Networks Hype ‘Popular’ Bill Clinton as Hillary’s ‘Secret Weapon’

The network morning shows on Monday hyped Hillary Clinton’s dismissal of Donald Trump’s attacks, instead promoting the “popular” Bill Clinton. On Good Morning America, Cecilia Vega enthused, “Bill Clinton has enormously high popularity numbers. But even with all of these attacks coming from Trump, her campaign and Hillary Clinton herself calls him their secret weapon.” 

Echoing her ABC colleagues, NBC reporter Kristen Welker on Today touted the Democrat’s retort to Trump: “Clinton campaign officials really brushing that aside. They say, ‘look, he's one of the most popular politicians in the country.’ They believe the benefits far outweigh the costs.” 

Over on CBS This Morning, Major Garrett allowed Mrs. Clinton to ignore the businessman’s attacks: 

MAJOR GARRETT: Trump has used Bill Clinton's infidelities as a shield against Hillary's charges of sexism. 

TRUMP: I mean, what he did and what he has done, I think, is —  frankly terrible, especially if she wants to play the woman card. 

HILLARY CLINTON: Hillary Clinton has avoided responding to Trump's personal attack on her or her husband. But she does challenge Trump on policy, directly opposing his call to ban Muslims from the U.S. 

Garrett added, “Bill Clinton is not expected to respond directly to Trump either. Betting Democrats here have, as the saying goes, moved on." 

ABC and NBC both noted a “heckler” slammed Mrs. Clinton, highlighting rape accusations. Yet, neither allowed the woman, Katherine Prudhomme O’Brien, a chance to speak. Instead, NBC’s Peter Alexander summarized: 

PETER ALEXANDER: Clinton is even hearing about it on the road. In New Hampshire she dismissed a Republican state lawmaker who heckled her about her husband's alleged extramarital affairs. 

HILLARY CLINTON: You are very rude and I'm not going to ever call on you. 

On GMA, Vega offered: 

VEGA: But there was no laughing when this heckler repeatedly interrupted her, trying to ask about a woman who accused Bill Clinton of sexual assault, something he denies. 

CLINTON: You are very rude. And I am not going to ever call on you. 

Today's Chuck Todd, in contrast to some of the other coverage, called Trump’s assaults on the Clintons “smart,” saying: 

TODD: Look, I think it's smart on Trump because there's been all this speculation, isn't he really actually secretly wanting to help the Clintons? So now, number one, he's not trying to help the Clintons, he’s attacking them. Two, it gives this idea of inevitability. “Hey, I'm already looking to the general election, I don't need to be dealing with this whole primary mess.” I think it’ll be interesting to see if the Clintons take the bait, because I hear you, you don't want to ignore it, but if you get into the mud then the story just keeps going. 

A transcript of the January 4 GMA segment is below: 

7:02

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: But we begin with the race for the White House. And with the first big vote in Iowa just four weeks from today, Donald Trump has just released the first TV ad of the campaign. He ignores his GOP rivals, aiming right at Hillary Clinton. ABC’s Cecilia Vega is on the trail in New Hampshire with the latest. Good morning, Cecilia. 

CECILIA VEGA: Hi, George, good morning to you. This 30-second TV ad begins running tomorrow in Iowa and here in New Hampshire. Election year is officially here. And this heated war of words between the two front-runners on both sides shows no signs of letting up. 
                
DONALD TRUMP: I'm Donald Trump and I approved this message. 

VEGA: Launching this morning, Donald Trump's first TV ad, packed full of his most controversial proposals. 

TRUMP AD: That’s why he’s calling for a temporary shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until we can figure out what is going on. 

VEGA: Including building the wall on America’s southern border. 

TRUMP AD: That Mexico will pay for. 

VEGA: And ending with the signature line. 

TRUMP: Great again! 

VEGA: Clinton attacking that very phrase this weekend in her first campaign stop of 2016. 

HILLARY CLINTON: You can't make America great again if you insult and demean the people of America. 

VEGA: Over the weekend, Trump also shrugging off his appearance in this recruiting video from the Al Qaeda affiliate al Shabaab — 

TRUMP: Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shut down of Muslims — 

VEGA: — saying it comes with the territory. 

TRUMP: I mean, what am I going to do? I have to say what I have to say. 

VEGA: The war of words between the two frontrunners more heated than ever. 

TRUMP: Hillary Clinton created ISIS with Obama. 

VEGA: Clinton laughing it off. 

CLINTON: The Republicans seem to have a particular fixation on blaming President Obama and me for everything that happens in the world. I have noticed that. 

VEGA: But there was no laughing when this heckler repeatedly interrupted her, trying to ask about a woman who accused Bill Clinton of sexual assault, something he denies. 

CLINTON: You are very rude. And I am not going to ever call on you. 

VEGA: Her husband's past now a present issue for her on the campaign trail. 

TRUMP: What he did and has gone through, I think, is frankly terrible. 

VEGA: : And in just a few hours, Bill Clinton will be here in New Hampshire in his first solo campaign appearance for his wife. And in a political twist of fate, Donald Trump will be nearby campaigning here too. But I want to show you this tweet that Donald Trump put out overnight. He says “The worst think Hillary Clinton could do is have her husband campaign for her. Just watch.” George, all eyes will be on both camps to see how this plays out. 

STEPHANOPOULOS: So, it is on right now. But what is the Clinton team saying about how they're going to use President Clinton? You know, he caused some controversy in the race against Barack Obama back in 2007-2008. 

VEGA: Well— And he did. Such a headache that her campaign is saying that they're certainly trying to keep tabs on him. Look, Bill Clinton has enormously high popularity numbers. But even with all of these attacks coming from Trump, her campaign, and Hillary Clinton herself calls him their secret weapon. And they're showing no signs of pulling him off the trail anytime soon. I think, in fact, we will probably, George, see a lot more of him. 

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the associate editor for the Media Research Center's NewsBusters.org site.