For the fifth day in a row, the “big three” (ABC, CBS, and NBC) networks have obsessed over comments made by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani in which he questioned President Obama’s love of America.
Since the Giuliani story first broke on Thursday, February 19, the “big three” have given the story 21 minutes and 22 seconds of coverage, with NBC representing 14 minutes and 53 seconds of that total. On Monday, CBS This Morning continued the networks’ obsession with the story by scolding Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker for not fully condemning Giuliani’s comments over the weekend.
CBS Co-host Norah O’Donnell began the network’s coverage by hyping “[t]his morning, presidential hopeful Scott Walker faces new criticism for not rejecting Rudy Giuliani's comments about President Obama.” The network then brought on CBS News Political Director John Dickerson to lament at how Governor Scott Walker failed to completely disavow the former New York City mayor:
Scott Walker is being very safe. He's on top of the world for the moment in the Republican primary process and he doesn't want to make a mistake and we’ve seen that on several things. He's very risk averse.
The CBS News Political Director went on to claim that Walker’s non-answer regarding Giuliani meant he was being too safe and that he needed to forcefully address the issue before the media defines it for him:
In our most recent CBS poll, 59% of the people don’t know who Scott Walker is. So he’s on top of the world and he’s got a chance to lock in an impression about him. That's what makes him nervous, but also it's an opportunity to grab a moment, and define himself, show his character and authenticity and define himself before other people do.
Oddly enough, despite Dickerson’s insistence that Walker missed a major opportunity by not scolding Giuliani, he noted that all of the media “criticism” won’t actually mean anything to Republican primary voters:
Republican primary voters are going to be fine. They’re not, it's not that this is going to hurt him. It’s just that it was an opportunity when the camera swung over to him for him to do something clever, for him to say something defining. He’ll have maybe other opportunities to do that but what this suggests is a certain cautiousness and, you know, he'll have to get past that.
Despite the fact that Dickerson criticized Walker for not going after Giuliani, in 2013 the CBS News Political Director took the opposite approach when he penned what could be described as a Democratic battle plan as he urged President Obama to “declare war on the Republican Party.”
While the “big three” networks have done their best to tie Giuliani’s comments to the entire Republican Party, CBS has been the most tame in their coverage, giving 2 minutes and 50 seconds to the story since last week. ABC has given the story a total of 3 minutes 39 seconds over the past 5 days.
In contrast, NBC has devoted nearly 3 times the coverage to Giuliani as ABC and CBS combined. This despite the fact that NBC’s own Political Director, Chuck Todd, insisted that he “hated this story” as it was “cable catnip" when in reality, the Giuliani story was “catnip” for NBC News.
See relevant transcript below.
CBS This Morning
February 23, 2015
NORAH O’DONNELL: This morning, presidential hopeful Scott Walker faces new criticism for not rejecting Rudy Giuliani's comments about President Obama. At a dinner featuring Walker last week, the former New York mayor said, “I do not believe that the president loves America.” Giuliani is trying to soften his comments after several top Republicans have distanced themselves.
CHARLIE ROSE: This morning, Giuliani writes in the Wall Street Journal “I earned a certain reputation for being blunt. The thoughts I express, whether clearly or ambiguously, are my own and they are my individual responsibility.” CBS News Political Director John Dickerson is with us. John good morning.
JOHN DICKERSON: Good morning Charlie.
ROSE: So, what is Giuliani up to?
DICKERSON: He's walking back very far. I mean his original comments, this was an effort to explain why he disagreed with the president’s terrorism policies. And he not only said the president doesn't love America but he also said it could be traced back to his birth, his upbringing, and that’s particularly dangerous to suggest that if you don't grow up in a certain way, you can't gain access to a love to America. And this caught Giuliani a lot of heat.
A lot of Republicans running for president had to answer whether they agree with him or not. And so now he's trying to reframe his comments saying basically the president doesn't talk about America in a positive way as much as he would like.
O’DONNELL: But we heard from a number of Republican presidential hopefuls. Marco Rubio clearly disagreeing with Mayor Giuliani saying "I believe the president loves America." Jeb Bush also disagreeing. But Scott Walker refused to say if he believes Obama loves America. Is this the new standard?
DICKERSON: Scott Walker is being very safe. He's on top of the world for the moment in the Republican primary process and he doesn't want to make a mistake and we’ve seen that on several things. He's very risk averse.
ROSE: But can you be too safe?
DICKERSON: You can.
ROSE: And he had some momentum and attention coming out of Iowa.
DICKERSON: He did and Republican primary voters are going to be fine. They’re not, it's not that this is going to hurt him. It’s just that it was an opportunity when the camera swung over to him for him to do something clever, for him to say something defining. He’ll have maybe other opportunities to do that but what this suggests is a certain cautiousness and, you know, he'll have to get past that.