Amidst a war of words with the White House, character attacks from the Left, and a New York Times hit piece on his connections with lobbyists, House Minority Leader John Boehner has received positive media coverage – from MSNBC of all places. The network ran a portrait of Boehner's childhood on its 11 a.m. news hour, and again on "Andrea Mitchell Reports" at 1 p.m.
"The public hears a lot of the arguments against [Boehner] from the Left," remarked NBC correspondent Luke Russert on the 11 a.m. MSNBC news hour Monday. "They hear that he's a country club Republican, if you will, with extensive ties to lobbyists. But it's quite interesting. He's a man who comes from very humble beginnings, starting out in a big Catholic family in Reading, Ohio."
Russert narrated a piece on Boehner's upbringing in Ohio, as one of 12 children. He interviewed one each of Boehner's brothers and his sisters, as well as his high school football coach.
Words used to describe Boehner included "bossy," "independent," "leadership," "charm," and "heart." Other highlights included his hard work for his family's bar and for the high school football team, as well as his taking seven years to earn his undergraduate degree because he worked during the day and took classes at night.
Overall, it provided quite a humane and sympathetic look into the upbringing of a prominent Republican politician – one that usually might not be expected of MSNBC.
"It'll be interesting to see how this narrative comes out in the closing weeks of the campaign," Russert said after the clip played. " It certainly gives [Boehner] more of a human element as opposed to just the 'Party of No' face, which Democrats have been trying to stick to him in recent months and weeks."
A full transcript of the segment, which aired on September 13 at 11:34 a.m. EDT, is as follows:
TAMRON HALL, MSNBC Anchor: Well there is intense scrutiny on Republican Minority Leader John Boehner today, following a scathing investigative report in the New York Times detailing Boehner's relationship with Washington lobbyists. According to the Times, Boehner has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from his campaigns from lobbyists, and helped numerous lobbyists during his time in office. Boehner's office denies any improper relationships, but in recent weeks President Obama has repeatedly gone after Boehner's speeches, and really tried to portray him as the face of the Republican Party. Still, the Minority Leader us unknown to millions of Americans. NBC's Luke Russert has a closer look at the man who could become the next Speaker of the House. And it's interesting, Luke, in that report – about 55 percent of the people surveyed did not know who John Boehner is –
LUKE RUSSERT, NBC Congressional Correspondent: It is, and a lot of the public hears a lot of the arguments against him from the Left, and definitely President Obama has tried to define Mr. Boehner in the last few weeks. They hear that he's a country club Republican, if you will, with extensive ties to lobbyists. But it's quite interesting. He's a man who comes from very humble beginnings, starting out in a big Catholic family in Reading, Ohio.
JOHN BOEHNER, House Minority Leader: ...hidden from the people? Hell no, you can't!
LUKE RUSSERT: Minority Leader John Boehner has risen to political and oratorical heights on Capitol Hill. But that trip began on another hill.
BOB BOEHNER, John Boehner's brother: If you blink, you miss the street here.
RUSSERT: Hill Street, in Reading, Ohio. And at the top sits the house that he shared with 11 brothers and sisters.
So you had 12 people in this house?
BOB BOEHNER: Yep.
RUSSERT: Or 14? Right? Because you had 12 kids.
BOB BOEHNER: 14. I see the – when we were younger, that addition on the end wasn't there. Mom and dad slept on a pull-out couch. And John, Steve and I slept in one bedroom, Nancy slept in the other bedroom.
RUSSERT: Maneuvering in such a big Catholic family is where a large part of his leadership skills come from today.
BOB BOEHNER: It started right there, you know. You might have wanted something done a certain way, but it wasn't possible because there was too many people. And so you had to figure out the best way to do something and move on with it.
RUSSERT: Of course, his little sister might just say he was bossy.
LYNDA MEINEKE: "Make sure you do your homework," and "Sit up straight." "What are you doing with your clean clothes on?"
RUSSERT: Lynda still works the bar the Boehner family used to own, where John mopped floors. Back then it was named Andy's Café, after his grandfather.
RUSSERT: Did you ever get angry at him because you thought he was being too harsh on you?
MEINEKE: Oh yeah, because he wasn't mom or dad. You know, it's like "Who are you?"
RUSSERT: A teenager who rode motorcycles and played football, even when he was in pain.
GERRY FAUST, Fmr. Moeller H.S. Football Coach: If he could stand the pain, he could play, because it wasn't going to hurt him. (Unintelligible) He says, "I think the team – we need to do it to win."
RUSSERT: From his mother came his independence.
MEINEKE: Stand up and speak your mind. Yeah, my mother was good at that. She just, you know – she spoke what she thought. She spoke from the heart.
RUSSERT: And from his father his charm, and possibly his heart.
BOB BOEHNER: My dad – (Unintelligible) I think John does the same thing – connect to people. That's why he's been successful.
RUSSERT: The beginning of an unlikely climb, which may end with him leading 435 people in a very different house on the hill.
(End Video Clip)
RUSSERT: And Tamron, there you go. Quite an interesting upbringing for Mr. Boehner, learning the art of compromise dealing with 12 – 11 brothers and sisters. Another interesting antidote that I picked up there on the ground in Ohio: it took Mr. Boehner seven years to get his degree from Xavier University in Cincinnati, not because he was partying, but in fact because he was working. He got his degree, a Bachelor's of Science in night school over the course of seven years. It'll be interesting to see how this narrative comes out in the closing weeks of the campaign. It certainly gives him more of a human element as opposed to just the "Party of No" face, which Democrats have been trying to stick to him in recent months and weeks.