Last Saturday night, in multiple stories on all three broadcast network evening shows about Barack Obama's VP pick, Senator Joe Biden was never described as a liberal. Friday night, however, CBS and NBC accurately tagged John McCain's selection, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, as “reliably conservative” or a “solid conservative” -- and that's not counting references to how she will shore up support for McCain amongst conservatives. On ABC's World News, for instance, David Wright reported: “The McCain campaign also hopes Palin can excite conservatives given her life-long support for gun rights and her opposition to abortion rights.” Listing the pros and cons to the pick, CBS's Jeff Greenfield made “delights the right” a plus. NBC's Kelly O'Donnell combined a label with Palin's potential to help McCain: “Palin is a social conservative, against abortion and for gun rights, who could energize the party's base.”
On the CBS Evening News, Bob Schieffer dubbed Palin “John McCain Jr.” since she's “somebody who is willing to take on her own party.” Anchor Katie Couric interjected: “But with conservative principles,” to which Schieffer affirmed: “Yeah, with conservative principles.” Two other straight-forward labels applied to Palin on the Friday night, August 29 newscasts:
Chip Reid on CBS: “On most issues, she is reliably conservative, agreeing with McCain on the need to cut taxes and slash spending.” He also described her as “a fierce opponent of abortion.”
John Larson, from Anchorage, on the NBC Nightly News: “Governor Palin is a solid conservative, firmly supporting gun rights and strongly opposing abortion.”
Last Saturday, August 23, the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts were bereft of any liberal labels for Biden, though CBS managed to work in a conservative tag. One could argue that Biden was much better known, but the vast majority of the public had little knowledge of his policies or ideology.
Brian Williams, anchoring Nightly News on a Saturday because of the big Biden news, set up a profile of him which cited qualities other than his ideology:
With Joe Biden now on this ticket, Americans are about to get a crash course in just who Joe Biden is. He's been in the U.S. Senate most of his life. He's an Irish Catholic with roots in Scranton, P-A, and a big base of support in the tiny state of Delaware and they're about to find out what else to know about him. We find out more about Joe Biden from NBC's Andrea Mitchell.
After two stories which did not note Biden's ideology, CBS's Jeff Greenfield surmised how Biden will go after McCain for “actively seeking the support of very conservative ministers.” From the August 23 CBS Evening News:
ANCHOR KELLY WALLACE: Jeff, you know Senator Biden has been very friendly with John McCain in the past. In fact, today he even called John McCain his friend. How does he backtrack now and go after the Republican presidential nominee?
GREENFIELD: I think it's more in sorrow than in anger. We heard some of that today from Springfield. I expect him to contrast the John McCain he knew versus the John McCain who won the Republican nomination. He used to be against tax cuts for the rich. Now he's for them. He once called Pat Robertson an agent of intolerance, now he's actively seeking the support of very conservative ministers. I think it will be that kind of tone, the underlying message, which he'll never say is, he's sort of sold his soul to win the nomination.