When President-elect Donald Trump announced that his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, would be taking an advisory role in the White House, all three broadcast evening news shows raised concerns about “nepotism,” with each one specifically using that word. But, on January 25, 1993, when President Bill Clinton appointed his wife to lead a health care task force, the broadcast networks praised the decision, and not a single one even mentioned “nepotism.”
Back then, CBS Evening News correspondent Bill Plante gave Mrs. Clinton a ringing endorsement: “As if to prove that the First Lady is qualified for the job, the White House Press Office passed out 21 pages of nine-year-old press clippings from Arkansas stapled to the announcement of the President’s commission. They’re all about Mrs. Clinton’s role as head of the Commission on School Standards in 1983. In any case, says Ruth Harkin, a lawyer and friend of Hillary Clinton’s, the First Lady doesn’t need to prove anything.”
On NBC Nightly News, Jim Miklaszewski also boosted Hillary. “But Mrs. Clinton took charge, after it was clear that health care reform would be tougher and more costly than originally thought.” Unlike the other two networks, ABC World News Tonight only covered Hillary’s appointment for 33 seconds that evening, as part of a larger news story.
<<< Please support MRC's NewsBusters team with a tax-deductible contribution today. >>>
Fast forward to 2016.
NBC Nightly News led with anchor Lester Holt began his network’s story on Kushner by warning that “the President-elect is planning to maintain family ties which some legal analysts say may be against the law.” Later in the same story, National Correspondent Peter Alexander mentioned Hillary’s appointment, but only in passing: “A top Trump adviser says the President is exempt from a 1967 federal anti-nepotism law, created after President Kennedy's selection of his brother as attorney general. In the '90s, federal judges supported president Clinton's move to put his wife in charge of health care reform efforts.”
CBS News Chief Legal Correspondent Jan Crawford also dropped “nepotism” during her Evening News report. “His move to the west wing may be complicated by an anti-nepotism law congress passed in 1967, after President John F. Kennedy appointed his brother Robert to a cabinet position as Attorney General. But when President Clinton put his wife in charge of a task force, a D.C. Judge ruled the law did in the apply the White House staff jobs.”
On ABC’s World News Tonight, Senior National Correspondent Cecilia Vega stated that “Ethics experts [are] split over whether Kushner’s formal role in the Trump administration would violate federal anti-nepotism laws”