Friday's CBS Evening News stood out for not covering Hillary Clinton's interview with NBC's Andrew Mitchell. The newscast didn't even mention the former first lady during their 2016 election coverage. Instead, Scott Pelley played up how Donald Trump "seems to stumble a lot, but never seems to fall" – specifically, his confused answers on foreign policy during an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt. Pelley also covered Vice President Joe Biden "agonizing publicly about whether he would run" for president.
Of course, NBC Nightly News set aside over six minutes of air time to excerpts from Mitchell's interview of Mrs. Clinton. Lester Holt touted how the Democrat has been "fighting to return the media focus back onto her formidable candidacy for president." Holt also hyped how Trump was "stumped – flubbing answers about foreign policy – an embarrassing stumble that has Republican rivals saying he's not serious." ABC's World News Tonight also devoted full reports to Clinton/Biden and Trump. However, Jonathan Karl pointed out that "Hillary Clinton refused to apologize today for her handling of e-mail as secretary of state," and that "her favorability rating today hit its lowest level in 23 years." [video below]
Pelley first played a clip from Hewitt's program, where the conservative pundit asked Trump "about terrorists in Iran, which Trump confuses with U.S. allies in Iraq." He then turned to Face the Nation host John Dickerson and made his "seems to stumble a lot, but never seems to fall" remark about Trump. Dickerson responded by noting that the Republican candidate's "retort was that he didn't need to know the details. He could hire the right people and delegate. This kind of thing has tripped up candidates before, but they've survived. George W. Bush, in 2000, could only name one of four world leaders when he was quizzed, and he won the presidency."
The CBS anchor continued with Vice President Biden's "agonizing publicly" about a possible presidential run:
SCOTT PELLEY: Now, on the Democratic side, Vice President Biden has been agonizing publicly about whether he would run. Let's have a look at what he said in Atlanta last night.
VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I will be straightforward with you: the most relevant factor in my decision is whether my family and I have the emotional energy to run.
PELLEY: John, what are you hearing?
JOHN DICKERSON: I can't think of a candidate in the modern era whose deliberations have played out in such a publicly-emotional way. The Vice President is now saying out loud what we've been hearing for some time from those close to him – which is that the emotional currents are still swirling after the death of his son, Beau Biden, last May. The loss is acute, which holds the Vice President back. But Beau Biden also encouraged his dad to run, which compels him. Sources tell me the Vice President may take until the end of the fall to make his decision.
Another source, who knows Biden well, said that while early preparations are definitely moving forward for a campaign, that does not mean the emotional hurdle has been cleared. And without, that Scott, nothing will happen.
Before moving onto his next segment, Pelley noted that Republican "candidate Carly Fiorina aced Hugh Hewitt's test, and she will be John's guest on Sunday on Face the Nation."
On NBC Nightly News, Holt played much of the same excerpts from Mitchell's interview of Clinton that the correspondent played on her own MSNBC program earlier in the day. He led into the clips with his "fighting to return the media focus back onto her formidable candidacy for president" about the former New York senator. Holt then turned to Mitchell near the end of the segment to ask about the e-mail server controversy:
LESTER HOLT: Andrea, she talks about the convenience factor; but beyond that, does she explain why she did all her business on this single personal account?
ANDREA MITCHELL: No, she didn't. There's been speculation that it was to avoid reporters' requests – congressional investigators – but she did not really answer that question. It's clear, though, that she's going to be a lot less aggressive about this. They're less defensive. They know they've got to try to turn the page, because this FBI investigation is going to continue, and they're going to have to deal with this for a long time.
The NBC newscast's report about Trump vs. Hewitt followed the Mitchell segment. Correspondent Hallie Jackson played the same excerpt that Pelley zeroed in on, and underlined that Trump "got tripped up...in a talk radio interview, when asked about the head of Iran's special forces." She also noted that "it's not the first time Trump's response to national security questions has raised eyebrows."
It should be pointed out that Jackson referred to Trump as "Teflon Don" during the segment, which is also the nickname of infamous Mafia boss John Gotti.
Holt ended NBC Nightly News's 2016 election coverage by turning to Meet the Press host Chuck Todd:
LESTER HOLT: Chuck, important interviews for both these frontrunners as we head into the Labor Day weekend – what's your takeaway? Maybe, the question is, what did we learn today?
CHUCK TODD: Well, I think what we learned from Hillary Clinton is what Andrea reinforced there – is that the campaign is now having a different tactic on the e-mail controversy. They know it's serious. They're now not joking about it anymore. You don't hear her talking about – you know, being dismissive of it; trying to talk about it as a partisan issue. She took it very seriously. She stopped short of a good explanation on, sort of, the initial reasoning why she did it. That isn't fully explained. But it was contrite; it was different; it's an acknowledgment this isn't going anywhere, and they need to figure out how to deal with it.
Donald Trump, on the other hand – you know, we'll see. These things haven't taken him down before. And so, I hesitate to sit here and say this will take him down next. I think ultimately, because of the way he aggressively deals with these issues himself – when he has a bad interview – he goes out and does another interview. He doesn't retreat. And maybe, that's what his supporters end up liking about.
ABC anchor David Muir introduced Karl's report on World News Tonight by noting that Clinton had "a concession of her own today: stopping short of apologizing for that private server; but, for the first time, apologizing for something else." The correspondent touted how the Democrat "refused to apologize today for her handling of e-mail," and continued by spotlighting her 41 percent favorability rating in the latest Gallup poll. He then reported on Biden's uncertainty about running for president:
JONATHAN KARL (voice-over): Hillary Clinton refused to apologize today for her handling of e-mail as secretary of state. But in an interview with NBC News, she did offer this.
HILLARY CLINTON, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (from MSNBC interview): I am sorry that this has been confusing to people, and has raised a lot of questions. But there are answers to all these questions, and I will continue to provide those answers.
KARL: While Clinton's struggles continue, her favorability rating today hit its lowest level in 23 years.
Vice President Biden is closer to making his decision about whether he would challenge her. During an event at a synagogue in Atlanta, Biden was asked directly if he'll run.
VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: The most relevant factor in my decision is whether my family and I have the emotional energy to run.
KARL: Biden is openly anguished about whether he is ready to run so soon after the death of his son, Beau – who died in May from brain cancer.
BIDEN: Can my family undertake what is an arduous commitment that we'd be proud to undertake under ordinary circumstances? But the honest-to-God answer is, I just don't know.
KARL: He said he's just not ready yet to make the call.
BIDEN: I can't look you straight in the eye and say now, I know I can do that.
KARL: And what does Hillary think about a Biden run?
CLINTON: I think everybody should give him the space and respect he deserves to make what is a very difficult choice for him and his family.
MUIR (live): All right. So let's get right to Jon at the White House. John, how much time does the Vice President really have, though, to make his decision here?
KARL: Well, the Vice President's made it clear to his friends that he wants to take as much time as he can. His top advisors tell me the real, absolute deadline here is October 13. That is the date of the first Democratic debate. They believe he has to be on that debate stage if he's going to run.
Muir then turned to ABC journalist Tom Llamas who, like Pelley and Jackson, played the same portion of Hewitt's interview of Trump. Lllamas led by noting that "Donald Trump's rivals [were] all over his foreign policy flub during a radio interview with conservative host Hugh Hewitt." He also highlighted how Trump slammed Hewitt as a "third-rate radio announcer," and that "it's not the first time he's taken aim at hosts asking tough questions."
The transcript of Tom Llamas's report from Friday's World News Tonight on ABC:
DAVID MUIR: A major headline, meanwhile, on the Republican side as well: frontrunner Donald Trump, 24 hours after signing that pledge vowing not to run as a third-party candidate – the Republican nomination or nothing – then, in an interview about foreign policy, was he stumped? The other Republican contenders tonight pouncing.
ABC's Tom Llamas on the campaign trail.
TOM LLAMAS (voice-over): Tonight, Donald Trump's rivals all over his foreign policy flub during a radio interview with conservative host Hugh Hewitt.
HUGH HEWITT (from radio interview): Are you familiar with General Soleimani?
DONALD TRUMP: Yes. I – go ahead, give me a little – go ahead, tell me.
HEWITT: He runs the Quds Forces.
TRUMP: Yes. Okay – right-
HEWITT: Do – do you expect his behavior-
TRUMP: And I think the Kurds, by the way, have been horribly mistreated by us. I think the Kurds-
HEWITT: No, not the Kurds – the Quds Forces, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' Quds Forces – the bad guys-
TRUMP: Yes, yes-
LLAMAS: That wasn't all.
HEWITT: So the difference between Hezbollah and Hamas does not matter to you yet, but it will?
TRUMP: I will when it's appropriate. I will know more about it than you know; and believe me, it won't take me long.
LLAMAS: Today, Trump blasting Hugh Hewitt – calling him a 'third-rate radio announcer.'
It's not the first time he's taken aim at hosts asking tough questions.
MEGYN KELLY (from Fox News Channel debate): You've called women you don't like 'fat pigs,' 'dogs,' 'slobs,' and 'disgusting animals.'
LLAMAS: Trump going to war with Megyn Kelly of Fox News after that debate.
TRUMP: I just don't respect her as a journalist. I have no respect for her. I don't think she's very good. I think she's highly overrated.
LLAMAS: But today, Trump's opponents making it clear: these aren't gotcha questions.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (from CNN interview): People can learn about these issues if they take the time to do it. The middle of the campaign is probably not the ideal time to get caught up.
LLAMAS: But Trump, nothing if not confident.
TRUMP: I will be so good at the military, your head will spin.
LLAMAS (on-camera): David, even though Trump was critical of that radio host, Hugh Hewitt, he's going to have to face him again in two weeks at the Republican debate. Hewitt is one of the moderators. David?
MUIR: Tom, thank you.