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Review: Journalistic Admiration for and Championing of Senator Edward Kennedy

Senator Edward (Ted) Kennedy, who passed away late Tuesday night, had the news media as an ally and champion of his liberal causes. Below are a few examples, culled from the MRC's archive, of how journalists admired his policy efforts and treated him as their hero.

Eighteen years ago a New York Times reporter declared "his achievements as a Senator have towered over his time, changing the lives of far more Americans than remember the name Mary Jo Kopechne" and a Time magazine correspondent maintained "if his private life is shaped by his love for children and stepchildren, his public one is still shaped by his concern for the little guy..." Back in 2003, a Boston Globe profile forwarded: "If she had lived, Mary Jo Kopechne would be 62 years old. Through his tireless work as a legislator, Edward Kennedy would have brought comfort to her in her old age."

And just a few weeks ago, reporters were invoking him to push President Obama's health care reform efforts. From NBC: "Today, another dramatic push, this time from an ailing Ted Kennedy, absent from Washington but appearing on the cover of Newsweek and writing: 'This is the cause of my life. We will have decent, quality health care as a fundamental right and not just a privilege.'"

- "Once, long ago, he was the Prince Hal of American politics: high-spirited, youthful, heedless. He never evolved, like Prince Hal, into the ideal king. Instead he did something that was in its way just as impressive. He became one of the great lawmakers of the century, a Senate leader whose liberal mark upon American government has been prominent and permanent. The tabloid version does not do him justice. The public that knows Kennedy by his misadventures alone may vastly underrate him."

- Time's Lance Morrow, April 29, 1991

- "Yet his achievements as a Senator have towered over his time, changing the lives of far more Americans than remember the name Mary Jo Kopechne....He deserves recognition not just as the leading Senator of his time but also as one of the greats in the history of this singular institution, wise in its workings, especially its demand that a Senator be more than partisan to accomplish much."

- Excerpt in the August 2, 1999 Time from a forthcoming biography of Ted Kennedy by New York Times reporter Adam Clymer.

- "If his private life is shaped by his love for children and stepchildren, his public one is still shaped by his concern for the little guy, the one who parks your car, rings the cash register at the convenience store, catches the early bus. As he left town he was trying to expand health care, and when he comes back from burying his nephew, he will be fighting to raise the minimum wage."

- Time columnist Margaret Carlson on Ted Kennedy, August 2, 1999.

- "He is the last of the liberal lions, roaring on behalf of the voiceless....The 30-year-old with nothing but a name to run on turned 70 as one of the premier legislators of the 20th century....He has championed civil rights, pushed for improved education and better health care. His name is on hundreds, probably thousands, of bills....He is an undiluted, undeterrable liberal, but a closet pragmatist. He prefers half a loaf to none, something to nothing, results over rhetoric."

- CNN's Candy Crowley, noting the 70th birthday of Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy, on the February 22, 2002 Inside Politics.

- "If she had lived, Mary Jo Kopechne would be 62 years old. Through his tireless work as a legislator, Edward Kennedy would have brought comfort to her in her old age."

- Charles Pierce in a January 5, 2003 Boston Globe Magazine article. Kopechne drowned while trapped in Kennedy's submerged car off Chappaquiddick Island in July 1969, an accident Kennedy did not report for several hours. (More on this magazine profile)

- "The best reaction shots were those of Ted Kennedy, whose stature seems to grow right along with his nose year after year after year. Kennedy has now reached a grand moment in the life of a Senator; he looks like Hollywood itself cast him in the role. Seriously....Kennedy looked great, like he was ready to take his place next to Jefferson on Mount Rushmore. He gives off the kind of venerable vibes that some of us got from an Everett Dirksen way back when."

- Washington Post TV critic Tom Shales in a January 21, 2004 Style section review of the State of the Union address.

- "He's known as a liberal lion, and Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy has roared more than once during his more than 40 years in the Senate. Now Kennedy says America is on the wrong path, and in his new book America Back on Track, Kennedy details seven challenges facing this country....You talk about the things that need to be done, Senator, from 'reclaiming our constitutional democracy, to protecting our national security, to guaranteeing health care for every American.' Noble, noble goals for sure. Are they do-able, and is there a national will to achieve these things, in your view?"

- NBC's Katie Couric to Senator Ted Kennedy on Today, April 20, 2006.

- "Today, another dramatic push, this time from an ailing Ted Kennedy, absent from Washington but appearing on the cover of Newsweek and writing: 'This is the cause of my life. We will have decent, quality health care as a fundamental right and not just a privilege.'"

- NBC's Mike Viqueira on the July 19, 2009 Nightly News.

- "Senator Edward Kennedy, who is battling brain cancer, is too ill to lead the fight for health care reform in person, but he is working behind the scenes. In Newsweek magazine, he writes: 'I am resolved to see to it this year that we create a system to ensure that someday, when there is a cure for the disease I now have, no American who needs it will be denied it.'"

- CBS's Katie Couric on the July 20, 2009 Evening News.

- "Do you think the President needs to call out The Lion? Do you think this takes your wife's uncle, Senator Kennedy? Do you think he needs to get involved for this [health care] to be successful?"

- ABC's Chris Cuomo to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) on Good Morning America, July 22, 2009.

- "Senator Edward Kennedy is the missing man in the battle for health care reform. On Capitol Hill, nearly everyone agrees things would be different if the liberal lion were here....Today, the health care reform he calls 'the cause of my life,' is stalled....When health care reform comes to a vote, friends say, if Kennedy has the strength, nothing will stop him from returning to the Capitol."

- ABC correspondent John Hendren on World News, July 26, 2009.

- Brent Baker is Vice President for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center