Ahead of an impending red tsunami, the broadcast networks continued their refusal to accept reality Thursday morning as they treated President Biden’s Wednesday night speech as fact that “democracy is on the ballot” if voters won’t back the Democratic Party, and “American democracy is under attack” from dangerous conservatives and Republicans.
ABC’s Good Morning America followed suit from its evening counterpart in their demonization of the right. Co-host Robin Roberts hyped Biden’s speech in a tease, saying he “[laid] out the stakes” that “democracy is on the ballot on Tuesday, calling it the struggle for the soul of America...[w]ith hundreds of 2020 election deniers on ballots”.
Co-host and former Clinton official George Stephanopoulos also had no pushback in the lead into chief White House correspondent Cecilia Vega’s report: “With the final votes of the midterms just five days away, he declared that American democracy is under attack, called out election deniers led by former President Trump.”
Vega boasted that Biden had “very much...want[ed] to give” another speech about the evils of the GOP, “say[ing] this is a struggle for the very soul of America.”
Insisting he made clear “there is no place for political intimidation or violence” (despite refusing to fully condemn the attempted Kavanaugh assassination or attacks on pro-life centers), Vega argued Biden “[made] it clear he does not blame all Republicans” and instead what he called “the extreme MAGA element.”
“A political speech delivered in a telling location, just blocks away from the U.S. Capitol that was under siege on January 6th. And President Biden not mincing words,” she gushed.
After citing “nearly 300 candidates...who have denied or questioned the legitimacy of the 2020 election,” Vega fretted the Republican National Committee had the gall to call out Biden’s rhetoric “before [he] even started...it.”
Only at the end of her piece (and the one at 8:00 a.m. Eastern as well) did Stephanopoulos and Vega admit voters care more about the economy.
Instead of digging into that, Stephanopoulos and ABC News political director Rick Klein continued to look back to 2020 (click “expand”):
STEPHANOPOULOS: And Rick, you're keeping an eye on the critical state offices that’ll determine whether future elections will be fair and the results respected.
KLEIN: Yeah, this is exactly what President Biden is talking about. We've analyzed public statements along with our partners at fivethirtyeight. And you can see candidates that denied the legitimacy of the last election are on the ballot everywhere. Almost every state has people like that running for Congress or statewide office. These are the ones that I’m most keyed in on, though, because these are battleground states that have people who deny the legitimacy of the election. Places like Nevada, Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Joe Biden flipped four states from Donald Trump last time around. Four of these states were flipped by Biden. There’s one other as well. So, these are going to be some of the closest states in the nation. And now you’re going to have people running the elections potentially who say the last election wasn't legitimately decided. We have never seen that before.
CBS Mornings also drank the Kool-Aid. Co-host and Democratic donor Gayle King flaunted the blue-hot rhetoric as fact: “President Biden warns against dark forces in our democracy as former President Obama hits the trail in the battleground state of Arizona.”
Co-host Tony Dokoupil also showed his aversion to what voters care about by leading off with “what's at stake in Tuesday's midterms as many GOP candidates refuse to promise that they will accept the results of the election if they lose,” even though “the economy is the number-one issue for voters.”
Out of luck and unable to trap Arizona Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake on January 6, correspondent Kris van Cleave pivoted to 2020, but not before conceding “[i]nflation here in the Phoenix metro area has grown at the highest rate in the country” even though former President Obama joined Biden in “arguing that democracy itself is at stake.”
Van Cleave continued to make 2020 the focus of his piece, making sure to mention Lake and Senatorial Republican candidate Blake Masters’s views on 2020.
January 6-obsessed correspondent Scott MacFarlane followed with a segment almost identical to one from ABC’s Klein (click “expand”):
KING: Many of those suspicions about the democratic process stem from former President Trump's false claims about the 2020 election. Scott MacFarlane is still here. He stayed another day to talk about the effect on this year's races. Scott, always good to have you in the studio. Good morning to you.
MACFARLANE: Good to be here, Gayle. Our CBS News review of every federal and statewide race shows, of the nearly 590 Republican candidates, there are 308 who we categorize as election deniers. Look at this. In the U.S. House, it's 238 of 436, it’s a majority. In the U.S. Senate, again, it's a majority. In gubernatorial races, same number. In secretary of state races nationwide, it's nearly half, and secretaries of state would help administer future elections. What do we mean by election denier? CBS News has a lengthy and formal definition. It includes those who have “questioned the legitimacy of Biden's election,” who don't acknowledge he's the duly elected president. Those who say the “election was stolen” and those who have “repeated disproven claims of fraud.” Among the 308 are candidates from 48 different states across the country, and it includes Republican incumbents who are questioning the validity of the very ballots upon which they were elected to.
DOKOUPIL: Boy, look at those numbers.
DOKOUPIL: It’s pretty remarkable stuff there.
NBC’s Today was less smitten by Biden’s desperate ploy but nonetheless promoted it.
“Defining moment. In a prime-time address, President Biden warns democracy itself is on the ballot and in peril next Tuesday,” said co-host Hoda Kotb in a tease.
Co-host Savannah Guthrie sang a similar note: “The President using a speech in Washington to make the case that democracy itself is on the ballot.”
Chief White House correspondent Kristen Welker followed Van Cleave’s playbook of starting (and ending) with reality, but she otherwise lived in a fantasy. In the 8:00 a.m. Eastern hour, she started with January 6 and ended in reality.
Welker noted that Biden’s speech was, in actuality, “intensifying his focus on an issue he thinks can energize the Democratic base” “with Republicans gaining momentum.”
“But Republicans and even many Democrats say, with the economy ranking as the top issue, the impact may be minimal on an election now just five days away. With Democrats on defense in the final midterm push, President Biden sharpening his closing message overnight,” she added.
As for Biden, Welker promoted his thesis “[f]ocusing on voter intimidation, political violence and those who won't commit to accepting election results” with “the first national election since the January 6th attack” days away.
Unlike ABC and CBS, Welker gave real air time to the opposing views (click “expand”):
WELKER: With his poll numbers sagging, Mr. Biden has stayed off the campaign trail, instead focusing on key issues like the economy and abortion. While Wednesday marked a shift in his rhetoric, it's unclear if voters will respond. Many are more worried about pocketbook problems. According to a poll released yesterday, far more voters say inflation is the most urgent issue facing the country than any other issue. Mitch McConnell, the top GOP leader in the senate tweeting, “President Biden is desperate to change the subject from inflation, crime and open borders. Now he's claiming that democracy only works if his party wins.” Other top Republicans also lashing out.
HOUSE MINORITY LEADER KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA) [on FNC’s Hannity, 11/02/22]: The Democrats were dividing us as they moved forward. They just want to distract from the disasters they created.
KOTB: Well, Kristen, the President, obviously he's focusing on the potential dangers to the election process. But other Democratic candidates are not focusing on that. What's their strategy?
WELKER: They really aren't, Hoda. In fact, I talked to a number of Democratic sources who are working on the midterms overnight. And look, they're saying it's doubtful you’re going to hear many democratic candidates who are locked in thinks razor tight races focus their message around the issue of threats to democracy. Instead, Hoda, they say they’re likely going to continue to focus on pocketbook issues, which are still the top issues for voters. Not just across the country, but in key voting blocs like suburban women, who could make all the difference in those races. One Democrat, in fact, telling me overnight, Hoda, they are clear high eyed about the environment they're facing. The fact that the President’s low poll numbers are a drag on their chances. So, in this home stretch, the strategy for Democrats about making the case on the economy and outperforming an unpopular President.
This smearing of conservatives and Republicans as dangerous and voting red represents a threat to the country was made possible thanks to the endorsement of advertisers such as Ashley Homestore (on CBS), Carmax (on NBC), and Target (on ABC). Follow the links to see their contact information at the MRC’s Conservatives Fight Back page.
To see the relevant transcripts from November 3, click here (for ABC), here (for CBS), and here (for NBC).