On Good Morning America, correspondent Terry Moran explained: "Opponents of same-sex marriage vowed to fight on and blasted the judge for, they said, letting personal interests trump his legal duty." A clip was played of one Proposition 8 supporter: "The judge has imposed his own agenda upon the voters and the children and the parents of California."
On Today, legal correspondent Pete Williams noted: "But opponents of gay marriage, who supported Proposition 8, denounced the ruling and began preparing to fight back." Supporter Randy Thomasson explained: "The judge has shut the Constitution, imposed his own agenda. He's made a lot of people happy in the gay community in San Francisco, but he is the most dangerous type of judge in America."
The Early Show report by correspondent Priya David-Clemens only featured a couple brief sound bites of gay marriage opponents in "outright disbelief" of the ruling, but no specific criticisms of the judge being biased. In contrast, three sound bites in favor of the ruling were featured.
Of the three network morning shows, only Good Morning America noted that Judge Walker was himself openly gay. Introducing the segment, co-host George Stephanopoulos mentioned: "The judge, Vaughn R. Walker, a Republican first nominated for the bench by Ronald Reagan, he is also openly gay." Both the Early Show and Today skipped over that detail.
“For the first time, Americans got to see the woman President Obama called a ‘trailblazer’ in action,” ABC anchor Diane Sawyer trumpeted Tuesday night before Jonathan Karl framed his story on Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan’s hearing around how “a confirmation hearing isn't usually a laughing matter, but if we learned one thing about Elena Kagan today, it's that she has a sense of humor.” Like NBC, Karl featured Kagan joking about how she was probably at a Chinese restaurant on Christmas day.
The three broadcast network evening newscasts, as well as CNN and FNC, highlighted Senator Jeff Sessions pressing Kagan on her treatment of military recruiters. Karl used the exchange to praise Kagan: “We also learned that Elena Kagan can take a punch. As when Republican Jeff Sessions slammed her decision as Harvard Law dean to ban military recruiters from the school's career office....She made no apologies for taking a strong stand against the military's ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell’ policy.”
CBS’s Jan Crawford declared Kagan “held her own, she was confident, showed flashes of wit, but she didn't break a lot of new ground,” while NBC’s Pete Williams touted how “she displayed flashes of humor.” (CNN expressed concern Kagan wasn’t liberal enough: “Some of her answers on hot-button issues may not please all of her fellow Democrats.” More below.)
Despite referring to it as "landmark" and "huge," the network morning shows on Tuesday mostly ignored Monday's Supreme Court ruling, which declared the Second Amendment a fundamental right that cannot be violated by state governments. Good Morning America, The Early Show and Today devoted just two minutes and 34 seconds to discussing the important decision.
ABC's GMA offered 21 seconds with a single Juju Chang news brief during the two hour program. This didn't stop the show's hosts from covering crucial topics, such as spending eight and a half minutes dissecting whether Michael Douglas' ex-wife deserves residuals from his upcoming Wall Street sequel.
CBS's Early Show allowed 25 seconds for Jan Crawford to explain the significance of the decision. Host Chris Wragge rushed, "Now what's the importance, if you can just tell us, quickly, of this 5-4 decision?"
Only CBS’s Jan Crawford suggested the hearings were more than a ritual leading to Kagan’s inevitable confirmation: “When President Obama nominated her in May, her confirmation was considered a sure bet. But Republicans are emboldened by what they see as a weakened president and sense that support for Kagan in the country has dropped.”
Both Crawford and ABC correspondent Jonathan Karl included Republican criticisms of Kagan’s lack of experience and the hostility to the military she displayed at the Harvard Law School. As for NBC, they mentioned none of those issues, and only included a brief soundbite of Kagan promising to be “impartial.”
Here’s the entirety of NBC’s brief discussion of Monday’s hearing:
On CBS's Early Show, legal correspondent Jan Crawford touted Kagan as "an intellectual heavyweight and consensus builder." Crawford noted how Republicans had "several lines of attack" against Kagan and would "try to paint her as a liberal activist." Crawford herself recently described Kagan as having "stood shoulder to shoulder with the liberal left."
On ABC's Good Morning America, correspondent Claire Shipman did a fawning segment on Kagan in the 8AM ET hour, describing the former Dean as "intellectual" and "full of personal charm" during her tenure at Harvard. Shipman claimed that Kagan had "a determination to be open-minded," despite banning military recruiters from the university's campus over the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy. On that issue, Shipman explained that despite Kagan's decision being unpopular "among student military vets....Iraq War veteran Kurt White says they were won over by Kagan's persistent outreach, another example of her political skills." Shipman failed to mention that White would be testifying on Kagan's behalf during the confirmation hearings.
Amongst the non-ideological superlatives: ABC's Diane Sawyer trumpeted the “historic nomination” of the “five foot three inch powerhouse,” CBS's Crawford insisted “her interests reflect her openness. She loves softball and poker” (poker reflects “openness”?) and NBC's Pete Williams hailed her as an “accomplished poker player, opera lover.”
ABC, CBS and NBC all highlighted Kagan's high school yearbook picture of her in a robe and holding a gavel (ABC's Moran: “Even in high school, check out her yearbook photo here, she had her sights set on the high court”), but none pointed out the explicitly very liberal polemical points she made just a year or two later, nor did CNN's The Situation Room.
Has the Obama administration compromised national security by leaking the fact that it's obtaining actionable intelligence from Umar Mutallab? On this afternoon's Hardball, Justice Department correspondent Pete Williams reported the breaking news that Obama admin officials have told him that the Christmas Day bomber, Umar Mutallab, is providing actionable, fresh intelligence.
Williams stated that officials told him the intelligence is "very valuable and still current" and that the government is "aggressively chasing down" the leads obtained.
All three morning shows on Wednesday highlighted the revelation that a conservative activist had been arrested in connection to an attempt to tamper with the phones of Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu. Despite jumping on the "Louisiana Watergate" story only 17 hours after it was first reported, the networks took five days to file full reports on the same James O’Keefe and his undercover footage exposing corruption at ACORN.
On ABC’s Good Morning America, reporter Pierre Thomas recounted O’Keefe’s previous expose, charitably describing ACORN as "an advocacy group which helps the poor." On NBC’s Today, Pete Williams found sinister motives in right-wing outrage at the organization. He sneered, "Because ACORN helped register thousands of low income voters, Republicans pounced." (Could the illegal activities and voter fraud associated with the group have been another reason for GOP attacks?)
But neither CBS nor NBC cited those quotes for their viewers as they gave short-shrift to Hasan's remarks in “The Koranic World View As It Relates to Muslims in the U.S. Military,” a slide show disclosed by Dana Priest in Tuesday's Washington Post (click on “Launch Photo Gallery” for Hasan's entire presentation at Walter Reed in June of 2007).
On the NBC Nightly News, Pete Williams just briefly noted how Hasan asserted that “releasing Muslim soldiers as conscientious objectors would increase troop morale and, quote, 'decrease adverse events.'” Bob Orr, on CBS, at least characterized it as “a shocking presentation to colleagues,” and related only how “Hasan argued forcing Muslim soldiers to fight wars in Muslim countries puts them 'at risk to hurting/killing believers unjustly' and he ominously warned of 'adverse events.'”
Wednesday's NBC Nightly News devoted a full minute to the guilty convictions for bribery, racketeering and wire fraud against former nine-term Louisiana Democratic Congressman William Jefferson, but failed to name his political party.
ABC's Charles Gibson mentioned Jefferson's party in a brief World News item. The CBS Evening News didn't air anything about Jefferson's convictions which were announced just under an hour before the 6:30 PM EDT feeds of the newscasts shown in the eastern and central time zones, though Couric did manage to highlight how “Giants quarterback Eli Manning agreed today to a six-year deal for $97 million, making him the highest-paid player ever in the NFL.”
NBC considered the case important enough to send Pete Williams to the federal courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia (just a few blocks from MRC HQ), but he didn't cite Jefferson's party and while anchor Brian Williams set up his colleague by referring to the “case of the cold, hard cash, money that was famously found in the freezer at the home of William Jefferson,” he identified Jefferson only as “a former Congressman from Louisiana.”
Daring to go where only cable has gone so far, Wednesday's NBC Nightly News waded into the rampant claims that President Barack Obama -- though he was born in a U.S. state and to a mother who was a U.S. citizen, so even if he were born in Kenya he'd still be a U.S. citizen -- is somehow really not one. Anchor Brian Williams didn't hide his disdain, teasing the newscast: “Spreading lies about President Obama's birthplace and about his U.S. citizenship. Who's doing it and why?”
(Too bad Williams didn't show such concern for wild allegations in late 2004 and into 2005 that President Bush was illegitimate when colleague Keith Olbermann spent months using his MSNBC show to hype claims Ohio voting machines were manipulated to deny John Kerry's win which would have given him the presidency.)
After video of a woman in Delaware shouting at a Congressman over Obama's citizenship, Williams fretted: “A lot of us live with this issue; we get e-mails, we get asked about it.” Exaggerating the extent of the attention the issue gets on the right, reporter Pete Williams declared: “It hasn't gone away, becoming a staple of blogs and conservative talk radio.” He soon asserted that “legal scholars -- liberal and conservative alike -- are in widespread agreement that Barack Obama is fully qualified.”
Yesterday, however, Obama’s pick for the Court, Judge Sonia Sotomayor, explicitly repudiated Obama’s belief that judging should be based on “empathy” or “the heart.” Sotomayor told senators: “I don’t, wouldn’t, approach the issue of judging in the way the President does.”
None of the broadcast networks juxtaposed Sotomayor’s slap at Obama with the President’s supposed brilliance as a constitutional scholar, or explored whether it was credible that Obama’s nominee really disagrees on the role of empathy, what the President previously declared the “essential ingredient” of a good judge.