On Thursday's World News, ABC anchor Diane Sawyer took the time to devote an entire story to 92-year-old Democratic Senator Robert Byrd’s vote for the Democratic health care bill, which the West Virginia Democrat dedicated to former Senator Ted Kennedy, whom the ABC anchor described as "health care champion Ted Kennedy." Sawyer recounted that Byrd had to be brought into the Senate chamber in a wheel chair several times recently to cast votes related to the bill.
Sawyer informed viewers of Byrd’s long Congressional career and 98 percent attendance record, and then quoted his declaration that "I do what duty tells me to do" as he arrived to vote for the bill. After recounting the Democratic Senator’s emotional reaction and declaration of love for Senator Kennedy when he learned of Kennedy’s illness, Sawyer concluded: "Old comrades, old friends – one gone, one carrying on."
On the NBC Nightly News, correspondent Kelly O’Donnell only mentioned Byrd’s dedication to Kennedy within her piece on the Senate vote and recounted that "off camera, that moment brought tears to Kennedy’s widow Vicki," while Senator Byrd was not mentioned at all on the CBS Evening News.
Below is a complete transcript of Diane Sawyer’s story from the Thursday, December 24, World News on ABC:
DIANE SAWYER: And, by the way, Jon mentioned the crucial vote of Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia – 92 years old. Well, we were there this morning when he came out his door. Before dawn this morning on a frigid Christmas Eve, a frail man in a wheelchair greets reporters with a rallying cry.
SENATOR ROBERT BYRD (D-WV): Let's go!
SAWYER: Fifty-six years in Congress, 18,000 votes, a 98 percent attendance record, the longest serving U.S. Senator in history told ABC's cameras:
BYRD: I do what duty tells me to do.
SAWYER: Over the past four days, he has repeatedly shivered his way up to the Capitol to vote, including at 1:00 in the morning. In part, it's personal. You may remember his emotional speech to the floor, shortly after his good friend, health care champion Ted Kennedy, was diagnosed with brain cancer.
BYRD, CRYING IN THE SENATE, DATED MAY 2008: Ted, my dear friend, I love you.
SAWYER: This morning, what did Senator Byrd think as he was helped into his wheelchair?
BYRD: This is for Ted.
SAWYER: And with that, he boarded the elevator up and into the chamber, where he voted yes and shouted again.
BYRD: This is for my friend Ted Kennedy: Aye!
SAWYER: Old comrades, old friends – one gone, one carrying on. And by the way, Senator Kennedy's wife Vicki was in the chamber watching.