Thursday, October 19, 2006 | Contact: Colleen O'Boyle (703) 683-5004
Study: Top Democrat Gets Almost No Scrutiny as ABC, CBS, and NBC Let Her Sound Off Against GOP
TV News Gives Free Ride
to "Speaker Pelosi"
Back in 1994, the last time Democrats
had majorities in the House and Senate, the broadcast networks tried
to suffocate the Republican challenge with negative spin. NBC
Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw scoffed at the GOP's Contract
with America: "It is long on promises, but short on sound premises."
No Republican got worse press that year
than the man who would be Speaker, Newt Gingrich. ABC's Jim Wooten
slammed Gingrich as "the national poster boy for the politics of
resentment and rage." CBS's Eric Engberg skewered Gingrich as
"bombastic and ruthless....the family values candidate who divorced
his ailing first wife."
Fast forward 12 years, and now
Republicans are defending their House and Senate majorities in a
tough election. But the broadcast networks have so far refused to
scrutinize the Democrats who wish to lead the next Congress. Case in
point: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, the presumptive Speaker
if the Democrats win next month. MRC analysts reviewed all 106 ABC,
CBS and NBC evening news stories that have mentioned Pelosi since
she was picked to lead House Democrats in 2002:
■ Labels. The last time an evening news reporter called Pelosi a
"liberal" was November 14, 2002, the day she was elected House
Democratic leader. "She is a high-octane San Francisco liberal with
a fondness for high-fashion Armani suits," NBC's Lisa Myers
explained that night. Since then, evening news reporters have
omitted any ideological labels for Pelosi, who in the past five
years has earned a 99% approval rating from the liberal Americans
for Democratic Action, compared to a mere 3% approval from the
American Conservative Union.
■ Spin. Since 2002, Pelosi herself
has been the subject of just 16 evening news stories, eight of which
were flattering vs. two that cast her in a negative light, a
four-to-one tilt in Pelosi's favor. (The remaining six stories were
neutral.) In November 2002, ABC's Linda Douglass touted Pelosi as
someone who "rose to a leadership job with sheer hard work, raising
money for colleagues, spending hours listening to their problems,
providing them dinner during late night votes." A month later, ABC's
World News Tonight picked Pelosi as one of five heroes of
2002. Anchor Charles Gibson said ABC wanted to recognize "people
whose bravery, resolve, and character really shown through."
■ Attack Soundbites. Most of the
time, the evening newscasts gave Pelosi a podium from which she
could attack Republicans. Sixty-three stories included anti-GOP
soundbites from Pelosi; in another 10, the network reporters simply
read Pelosi's attack quotes to viewers.
On May 20, 2004, CBS showed Pelosi
bashing President Bush: "The emperor has no clothes. When are people
going to face reality?" On December 6, 2005, NBC ran a bite from
Pelosi casting all Republicans as crooks: "Republicans believe that
they're above the law. Their hubris, their arrogance is something
that the American people are paying a price for." None of these
quotes were termed "harsh," "angry" or "mean."
Just two stories showed Pelosi dealing
with Democratic embarrassments, including a June 8, 2005 ABC piece
on Howard Dean's gaffes (calling the GOP a "white Christian party"
and saying "a lot" of Republicans "have never made an honest
living"). Pelosi's spin: "I don't think that the statement that the
governor made was a helpful statement. But I do think that he's
doing a great job of broadening the base of those who are involved
in the Democratic Party."
In 1994, TV news made much of the
alleged extremism of GOP candidates and the "rage" of future Speaker
Newt Gingrich. Nancy Pelosi is an unabashed, hardcore liberal, and
her rhetoric is as negative and "angry" as any member of the Class
of '94. The difference in 2006 is that the networks show no interest
in the extremism and nastiness of the liberals who want to control
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