Despite Michael Cohen’s shady history and a federal conviction for lying to Congress, the liberal broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC) hung on his every word following Wednesday’s hearing before the Democratic-led House Oversight Committee. While glowing about his “dramatic public reversal” and “deeply personal takedown of a sitting President” (as NBC reporter Kate Snow did) they all chided Republican members of the committee for reminding viewers of his impending jail time.
The networks gawked at the “split screen” of the Cohen hearing and President Trump’s visit to Vietnam for the denuclearization summit with North Korea. But the difference in the time they dedicated to the hearing was noteworthy.
In all, the networks spent a combined 26 minutes and 51 seconds on Cohen compared to 16 minutes and 12 seconds for the summit and reports stemming from it. NBC Nightly News had the most lopsided coverage with 11 minutes 41 seconds and three minutes 50 seconds respectively. ABC’s World News Tonight had seven minutes and 59 seconds, to five minutes and 40 seconds, respectively. CBS Evening News was the most balanced at seven minutes 11 seconds on Cohen and six minutes 42 seconds on the summit.
CBS began the report with a soundbite of Cohen being sworn in, as if to signal to viewers he was telling the truth. “Like a witness for the prosecution, the President's former fixer and lawyer said he and Mr. Trump committed crimes together,” congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes added.
Cordes would later quip about the President’s sons needed to be the ones to tweet comments because their father was busy: “Donald Trump, Jr., tweeting, “ha ha ha ha ha, Michael Cohen begged to work at the White House and everyone knows it.” She failed to note that that was accurate and that it meant Cohen didn’t tell the truth to Congress again.
In CBS’s second segment about the hearing, legal correspondent Paula Reid hyped the potential new legal trouble for Trump and what the Democrats in the House could now do to him:
Well, Cohen gave lawmakers a roadmap of exactly where to go next. He gave them the names of specific people who would have knowledge that some of this alleged criminal conduct. He also brought with him documents and suggested where to get more, and most importantly, he has alleged the President underestimated his net worth so as not to pay his fair share of tax, giving Democrats a way to pursue the President's elusive tax returns.
Meanwhile on World News Tonight, ABC’s congressional correspondent Mary Bruce was fawning over Cohen “deliver[ing] blow after blow” to Trump. “Through it all, Republicans trying to discredit Cohen, attacking his character and credibility,” she sneered as if Cohen could actually be trusted given his conviction on lying.
“They accused him of trying to cash in on his infamy, calling him a man scorned when the President didn't bring him to Washington,” she huffed before touting Cohen’s rebuttal. “But as Cohen himself pointed out, Republicans did not spend much time defending the president's actions.”
Adding, “The disbarred lawyer saying he owned his mistakes. Cohen calling himself a cautionary tale for the president's defenders.”
And on NBC Nightly News, NBC actually ran three segments on the Cohen hearing, with the last one dedicated solely to comparing it Watergate and John Dean. “It's not a perfect parallel,” correspondent Kate Snow admitted, because Dean worked in the White House (unlike Cohen), and according to presidential historian Michael Beschloss, we still have to see if it will lead to Trump leaving office.
“Republicans today slammed Cohen....For his part, Cohen says he's looking for redemption,” Snow concluded.
The networks clearly had many of their chips ridding on Cohen.
The transcripts are below, click "expand" to read:
ABC’s World News Tonight
February 27, 2019
6:32:00 p.m. Eastern
DAVID MUIR: But that dinner ending here right before the President's long-time fixer and personal attorney Michael Cohen took questions in front of the American on live television. The hearing playing here in Hanoi, as well. Michael Cohen answering from members of Congress. Opening by calling the President a racist, a conman, and a cheat, who allegedly said of his run for president, "This will be the greatest infomercial in political history." And what Cohen revealed about what the President knew and when. Republicans asking, why should the American people believe you? And tonight, what Cohen could not answer, and what that revealed, too. ABC's Mary Bruce leading us off tonight from the hill.
[Cuts to video]
MARY BRUCE: The hearing room chaotic and intense as Michael Cohen, the man once trusted to keep the President's secrets, took the oath and then delivered blow after blow.
BRUCE: It was a high stakes do-over for Cohen, who has pleaded guilty to lying to Congress.
BRUCE: And knowing full well that the President was likely watching in Vietnam, Cohen made this claim.
MICHAEL COHEN: Mr. Trump tasked me to handle the negative press surrounding his medical deferment from the Vietnam draft. He told me not to answer the specific questions by reporters, but rather offer simply the fact that he received a medical deferment. He finished the conversation with the following comment -- "You think I'm stupid? I'm not going to Vietnam." And I find it ironic, Mr. President, that you are in Vietnam right now.
BRUCE: Through it all, Republicans trying to discredit Cohen, attacking his character and credibility.
BRUCE: They accused him of trying to cash in on his infamy, calling him a man scorned when the President didn't bring him to Washington.
BRUCE: But as Cohen himself pointed out, Republicans did not spend much time defending the president's actions.
BRUCE: The disbarred lawyer saying he owned his mistakes. Cohen calling himself a cautionary tale for the president's defenders.
CBS Evening News
February 27, 2019
6:31:53 p.m. Eastern
JEFF GLOR: So there you have it. The future of nuclear weapons and sensational criminal allegations colliding on one unprecedented afternoon. We will break down both these stories in full beginning with Nancy Cordes, who was in the hearing room for Cohen's testimony.
[Cuts to video]
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS: And nothing but the truth so help you god?
MICHEL COHEN: I do.
NANCY CORDES: Like a witness for the prosecution, the President's former fixer and lawyer said he and Mr. Trump committed crimes together.
CORDES: Trump associate Roger stone and WikiLeaks both denied it today. And Republicans said Cohen, facing three years in prison for a slew of federal crimes, shouldn't be believed.
REP. JIM JORDAN: When you filed a false tax return in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016, was all that out of blind loyalty to the president?
COHEN: No, it was not.
CORDES: One of Cohen's crimes, lying to Congress.
CORDES: With President Trump occupied in Vietnam, it fell to his sons to keep a running commentary on the hearing. Donald Trump, Jr., tweeting, “ha ha ha ha ha, Michael Cohen begged to work at the White House and everyone knows it.” Cohen claimed their father repeatedly said racist things.
6:38:16 p.m. Eastern
GLOR: Well, Paul last, here's a question about those investigations then, with the revelations today, where do the investigations go next?
PAULA REID: Well, Cohen gave lawmakers a roadmap of exactly where to go next. He gave them the names of specific people who would have knowledge that some of this alleged criminal conduct. He also brought with him documents and suggested where to get more, and most importantly, he has alleged the President underestimated his net worth so as not to pay his fair share of tax, giving Democrats a way to pursue the President's elusive tax returns.
NBC Nightly News
February 27, 2019
7:02:11 p.m. Eastern
LESTER HOLT: What we witnessed today was perhaps the most dramatic turn against a sitting president by one of his closest confidants since the days of Watergate. With more on that here's NBC's Kate Snow.
[Cuts to video]
KATE SNOW: It was a dramatic public reversal.
SNOW: And a deeply personal takedown of a sitting president.
SNOW: Historian Michael Beschloss says it's unprecedented for someone once so loyal to sit in that chair.
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: It's awfully hard to find the spectacle of a confidant of the president who flips on him, then goes before congress and says he's a racist, a cheat, and a conman.
SNOW: Reminders today of another historic hearing.
SNOW: In 1973, former Nixon White House Legal Counsel John Dean testified for days before the Senate Watergate committee.
SNOW: It's not a perfect parallel. Dean was on the inside at the White House and revealed Nixon's personal involvement in a cover-up.
BESCHLOSS: John Dean's testimony was the moment where Richard Nixon went from being a president with a problem, to being a president who might very well be driven out of office. We don't yet know if Michael Cohen's testimony is going to have the same effect.
SNOW: Republicans today slammed Cohen.
SNOW: For his part, Cohen says he's looking for redemption. Kate snow, NBC news.