No Self-Awareness: CBS’s Schieffer, NBC’s Mitchell Wonder ‘How Have We Come to This’ With Debate

After a presidential primary in which the major broadcast networks assigned more than a lion’s share of coverage to Donald Trump overtopping his opponents, the lack of self-awareness following Sunday’s presidential debate was palpable as two network veterans bemoaned “how have we come to this” with so much “venom” between Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Longtime CBS News anchor, host, and correspondent Bob Schieffer opined near the tail end of his network’s post-debate coverage with some extensive thoughts that began by simply wondering “how have we come to this” that’s “supposed to be a campaign for the most powerful office in the land.”

Schieffer lamented that Trump had a number of women who accused Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct in the debate hall and then blasted Trump’s promise to have Hillary Clinton investigated if he’s elected then presumably jailed:

Here we’re marching in, women, into the hall who were supposed to have some relationship with one of the candidates spouses and what is that supposed to prove? I mean, over and over, if I'm elected, I'm going to put new jail. I mean this is what they do in banana republics. This is the United States of America. 

“People keep asking me have we — have I ever seen anything like this? And I keep saying no and I just hope to God I don't see another campaign like this one. America can do better than what we have seen here tonight. This was just disgraceful,” Schieffer added. 

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When CBS This Morning co-host Norah O’Donnell proclaimed that CBS’s coverage began by ruling that “this is called a presidential debate but there wasn't much presidential about some of the discussion” and thus teed up Schieffer to argue that the debate “was Wrestlemania” and “not about presidential politics.”

Over on the coverage NBC offered on many of their subchannels (due to Sunday Night Football), Clinton correspondent and MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell struck as similar tone while speaking to Sunday NBC Nightly News anchor Kate Snow:

Well, that was one of the most contentious, difficult — I can't even recall a debate ever in the American history with that much venom between the two. As you point had out, there was no handshake, which is traditional at the beginning. There was one at end, thanks to the questioner at the end creating a little bit of — a little bit of gentility between the two, but he went right after her, bringing those women here today[.]

Similar to how Mitchell knocked Bill Clinton accuser Juanita Broaddrick earlier in the year, Mitchell smeared Trump’s emphasis that Hillary played a role in the aftermath of Bill’s exploitations:

[A]nd then calling Bill Clinton the worst abuser in political history – the worst abuser of women. He said that Hillary Clinton should be ashamed of herself for the way she had allegedly enabled her husband and victimized his victims. 

Mitchell wound down her comments by wishing fact-checkers the best in examining Trump’s statements and complaining how “they really went at each other and a merciless debate and one that will really create even more toxicity and poison” in America.

Despite the fact that millions of Americans likely agree with all or portions of what Mitchell and Schieffer told viewers, the reality is that the media have been more or less major players in creating the atmosphere in which they’re now decrying.

In the case of NBC, the argument perhaps rings true the most seeing as now Mitchell’s network  played key roles in not only covering Trump’s every breath in the primary but also in rehabilitating Trump’s image via 14 seasons of The Apprentice and Celebrity Apprentice.

The relevant portion of the transcript from CBS’s presidential debate coverage on October 9 can be found below.

CBS’s presidential debate coverage
October 9, 2016
10:58 p.m. Eastern

GAYLE KING: Bob Schieffer, if you had to tweet tonight, what would your tweet be in one word to describe what we witnessed this evening?

BOB SCHIEFFER: More than one word, but I would just say how have we come to this? This is supposed to be a campaign for the most powerful office in the land. Here we’re marching in, women, into the hall who were supposed to have some relationship with one of the candidates spouses and what is that supposed to prove? I mean, over and over, if I'm elected, I'm going to put new jail. I mean this is what they do in banana republics. This is the United States of America. People keep asking me have we — have I ever seen anything like this? And I keep saying no and I just hope to God I don't see another campaign like this one. America can do better than what we have seen here tonight. This was just disgraceful. 

NORAH O’DONNELL: I think as we started off saying this is call a presidential debate but there wasn't much presidential about some of the discussion, Bob Schieffer. 

SCHIEFFER: Well, this was wrestlemania. This was not about presidential politics.

KING: On both sides, Bob? On both sides? 

SCHIEFFER: I think Donald Trump gets most of the blame here, but I didn't see much to be proud of on either side tonight, although I felt she handled herself as well as she could under the circumstances.

Tell the Truth 2016

The relevant portion of the transcript from NBC’s presidential debate coverage on October 9 can be found below.

NBC’s presidential debate coverage
October 9, 2016
10:37 p.m. Eastern

ANDREA MITCHELL: Well, that was one of the most contentious, difficult — I can't even recall a debate ever in the American history with that much venom between the two. As you point had out, there was no handshake, which is traditional at the beginning. There was one at end, thanks to the questioner at the end creating a little bit of — a little bit of gentility between the two, but he went right after her, bringing those women here today and then calling Bill Clinton the worst abuser in political history – the worst abuser of women. He said that Hillary Clinton should be ashamed of herself for the way she had allegedly enabled her husband and victimized his victims. She went after Clinton saying she has hate in her heart for the comment about deplorables. She out Clinton very much on the defensive, I thought, about e-mails and said if he is elected he would have his Attorney General appoint a special prosecutor to put Hillary Clinton in jail. That is the kind of threat that former attorney general Eric Holder, a Clinton supporter, albeit, but a lot of other people are Twitter, shocked by because that's the kind of thing that happens in Ukraine and Iraq and other places — totalitarian regimes but not in the United States of America and he acknowledged he has not paid federal income taxes in large part, other than presumably payroll taxes and it is just an amazing performance. Trump very much better prepared. Very, very tough on Clinton and I would say that they were tough on each other. Trump really gave the fact checkers a field day. Saying that she had never supported getting rid of carried interest and other tax laws. Just one thing after another. Syria policy, Iran policy, things that have nothing to do with her current role as a former secretary of state, but boy they really went at each other and a merciless debate and one that will really create even more toxicity and poison. And one other thing he threw his vice president under the bus saying they had not discussed what Pence said about taking military action if necessary against both Russia and the Assad regime to save Aleppo and saying they had not discussed that and he disagreed with it. So he really cut Mike Pence off at the knees.

Tell the Truth 2016 NB Daily Campaigns & Elections 2016 Presidential Debates Political Groups Conservatives & Republicans Liberals & Democrats CBS NBC Video Government & Press Andrea Mitchell Bob Schieffer Norah O'Donnell Hillary Clinton Bill Clinton Donald Trump Juanita Broaddrick
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