The networks found their 2022 October Surprise, a Republican candidate to pounce on and work to destroy the GOP’s chances in the midterms. In less than a week, ABC, CBS and NBC have devoted over 27 minutes to the Herschel Walker story and whether the Georgia Republican senatorial candidate paid for an abortion in 2009.
At the same time, they have ignored gaffes and the radically extreme policies of Democratic senatorial candidates. All of this is a familiar pattern: Every election cycle, ABC, CBS and NBC look for one (or more ) Republican candidates to try and trash the entire field. Strangely, this obsession never seems to happen to Democrats.
One of the more famous examples is then-Congressman Todd Akin. In 2012, the Republican ran for Senate against Democrat Claire McCaskill. He offered the cringe-inducing gaffe that women who are “legitimately raped” often don’t get pregnant.
The ABC, CBS and NBC morning and evening newscasts simply could not resist an opportunity to target all Republicans as extreme, including trying to torpedo the 2012 Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney.
By August 23, 2012, the networks had fixated on the obscure Congressman for a massive 96 minutes. The journalistic obsession was obviously favorable to the Democrats, a point Good Morning America co-host George Stephanopoulos underlined: “Mitt Romney hoping to shake off those controversial comments from Congressman Todd Akin about abortion and rape. President Obama and his team doing everything they can to make it stick.”
On the August 22, 2012 NBC Nightly News, Andrea Mitchell insisted, "But because of Todd Akin, only days before their convention, Republicans remain trapped in a national debate about abortion and rape.”
On the August 21, 2012 Nightly News, Chuck Todd could barely contain his excitement when doing a “damage assessment” for Brian Williams:
It’s breathtaking. The force and artillery of the Republican Party that has dropped on Todd Akin’s head.... But this basically will cost them control of the United States Senate.
So expect more Herschel Walker coverage. For journalists, the details don’t really matter. It’s just an opportunity to save the Democrats in the 2022 midterms.
For more examples from our flashback series, which we call the NewsBusters Time Machine, go here.