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 Media Reality Check

Wednesday, January 30, 2008 | Contact: Colleen O’Boyle (703) 683-5004

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Broadcast and Cable Networks Offer Oohs and Ahhs For Kennedy Family Endorsements of Obama

Networks Swoon Over
New King of Camelot

    To Republicans, the Kennedy “Camelot” lingo is an outdated, cobwebbed piece of political history, a yellowed picture frame from the Marilyn Monroe era. To Democrats, it’s still a shining legacy. It’s not complicated to figure out which view the national TV news stars embraced on Monday night and Tuesday after Ted Kennedy endorsed Barack Obama for President.

    MSNBC. Hardball host Chris Matthews found a “historic” moment: “Today, we got a glimpse of the early 1960s, when politics was alive, so here and now in Washington, D.C., the era of serious commitment, of short hair, white shirts, narrow ties, and the Peace Corps. Today, for a brief shining hour, the young got to see what we saw, not the gauzy images of Camelot, but the living spirit of the New Frontier.”

    ABC. On Monday’s Nightline, anchor Terry Moran trumpeted the “new son of Camelot. Ted and Caroline Kennedy pass the torch to Barack Obama to carry the legacy of JFK.” Moran soon hailed how “the political world was transfixed by the spectacle of the most powerful Democratic family of the 20th century christening a new torch bearer for the 21st.”

    David Wright repeated a line from World News about “the audacity of hope had its rendezvous with destiny....merging ideals from two different eras,” as “Obama is now an adopted son of Camelot.” On Tuesday, Good Morning America co-host Diane Sawyer announced “let's turn to the Democrats and that political lightning bolt from the Kennedy family.” The screen graphic read: “Camelot Crowns Obama: Caroline and the Senator Take a Stand.”

    NBC. On Monday’s NBC Nightly News, reporter Lee Cowan oozed that “the endorsement brought the Kennedy mystique to this campaign, not in a whisper, but a roar.” On Tuesday’s Today, reporter Andrea Mitchell announced “It was a very big deal, a huge endorsement indeed. A tremendous boost for Barack Obama just one week before 22 Democratic primaries on Super Tuesday....Monday night, all eyes were on Senators Kennedy and Obama. They sat together capping a rousing day of political theater.”

    In an interview with Sen. Kennedy, co-host Matt Lauer wondered if his speech was meant to mock the Clintons, but he softened the question by suggesting “you did that in a stirring speech, and you've made many of them during your political career.”

    CBS. On Monday’s Evening News, anchor Katie Couric hyped the event. “Passing the torch: Barack Obama is tapped as the candidate to continue the Kennedy legacy.” On The Early Show, co-host Harry Smith was the most effusive man on TV: “It feels like the '60s are back. This morning, Ted Kennedy joins us live to tell us why he and Caroline have made their choice for Barack Obama.”

    Smith also declared: “With a voice filled with vigor and that unmistakable cadence, Ted Kennedy reached back to the 1960s and said the same sense of possibility and hope that carried his brother to the White House had found a new standard bearer....In the civic religion that is Democratic politics, the most treasured covenant was passed to the young Senator from Illinois.”

    Smith also asked Ted Kennedy if once again in our history, an inspirational leader would end up assassinated: “Sometimes agents of change end up being targets, as you well know, and that was why I was asking if you were at all fearful of that.”

    Network political gurus didn’t consider whether this endorsement would still be seen as “historic” if Hillary Clinton wins Massachusetts, among other states, on Super Tuesday despite the Kennedy endorsements. If she wins, how was “history” made?
Tim Graham




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