings, Skips Clinton Impeachment

Eagerly awaiting testimony from former FBI Director James Comey Thursday morning, correspondent Andrea Mitchell took to NBC’s Today to remind viewers of past “must-see” congressional hearings. The liberal reporter fondly remembered Capitol Hill proceedings that went after Republicans over the years, but conveniently skipped over the 1998 impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton.

Mitchell began her one-sided report by breathlessly hyping the upcoming Comey appearance: “And in just a few hours, former FBI Director James Comey’s words beamed to the world across three broadcast networks, social media, and cable news, putting all eyes on bombshell revelations about his controversial dealings with President Trump.” She then turned to the past: “Throughout history, whenever a high-profile hearing happens on Capitol Hill, the whole country turns their attention to watch Congress at work.”

Mitchell’s first example? The McCarthy hearings: “In 1954, a powerful senator, Joe McCarthy, his political career imploding before the cameras, exposed as a demagogue for falsely accusing people of being communists.” She quickly moved on to Watergate: “1973, two decades later, the country is again glued to their televisions as the Watergate hearings are broadcast on the evening news....All 250 hours broadcast live on public television, helping to bring down a president.”

Continuing to travel through time to tout Republican scandals, Mitchell noted: “In 1987, it was Iran-Contra threatening to consume Ronald Reagan’s second term.... Just four years later, in 1991, Anita Hill delivered her bombshell accusations against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas.” She took an extra moment to particularly cheer Hill’s testimony: “Her riveting testimony launching a long-lasting cultural discussion about harassment in the workplace.”

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Somehow Mitchell forgot that Congress impeached Bill Clinton in 1998 over charges of obstruction of justice stemming from his lies in a deposition for a sexual harassment lawsuit.

The partisan journalist did manage to mention Hillary Clinton’s testimony before the House Benghazi Committee two years ago: “Only Hillary Clinton’s 11-hour testimony during the Benghazi hearings in 2015 comes even close, in the middle of a presidential campaign. Both sides instantly turning key moments into viral online clips, living long after the live coverage faded from view.”

However, it’s important to remember that Mitchell never thought that hearing was a negative headline for the former Secretary of State. In fact, Mitchell was one of the biggest boosters of Clinton’s appearance before that committee.

The media have a long history of selectively hyping controversies under Republican administrations while downplaying or ignoring scandals when Democrats are in the White House.

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Here is a full transcript of the June 8 segment:

7:45 AM ET

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Welcome back to a special split edition of Today. We learned last week that former FBI Director James Comey would be testifying here on Capitol Hill this morning. And the countdown clocks have been eagerly ticking down ever since. Very soon that hearing will take its place alongside other historic Washington showdowns and NBC’s Andrea Mitchell has more on that. Hi, Andrea, good to be in your neck of the woods.

ANDREA MITCHELL: Thank you, it’s great to have you here. And in just a few hours, former FBI Director James Comey’s words beamed to the world across three broadcast networks, social media, and cable news, putting all eyes on bombshell revelations about his controversial dealings with President Trump. Throughout history, whenever a high-profile hearing happens on Capitol Hill, the whole country turns their attention to watch Congress at work.     

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Capitol Hill’s Must-See TV; Look Back at the History of High-Stakes Hearings]

In a nation now consumed by multimedia distractions, there are moments so dramatic, so compelling, the nation comes together to stop, watch, and listen.

In 1954, a powerful senator, Joe McCarthy, his political career imploding before the cameras, exposed as a demagogue for falsely accusing people of being communists.

JOSEPH NYE WELCH [CHIEF COUNSEL, U.S. ARMY]: Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?

MITCHELL: 1973, two decades later, the country is again glued to their televisions as the Watergate hearings are broadcast on the evening news.

SEN. HOWARD BAKER [R-TN]: What did the President know and when did he know it?

MITCHELL: All 250 hours broadcast live on public television, helping to bring down a president.

In 1987, it was Iran-Contra threatening to consume Ronald Reagan’s second term.

LT. COL. OLIVER NORTH: On the advice of counsel, I respectfully and regretfully decline to answer the question based on my Constitutional rights.  

MITCHELL: Just four years later, in 1991, Anita Hill delivered her bombshell accusations against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas.

ANITA HILL: After a brief discussion of work, he would turn the conversation to a discussion of sexual matters. His conversations were very vivid.

MITCHELL: Her riveting testimony launching a long-lasting cultural discussion about harassment in the workplace.

CLARENCE THOMAS: As far as I’m concerned, it is a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in anyway deign to think for themselves.

MITCHELL: But none of those hearings were held in today’s crowded media world, with social media and 24-hour cable news flooding the public with images and soundbites. Only Hillary Clinton’s 11-hour testimony during the Benghazi hearings in 2015 comes even close, in the middle of a presidential campaign. Both sides instantly turning key moments into viral online clips, living long after the live coverage faded from view.

But with all eyes now on James Comey, President Trump is doing his best to distract, naming a new FBI director and delivering a health care speech Wednesday. And today will give another speech and likely also try to join the fray. A social media savvy president who will surely be watching but could also live tweet as counter-programming to Comey’s testimony.

And in an era when, after years of gridlock, Congress has historically low approval ratings, today could be that rare moment when the nation and indeed the whole world will be watching. Savannah?

GUTHRIE: Absolutely. And now this is happening in the social media age.

MITCHELL: Exactly.

GUTHRIE: That adds another dimension. Andrea, thank you.

MITCHELL: You bet.

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