On Wednesday night, the “big three” networks of ABC, CBS, and NBC did little to nothing to separate Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz from the unaffiliated Super PAC that ran an ad featuring a naked picture of Donald Trump’s wife Melania and instead chalked it up to a “nuclear war of words” representing more “shame” in “their nasty rivalry.”
ABC’s World News Tonight featured Republican campaign correspondent/Sunday anchor Tom Llamas hyped that “Trump and Cruz locked in a nuclear war of words over their wives” and specifically “anti-Trump super-PAC ad we had to blur” that resulted in Trump lashing out on Twitter Tuesday night and threatening Cruz’s wife Heidi.
When Llamas asked the Texas Senator what he thought of Trump’s tweet, Cruz responded: “Now I will say even for Donald, though, he reached a new low. It's one thing to try and attack another candidate, it's another thing to come after my wife.”
Llamas went onto note how Heidi Cruz spoke out publically on Wednesday about the matter before ending his 2016 piece on Jeb Bush’s endorsement of Cruz (along with Trump’s predictable reaction on Twitter).
As part of a segment that focused on continuing their network berating of Ted Cruz over his reaction to the Islamic terrorist attacks in Belgium, the CBS Evening News had national correspondent Dean Reynolds offer a short mention that he described as “shame” with no attempt to explain how Cruz had nothing to do with the graphic:
And speaking of shame, the political campaign veered into the personal again today with Trump and Cruz exchanging insults and epithets over the treatment of their wives on social media. It involved revealing photos of one and threats to spill the beans about the other. A fight, Scott, that is unlikely the alter the course of this race.
Turning to NBC Nightly News, anchor Lester Holt followed a similar pattern of not providing context: “[T]he events here in Brussels aren't the only thing making news on the campaign trail. The personal attacks between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz have reached a new level with their wives now getting dragged into their nasty rivalry.”
In contrast to all this coverage, however, Cruz correspondent Hallie Jackson went the distance in having a soundbite of Cruz mentioning that he has no connection to the ad (with another from Liz Mair, who was actually behind the graphic):
JACKSON: This racy anti-Trump ad meant to turn off Utah Mormons now turning attention to the tone of the GOP race. “Meet Melania Trump,” it says, “your next First Lady, or you could support Ted Cruz on Tuesday.”
REPUBLICAN SENATOR TED CRUZ (Tex.): That ad was completely inappropriate, and we had nothing to do with it.
JACKSON: The image was created by an outside stop Trump group, but that didn't stop Trump himself from threatening Cruz, he'd quote, “spill the beans” about wife Heidi. Still not clear what Trump’s talking about.
JACKSON: Liz Mair created the digital ad featuring the former model in British GQ.
LIZ MAIR: I think Donald Trump has obliterated all conceivable lines in the course of this campaign and I'm perfectly comfortable with what we've done.