NBC Nightly News Declines to Label Retiring California Senator Barbara Boxer a Liberal

In a news brief on Thursday, NBC Nightly News reported that one of Californi’s two Democratic Senators, Barbara Boxer, would not seek reelection in 2016 and instead retire following “a decade in the House” and her first election to the Senate in 1992. When it came to labeling where she stood politically, however, NBC shied away from labeling her a liberal or progressive. 

Instead, anchor Brian Williams told viewers that she was “one of the most prominent” Democrats and likely caused fellow “prominent California Democrats” to hold “a lot of meetings and phone calls today.” 

Williams reported the following in the news brief, which lasted for 28 seconds:

A lot of meetings and phone calls today among prominent California Democrats as we learned today one of the most prominent is stepping aside. Senator Barbara Boxer first elected in '92 after a decade in the House, has announced she will not seek a fifth term in the Senate. An open seat in a state with 40 million people is a big political event, and there are already predictions this could be the first-ever $1 billion Senate race. 

The frequency of networks in failing to label elected officials along the lines of their true political ideology has never failed to let up. When former Republican Senator Jesse Helms passed away in July 2008, fill-in anchor Lester Holt said on NBC Nightly News that Helms was “a champion to the right and a lightning rod to the left” while then-NBC News correspondent Martin Savidge referred to Helms as “an ultra-rightist.” 

More recently, MSNBC’s Luke Russert labeled now-Republican Senator Joni Ernst as “rather extreme” in holding views compatible with the tea party. On September 22, CNN’s Brian Stelter chose to label guest and former Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner (N.Y.) as being non-partisan (now that he had become a member of the media) and someone who went from being a “darling to a bad boy.”

The full transcript of the news brief that aired on NBC Nightly News on January 8 can be found below.

NBC Nightly News
January 8, 2015
7:13 p.m. Eastern

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE CAPTION: Leaving Congress]

BRIAN WILLIAMS: A lot of meetings and phone calls today among prominent California Democrats as we learned today one of the most prominent is stepping aside. Senator Barbara Boxer first elected in '92 after a decade in the House, has announced she will not seek a fifth term in the Senate. An open seat in a state with 40 million people is a big political event, and there are already predictions this could be the first-ever $1 billion Senate race. 

Campaigns & Elections Congress Media Bias Debate Double Standards Labeling Conservatives & Republicans Liberals & Democrats NBC NBC Nightly News California Brian Williams Barbara Boxer
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