CNN’s Roberts: In 2004, Zell Miller ‘Set His Hair on Fire and Ran Around the Room’

CNN American Morning co-host John Roberts took a gratuitous shot Tuesday at former Democratic Senator Zell Miller, who a lot of liberals haven’t forgiven for delivering the keynote address at the last Republican convention in 2004. After a guest observed that Republican Jim Leach on Monday “did not give a compelling speech compared to say Zell Miller,” Roberts snarkily observed: “Well, Zell set his hair on fire and ran around the room.”

Back in 2004, when Roberts was reporting for the CBS Evening News, he also scoffed at Miller’s decision to speak at the GOP convention: “Call him disillusioned conservative Democrat or turncoat, it’s the sort of remarkable about-face Miller is famous for.”

The Business and Media Institute’s Julia Seymour tipped me off to Roberts’ barb, which occurred at about 8:11am EDT on Tuesday morning’s show:

JOHN ROBERTS: To get to where we're going, we need to look at where this convention is headed. And our David Gergen last night, looking at this whole thing, seemed to think that it wasn't translating well outside of this hall. And you really want it to translate well to bring new voters, John, particularly independents. Let's listen to what David Gergen said.

DAVID GERGEN, FROM CNN MONDAY NIGHT: We're two hours into this and the Democrats have offered almost no substance for television purposes. You know, we've had very little that's been compelling thus far. I'm sure this is working well in the hall and the excitement in the hall is palpable, you know, in the coverage. But for the large television audience that's watching and waiting to hear what the message is, to get two hours into a convention is really stunning to me.

ROBERTS: So, John, your people are the ones that they're targeting with the television coverage of independents nationwide that they want to bring into the fold. What do independents get from watching this last night?

POLITICAL ANALYST/AUTHOR JOHN AVLON: Well, I think independents got the message of a unified, optimistic Democratic Party. It was a night that was not big.

ROBERTS: Was it compelling?

AVLON: It was not harsh political partisan rhetoric. It was not a lot of red meat, but independents respond to that. I think that's the important thing here. Independents don't want to see an angry party of Obama. What they want to see is a party that's confident, that's reaching out. But there's no question that, you know, Republican Congressman Jim Leach did not give a compelling speech compared to say Zell Miller at the Republican convention four years ago. But I think --

ROBERTS: Well, Zell set his hair on fire and ran around the room, right?

AVLON: Which is hard to do in Denver with the fire codes. But I think the important thing here is they didn't go negative. You're going to see a prosecution of making a case against the Bush administration, but last night was about optimism and unity.

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