Cindy McCain granted an interview to Access Hollywood anchor Nancy O’Dell, and NBC’s Today picked right up on it Friday morning – shamelessly repeating O’Dell’s questions recycling the unsubstantiated New York Times story alleging Sen. John McCain had a sexual relationship with lobbyist Vicki Iseman. (Access Hollywood is produced by NBC Universal.)
Some might wonder why Mrs. McCain would agree to an interview with that topic on the menu, even if she forcefully denied the adultery charges. But here’s where it gets interesting. When Access Hollywood’s Maria Menounos interviewed Hillary Clinton on January 7, Menounos asked softballs, and NBC only used footage of Mrs. Clinton talking about free time on a Saturday: "I find, like, cleaning closets and drawers to be extremely gratifying."
Today led off the show with a plug for the adultery smear, as if it was a hot story, and not a dated embarrassment for the New York Times: "Standing by her man. Cindi McCain speaks out about that report suggesting her husband had an improper relationship with a lobbyist. The candid interview, today, Friday, April 11th, 2008."
About halfway into the 7 am half hour, NBC delved deeper:
MEREDITH VIEIRA: And now to another power couple, this one on the Republican side of the race for the White House. Senator John McCain, the presumptive nominee, and his wife, Cindy. In February a controversial New York Times article reported that back when he first ran for president in 2000, some advisers were concerned that the senator was having an affair. The candidate and his wife slammed the story publicly and now Cindy McCain is speaking out about it in an interview with Access Hollywood’s Nancy O'Dell.
NANCY O’DELL: Two months ago there were the scandalous allegations of an affair with a lobbyist. Both your husband and the lobbyist came out and said there was no truth to it. You haven't spoken publicly about this, but what was your first reaction when you heard about the story breaking?
CINDY McCAIN: I knew the truth. I was angry at the newspaper, of course. But I knew the truth. I didn't have to ask anything or -- you know, or talk to anybody about it. I knew the truth and I know my husband.
O’DELL: What was the first thing you said to your husband?
McCAIN: I love you. I know this isn't true.
O’DELL: What did he say to you?
McCAIN: Same thing. I think that's the unfortunate side of politics. And I think it's also the unfortunate side, sometimes, of this 24-hour news cycle that we're in now. But it's, you know, it's over with. We've moved on and I'm not concerned about it.
O’DELL: Did you even have to call your children with it? With the reaction to, "hey, listen, this is coming out I just want to prepare you. "
McCAIN: Yes, of course. On anything, we call them and let them know, this is going to be in, this is not going to be in. But that's just standard operating procedure for my family.
O’DELL: How did they feel about it? Were they angry at the press?
McCAIN: Angry at the press, yeah, not at us, not at us, and not at my husband, not at anything. They know him. I mean, we all know him. It was just about being angry with the media, but that's over and done with too.
So the only clip NBC aired was denying the adultery. Vieira then touted O’Dell’s interview, slated to air Friday and Monday nights. But when Hillary Clinton granted an interview to Maria Menounos of Access Hollywood on Monday, January 7, NBC showed just a snippet on that evening’s Nightly News.
ANDREA MITCHELL: To reach women voters who are deserting her for Obama, Hillary Clinton at down with Access Hollywood's Maria Menounos.
MARIA MENOUNOS: You're alone on a Saturday.
HILLARY CLINTON: Right.
MENOUNOS: And you don't have any work to do. What do you do?
CLINTON: I find like cleaning closets and drawers to be extremely gratifying.
This only came up on the Today show in the fourth hour on Wednesday, January 9, as a gaggle of female NBC journalists found it to be a sign of how successful Hillary (and Menounos and NBC) had been in humanizing Mrs. Clinton, as her tearing up was seen as a part of her victory in the New Hampshire primary:
NORAH O'DONNELL: Women--it may have been when she got a little tearful. She said, ‘I found my voice’ last night.
NATALIE MORALES: Yeah.
HODA KOTB: I love that quote.
O'DONNELL: So maybe some of that played with New Hampshire voters. She also did that interview with Maria Menounos on Access Hollywood, where she talked a little bit more, let her hair down, and say on Saturday nights I like to clean out the closet. Maybe people and women saw a little bit more of the softer side of Hillary. They were working on her likability factor.
MORALES: She's a real woman.