Republican Congressman James Saxton is not exactly an endangered incumbent, as CQ and C-SPAN rate him as safe. But, you wouldn’t know that from watching Thursday’s "Early Show" on CBS. Correspondent Randall Pinkston, who offered some wishful thinking, narrated a two and half minute piece on New Jersey’s 3rd Congressional District where Congressman Saxton is being challenged by Democrat Richard Sexton. Apparently, the fact that the two men have similar sounding last names is enough to warrant a full story. Pinkston highlighted that the similarity in names could cause confusion at the polls, then proceeded to offer a shameless plug of another Viacom channel, Comedy Central, and its star of fake news, Stephen Colbert.
Colbert had conducted an interview with Democrat Sexton, and enjoyed a few laughs at his expense, but despite the fact that Congressman Saxton is rated safe, Pinkston concluded his piece claiming "it remains to be seen who will get the last laugh on election day." An implication that Pinkston believes the Democrats could pull off a major upset.
Pinkston’s wishful thinking wasn’t the only aspect of this story that was noteworthy as the clips of talking heads for his piece were also telling. While they played a clip of Democrat Sexton accusing Saxton of being a rubber stamp for the Bush Administration, the clip they chose of Saxton’s campaign was his campaign manager talking about the strategy of highlighting the "A" in Saxton’s name.
But this story begs the question, is this really news? The "Early Show" has not run any segments on what the midterm election means. What does it mean for America if Democrats take control of Congress? That would be a more substantive news piece than two people with similar names running against each other in a Congressional district where the outcome is not in doubt.
The transcript of Randall Pinkton’s piece follows:
Rene Syler: "And when you talk about politicians, some people say it doesn't matter they're all the same. But in New Jersey's 3rd Congressional District it's the name that's almost the same. CBS News correspondent Randall Pinkston reports."
Randall Pinkston: "11-term Republican Congressman Jim Saxton should be a shoe-in for reelection, but some vowel play by his Democratic opponent could create confusion at the polls and giggles for fake news pundits, like Stephen Colbert."
Stephen Colbert: "Congressman Saxton, what is it that you would like to--"
Richard Sexton, New Jersey Congressional Candidate: "I'm Rich Sexton."
Stephen Colbert: "Excuse me?"
Richard Sexton: "I'm Richard Sexton. I'm running against James Saxton."
Stephen Colbert: "Did we know this?"
Randall Pinkston: "Pretty funny, huh? Not if you're running Congressman Saxton's campaign."
Jeff Sapnig-Hollendonner, Campaign Manager for Congressman James Saxton: "The real reason that we're focusing on the "A" is because we're proud of the Congressman's record, on the one hand. On the other hand, it's the main difference between the last names."
Randall Pinkston: "Democratic challenger Rich Sexton says their names may be similar but their positions are different."
Richard Sexton: "Jim Saxton's been a rubber stamp for George Bush. He's voted with him 85% of the time the last 6 years."
Randall Pinkston: "But the voters might not know that. Some wouldn't be able to pick the congressman out of a lineup. Meet Mr. Saxton."
Unidentified Woman: "Really? I thought it was him."
Randall Pinkston: "Oh, you thought it was him? His name is Sexton, and he's running against Saxton."
Unidentified Woman: "Oh."
Randall Pinkston: "With little money and no prior political experience, Rich Sexton may need something a little bit more than confusion over last names in order to beat the incumbent. Stephen Colbert even made the underdog practice the dreaded call to concede."
Richard Sexton: "Hello Mr. Saxton."
Stephen Colbert: "Who's this."
Richard Sexton: "This is Rich Sexton."
Stephen Colbert: "Who's that."
Richard Sexton: "I'm your Democratic opponent."
Stephen Colbert: "Oh, yeah. Hey, are you okay."
Richard Sexton: "We're fine here and I just want to wish you luck and I really hope that you --."
Randall Pinkston: "Comedy ruled then but it remains to be seen who will get the last laugh on election day. Randall Pinkston, CBS News, Mount Holly, New Jersey."