All three networks on Friday offered glowing tributes to the "spellbinding," "liberal lion," Mario Cuomo, the Democratic politician who passed away on Thursday. Using phrases like "liberal beacon" and "political giant," Today, Good Morning America and CBS This Morning showcased just how much journalists have championed Cuomo's left-wing career.
GMA journalist David Wright made no effort to hide admiration for Cuomo's politics, enthusing, "I grew up here in New York State at a time when Mario Cuomo was governor and would have loved to have seen him run for president. He could be spellbinding." Wright cheered the Democrat as a "liberal lion who might have been president, except that he never sought the job." [MP3 audio here.]
A reoccurring theme on all three networks was Cuomo's trashing of Ronald Reagan in 1984. Wright reminisced that "Cuomo begged to differ with President Ronald Reagan's vision that the go-go '80s were morning in America, insisting, instead, that there was an America Reagan refused to see."
Over on the Today show, Harry Smith echoed Wright, lauding, "Cuomo was a liberal lion, who electrified the crowd when he delivered the keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention in 1984." Perhaps speaking for journalists, Smith added, "A lot of people wanted him to run."
Of course, it should be pointed out that Cuomo's championing of Democratic nominee Walter Mondale failed to stop a 49 state landslide for Reagan. The NBC segment included an archival clip of Tom Brokaw hyping the governor as the "Italian Stallion of Democratic Party politics."
CBS This Morning offered a graphic hailing the "liberal beacon." Co-host Norah O'Donnell recounted Cuomo's journey to become "one of America's leading liberal voices in the 1980s." She added, "Cuomo inspired liberals by blasting President Ronald Reagan."
In total, NBC, CBS and ABC labeled Cuomo "liberal" or "progressive" nine times, a break from tradition. Often, the networks will hide that particular ideological moniker for Democrats and warn viewers of "conservative" politicians.
During the 1984 Democratic convention that the morning shows repeatedly referenced (featuring Cuomo's speech), the liberal label was used a mere 21 times. In contrast, NBC and CBS described the Republicans as conservative 113 times. (See page 225 of And That's the Way It Isn't.)
For a look back at how journalists fawned over Cuomo in the '80s and '90s, go here.
A transcript of the January 2 GMA segment is below:
DAN HARRIS: But we do move on now, because this morning America has lost a genuine political giant. The former governor of New York, Mario Cuomo, dying overnight at age 82, just hours after his son, Andrew, was sworn in for the job he once held. Cuomo was a truly national figure who, several times, flirted with running for president several times. And ABC's David Wright has more on that. David, good morning,
DAVID WRIGHT: Good morning, Dan. Mario Cuomo was the silver-tongued patriarch of a political dynasty here in New York, a liberal lion who might have been president, except that he never sought the job.
MARIO CUOMO: Mr. President, you ought to know that this nation is more a Tale of Two Cities than it is just a shining city on a hill.
WRIGHT: Best remembered for the keynote speech at the 1984 Democratic National Convention, Cuomo begged to differ with President Ronald Reagan's vision that the go-go '80s were morning in America, insisting, instead, that there was an America Reagan refused to see.
MARIO CUOMO: Mr. President, If you asked a woman who had been denied the help she needed to feed her children because you said you needed the money for a tax break for a millionaire or for a missile we couldn't afford to use!
WRIGHT: Cuomo stole the show, upstaging the party's nominee, Walter Mondale. But in 1988 and again in 1992, he disappointed many Democrats by refusing to run.
MARIO CUOMO: I accept the judgment of the national chairman of our party that it would be in the best interest of the Democratic Party that I abandon any such effort now.
WRIGHT: Still Cuomo remained a force in the party and lived long enough to see his son, Andrew, sworn in twice for the job he himself held for three terms.
ANDREW CUOMO: My father is in this room. He's in -- in the heart and mind of every person who is here. He's here and he's here. So let's give him a round of applause.
WRIGHT: You know, I grew up here in New York State at a time when Mario Cuomo was governor and would have loved to have seen him run for president. He could be spellbinding. He was 82 years old, the patriarch of a big political family. His sons not only include the current governor of New York, but also our friend and former GMA news anchor Chris Cuomo.