Cindy Sheehan got a full segment Thursday evening on the NBC Nightly News as anchor Brian Williams framed her protest in the context of how “so far, 1,846 Americans have died in Iraq, nearly 14,000 have been wounded. And it doesn't help that a woman who lost a son in Iraq vows to wait outside the President's ranch until the Commander-in-Chief agrees to speak with her.” Reporter Kelly O’Donnell described Sheehan as “a media magnet," as if journalists have no ability to control that, but O’Donnell did at least note that “Sheehan also has some detractors." ABC’s World News Tonight ran a clip of President Bush rejecting her demands, but then anchor Bob Woodruff relayed how Sheehan retorted that “all we're asking is that he sacrifice an hour out of his...vacation to talk to us." MSNBC’s Countdownfeatured an interview with her and Keith Olbermann insisted that “now her story is about more than just her protest, it's about the role of dissent in a country founded on the right to dissent.”
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Olbermann argued that “it's a story now so big that even though Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld met with the President at his ranch today, the news from Crawford is mostly about Cindy Sheehan.” Olbermann asked her about reports that her family opposes her protest. She blamed her in-laws and revealed a family estrangement: “When they supported George Bush in November and when they voted for the man who I consider killed their grandson, that's when, that was it. That to me was a betrayal of Casey, and it hurt me so deeply. I haven't spoken to them since.”
# The CBS Evening News, which had already carried two full stories on Sheehan, on Thursday night held itself to this brief item read by anchor Bob Schieffer: "Turning now to the war, President Bush said today there will be no change in Iraq policy. After a meeting with his top advisors at his ranch where he is on vacation, the President said withdrawing U.S. troops would be a mistake and a terrible signal to the enemy. He also took notice of Cindy Sheehan, the anti-war activist who lost her son in Iraq. She's been camping out near the ranch, demanding a meeting with the President."
# On ABC’s August 11 World News Tonight, Bob Woodruff set up a clip from Bush’s outdoor press conference in Crawford: "Now, to the war in Iraq. In Texas, President Bush responded for the first time to the mother who has been camped outside his ranch demanding answers for her son's death in Iraq, and demanding that U.S. troops be brought home. Cindy Sheehan wants a face-to-face meeting with Mr. Bush. The President said it would be premature to bring the troops home right now."
George W. Bush: "And I sympathize with Mrs. Sheehan. She feels strongly about her, about her position, and I thought long and hard about her position. I've heard her position from others, which is 'Get out of Iraq now.' And it would be, it would be a mistake for the security of this country and the ability to lay the foundations of peace in the long run if we were to do so."
Woodruff: "Mrs. Sheehan released a statement saying [text on screen], 'Our sons made the ultimate sacrifice and we want answers. All we're asking is that he sacrifice an hour out of his...vacation to talk to us.'"
# NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams worked Sheehan into his opening tease: "Defending the war: President Bush concedes the Iraq mission is tough. He says pulling out would embolden the terrorists, and he talks about the protesting mother demanding to meet him.”
Williams also put her into his opening: "Good evening. This has been a tough and bloody summer where news from the Iraq battlefield is concerned. There has been no measurable change in U.S. forces, however -- they're motivated and in the fight, despite the loss of many of their own. The change has taken place at the White House -- specifically, these days, the western White House in Texas, where the vacationing President and his aides have now chosen a course of increased candor, apparently, mostly in the face of mounting numbers. So far, 1,846 Americans have died in Iraq, nearly 14,000 have been wounded. And it doesn't help that a woman who lost a son in Iraq vows to wait outside the President's ranch until the Commander-in-Chief agrees to speak with her. We have two reports tonight, beginning with NBC News chief White House correspondent David Gregory."
Gregory began his piece: "Since August 2, when the President left for a vacation on his Texas ranch, 38 American troops have died in Iraq. It is that grim reality of war that appeared to weigh on Mr. Bush today. Flanked by his national security team, he took pains to address the public's growing opposition to the conflict."
After Gregory’s review of Bush’s comments and critics of his Iraq policy, Brian Williams set up the second story, as corrected against the closed-captioning by the MRC’s Brad Wilmouth: "Now to that woman outside the President's ranch in Texas. Cindy Sheehan lost a son in Iraq. She has met with the President before, but wants so badly to meet him and talk with him again, she's vowed to live outdoors, outside his Texas ranch, until she gets to see the President. Her story tonight from NBC's Kelly O'Donnell."
O'Donnell reported: "Day six at this improvised campsite, about a five-mile drive from the President's ranch in Crawford, Texas, one mother's vigil."
Cindy Sheehan: "Why did George Bush kill my son?"
O'Donnell: "Morphed into a headquarters for anti-war demonstrators who erected hundreds of crosses today."
Unidentified woman playing guitar and singing: "Why does justice go so slow?"
O'Donnell, over video of mobs of media and video cameras: "A media magnet."
Sheehan: "Someone else tell me what camera to look at."
O'Donnell: "Forty-eight-year-old Cindy Sheehan of Vacaville, California, lost her son, Army Specialist Casey, in Iraq 16 months ago."
Sheehan: "I am an angry mom, and I want answers to my questions."
O'Donnell: "She waits in the Texas heat, through hours of rain, and spends night after night. Sheehan, a registered Democrat and self-described peace activist, did meet the President with other families last year. She's here now demanding that U.S. troops come home, and she wants another personal visit with the President. The White House says President Bush has met with families of 272 fallen service members. Today, the President was asked specifically about Cindy Sheehan."
George W. Bush: "Listen, I sympathize with Mrs. Sheehan. She feels strongly about her, about her position, and she has every right in the world to say what she believes. This is America. She has the right to her position."
O'Donnell: "The President did send two top aides to see her, but advisors say Mr. Bush does not plan to meet her himself. Sheehan also has some detractors."
Pat Buchanan, conservative commentator: "I think the longer she stays and the more she appears to be hectoring the President, I think it is of diminishing returns to her."
O'Donnell concluded: "But Sheehan says she will attempt to drive closer to the President's front door this weekend and may ultimately take her protest back to Washington. Kelly O'Donnell, NBC News, Crawford."
# MSNBC’s Countdown. Keith Olbermann led: "Good evening. Cindy Sheehan may or may not have had a bonafide complaint that President Bush was refusing to see her to talk about Iraq and the deaths of young men and women there like her son. He had, after all, met with her before. But then somebody decided that Mrs. Sheehan had hit enough of a public nerve. Suddenly she had political enemies, and they were trying to discredit her. Our fifth story on the Countdown, now her story is about more than just her protest, it's about the role of dissent in a country founded on the right to dissent. It's a story now so big that even though Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld met with the President at his ranch today, the news from Crawford is mostly about Cindy Sheehan. She joins us in a moment. First our White House correspondent, David Gregory."
Following the same Gregory piece which aired on the NBC Nightly News, Olbermann asserted: "At about the same time the President spoke to the media today, the mother of Army Specialist Casey Sheehan, who died at Sadr City, Iraq, in April of 2004, held a news conference of her own joined by other military families. Cindy Sheehan pledged to stay camped outside that ranch for the duration of the President's August vacation, adding that if he does not talk with her there, she may to go to Washington in September. While the President did not talk with her directly today, he did finally address her presence and her purpose."
For a full rundown of Olbermann's interview of Sheehan, see this earlier NewsBusters posting by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth.