The Big Three broadcast networks made their slanted priorities clear on their Thursday evening newscasts, as they fawned over Caroline Kennedy's Senate confirmation hearing earlier that day, but failed to cover the emotional congressional testimony of Pat Smith. Smith is the mother of Sean Smith, who died in the 2012 Islamist attack on the U.S. post in Benghazi, Libya.
ABC's Martha Raddatz was awestruck over JFK's daughter: "For one brief shining moment, senators from both sides of the aisle seemed to harken back to the so-called Camelot days." NBC's Harry Smith gushed that "history and legacy were more important this morning than party or partisanship. The daughter of a president said she wanted to fulfill her father's wish." [MP3 audio available here; video below the jump]
World News anchor Diane Sawyer trumpeted Kennedy's testimony: "Today, we all watched as a president's daughter stepped towards a new role in public service – questioned by the Senate, as she seeks to become the next U.S. ambassador to Japan." Raddatz then spotlighted the supposed history behind the hearing:
MARTHA RADDATZ: Today in this Capitol Hill chamber, where there has been so much contentious debate, memories of another time – 1957, when then-Senator John F. Kennedy sat on this same Foreign Affairs Committee. Caroline Kennedy was born that year. But now is her moment in the spotlight.
The ABC journalist continued with her "shining moment" line. Near the end of the segment, Raddatz hyped how "Caroline Kennedy is said to be looking forward to learning Japanese, living in Tokyo, where she can make her own history."
NBC Nightly News host Brian Williams introduced Harry Smith's report by underlining how "a famous daughter of a famous U.S. president went before Congress today – Caroline Kennedy, nominated as U.S. ambassador to Japan – and speaking today about her father and carrying on that family torch." The NBC correspondent led with his own hoopla: "As Senate hearings go, this one was anything but ordinary."
The former CBS anchor also zeroed in on the Camelot mystique, as Raddatz had, but without using that Arthurian label:
HARRY SMITH: She was a little girl when her parents moved into the White House, and the images of those days represent a more innocent time in our country. Fifty years ago this fall, her father was assassinated. Her family – including Teddy's widow – was nearby this morning as she spoke.
Smith used his "history and legacy" line later in his report, and signed off by claiming that "her father would have been proud" of her testimony.
By contrast, CBS Evening News didn't air a full report on Kennedy's confirmation hearing. Instead, anchor Scott Pelley gave a 30-second news brief. But like Raddatz and Smith, Pelley emphasized the supposed history of the moment and the bipartisan welcome Kennedy received from the committee members:
SCOTT PELLEY: More than half a century after John F. Kennedy served on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, his daughter, Caroline, appeared before the same panel today, as it considers her nomination to be ambassador to Japan....Caroline Kennedy got a warm reception from both Democrats and Republicans. She's expected to win confirmation easily.
The following morning, only CBS devoted air time to the confirmation proceedings on its morning newscast. Like Pelley, CBS This Morning anchor Gayle King hyped that "Caroline Kennedy says she's ready to carry on her father's legacy by serving as the U.S. ambassador to Japan. President John F. Kennedy's daughter testified at yesterday's confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. JFK served on that panel in the 1950s as a senator from Massachusetts."
The CBS morning show also devoted a full report to the House Oversight Committee's Benghazi hearing, unlike ABC or NBC. Sharyl Attkisson, who has provided hard-hitting reporting on the September 11, 2012 attack for months, highlighted the testimony of Ambassador Thomas Pickering, who led the State Department review board investigating the terrorist attack. Attkisson pointed out Pat Smith's testimony, as well as that of Tyrone Woods' father, in a Thursday report on CBSNews.com, but she didn't mention it during her on-air report the following morning.
[Update, Friday, 4:55 pm Eastern: the full transcripts of Martha Raddatz's report from Thursday's World News on ABC, and Harry Smith's report from Thursday's NBC Nightly News can be read at MRC.org.]