NBC correspondent Heidi Przybyla was on the Wednesday edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe to talk about her article detailing former Vice President Joe Biden's record on abortion. The newsworthy information contained in her article was that Biden has flipped back to supporting the Hyde Amendment after saying "It can't stay" a couple of weeks ago.

The long arm of the PC police has reached back to the '30s and arrested, prosecuted and sentenced the late singer Kate Smith. Smith, who popularized Irving Berlin's song “God Bless America” and was a female pioneer in early television, recorded songs that today in hindsight are viewed as racist. An old friend, Harry Covert, writes to recall the early days of black-and-white TV when he (and I) watched Kate Smith's television program. 

New York Times political profile writer Mark Leibovich, in Manchester, N.H. on Saturday, filed “The Santorum of 2012 Comes From a Long History of Political Brawling.” Times Watch sees a clear preference for Democrats and hostility toward Republican subjects in Leibovich’s writing, and this profile of GOP candidate and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum is certainly not a game-changer in that regard, even citing the late Sen. Robert Byrd, a Democrat and former local Klan leader, as some kind of moral authority against Santorum.

While MSNBC host Chris Matthews has routinely cited the American Revolution-era Gadsden flag as evidence of the extremism of the tea party movement, at the end of Monday's Harball, he expressed his love for the banner while remembering West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd. [Audio available here]

In his 'Let Me Finish' segment, Matthews shared his thoughts on Byrd and how he particularly admired how the Democrat shared his "deep American objection to the Iraq War." Matthews placed Byrd in an historic context and spoke of the nation's founding, including one particular symbol of defiance during the Revolution: "I love the symbol of the Gadsden flag that, coiled rattlesnake against a field of yellow. 'Don't Tread on Me' – it warned our enemies, and that included especially the British government and London." Matthews then noted: "This morning, a man died who treasured this country and that flag. For those reasons, Senator Robert Byrd opposed both wars – both wars with Iraq."

It goes without saying that Monday's media coverage of Sen. Robert Byrd's (D-W.V.) death was predictably sycophantic on a disturbing number of levels.

However, the award for most disgraceful use of a politician's passing to further one's agenda has to go to MSNBC's Chris Matthews who ended last night's "Hardball" memorializing a senator he had great esteem for by attacking former President George W. Bush.

"Let me finish tonight with a tribute to a U.S. senator who shared my deep American objection to the Iraq War," he began.

Readers are cautioned that where Matthews went from here was offensive in the extreme (video follows with transcript and commentary): 

The networks Monday night skipped lightly over the late Senator Robert Byrd's segregationist and racist record, devoting as much time to the Democrat's fiddle-playing prowess as his years in the Ku Klux Klan, which CBS's Chip Reid excused as “an effort to help his political career.”

Leading into file video of Byrd playing his fiddle, ABC anchor Diane Sawyer declared “Byrd was a powerhouse and old-fashioned crowd-pleaser on the stump, whipping out his fiddle.” Though Byrd is the only Senator to have voted against both Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas, Cokie Roberts asserted that “as the country changed, Robert Byrd changed with it. He readily endorsed Barack Obama for President.”

After touting how by “writing several volumes of Senate history” Byrd had followed in Caesar's “footsteps,” she concluded: “Like the Constitution and the bible, Robert Byrd will be a permanent fixture of the Senate.”

Whit Johnson, CBS On Monday's CBS Early Show, correspondent Whit Johnson reported breaking news of the death of West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd and proclaimed: "By all accounts, he was one of the hardest working senators in modern history." Johnson touted Byrd's "four volume history of the Senate" and described him as the "unequaled master of the Senate rules."

Part of the "hard work" Johnson cited was the massive number of pork barrel projects Byrd secured funding for over his long career: "Byrd said he owed his success to the long suffering people of West Virginia and he returned the favor by steering billions of dollars in federal government projects to the state, dozens of them, named for him." Johnson noted how "Byrd reveled in his success at bringing home the bacon....His critics called him the king of pork. He called that hog wash."

Another aspect of Byrd's career that Johnson highlighted was the West Virginia Democrat's opposition to the Iraq war: "A harsh critic of the war in Iraq, Byrd said opposing the war in 2003 was his most important vote ever."

The New York Times marked the death early Monday morning of veteran Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia, who served a record 51 years in the U.S. Senate, with an online obituary by former Times reporter Adam Clymer. While acknowledging Byrd's Klan past and his pork-barrel prodigiousness, Clymer's lead also emphasized Byrd's proud fight as the keeper of Congressional prerogatives. The obituary headline was hagiographic: "Robert Byrd, Respected Voice of the Senate, Dies at 92."

While Clymer's opening statement on Byrd wasn't exactly laudatory, it did not match the paper's hostile treatment of the passing of two veteran Republican senators accused of racial prejudice: Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina and Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina. Clymer's lead paragraph:

Robert C. Byrd, who used his record tenure as a United States senator to fight for the primacy of the legislative branch of government and to build a modern West Virginia with vast amounts of federal money, died at about 3 a.m. Monday, his office said. He was 92.
The bulk of Clymer's obituary for Byrd may have been written some time ago, as is customary. Clymer retired from the Times in 2003, after a career of bashing President Bush and prominent conservatives, while defending old-guard Democrats like Sen. Ted Kennedy.

Clymer acknowledged what he called Byrd's changing perspective, moving from conservative to liberal over the years, and in the 16th paragraph brought up Byrd's membership in the Ku Klux Klan in the 1940s and his filibuster of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

When Republican Sen. Strom Thurmond died, the MSM was quick to stress his segregationist past. The New York Times ran the headline "Strom Thurmond, Foe of Integration, Dies at 100," leaving readers to imagine the South Carolinian had remained an advocate of segregation.  The very first line of USA Today's story described Thurmond as "the nation's most prominent segregationist."
Strange how the MSM can suddenly become reticent about mentioning someone's segregationist past when the late politician in question is a Democrat.  On Morning Joe today, Mark Halperin and Mike Barnicle used elliptical language worthy of a State Department dispatch to avoid mentioning that Byrd had been a member and leader of the Ku Klux Klan. H/t NB reader Ray R.

View video here.

Sen. Robert Byrd died early Monday. Joe Holley of the Washington Post began with a mildly surprising label for a senator who was a Bush-bashing hero of the anti-war left this decade (with a lifetime American Conservative Union rating of 28):

Robert C. Byrd, a conservative West Virginia Democrat who became the longest-serving member of Congress in history and used his masterful knowledge of the institution to shape the federal budget, protect the procedural rules of the Senate and, above all else, tend to the interests of his state, died at 3 a.m. Monday at Inova Fairfax Hospital, his office said.

Mr. Byrd had been hospitalized last week with what was thought to be heat exhaustion, but more serious issues were discovered, aides said Sunday. No formal cause of death was given.

Starting in 1958, Mr. Byrd was elected to the Senate an unprecedented nine times.He wrote a four-volume history of the body, was majority leader twice and chaired the powerful Appropriations Committee, controlling the nation's purse strings, and yet the positions of influence he held did not convey the astonishing arc of his life.

Holley did include his time in the Ku Klux Klan, in paragraph nine. He also wrote this sentence (perhaps this is his idea of what earned the label "conservative"):

On Thursday's World News, ABC anchor Diane Sawyer took the time to devote an entire story to 92-year-old Democratic Senator Robert Byrd’s vote for the Democratic health care bill, which the West Virginia Democrat dedicated to former Senator Ted Kennedy, whom the ABC anchor described as "health care champion Ted Kennedy." Sawyer recounted that Byrd had to be brought into the Senate chamber in a wheel chair several times recently to cast votes related to the bill.

Sawyer informed viewers of Byrd’s long Congressional career and 98 percent attendance record, and then quoted his declaration that "I do what duty tells me to do" as he arrived to vote for the bill. After recounting the Democratic Senator’s emotional reaction and declaration of love for Senator Kennedy when he learned of Kennedy’s illness, Sawyer concluded: "Old comrades, old friends – one gone, one carrying on."

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) told people on Sunday they should pray someone misses Monday morning's crucial healthcare vote, and media members predictably gasped as if he was hoping a Senator would take ill or worse.

Somehow all those hyperventilating missed that there was a major snowstorm over the weekend closing airports and snarling traffic, and that travel impediments might have acted to prevent those not already in the nation's capital from getting there.

Likely with this in mind, Coburn said Sunday, "What the American people ought to pray is that somebody can't make the vote tonight. That's what they ought to pray."  

The Washington Post's Dana Milbank gruesomely took issue with this in his piece "An Ugly Finale For Health-care Reform" (video of Coburn's remarks embedded below the fold):