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David Brinkley Passes Away --6/12/2003


David Brinkley Passes Away; In Later Years He Saw Liberal Bias, Denounced a Loaded Paula Zahn Question and Called Bill Clinton a "Bore" Who Spouts "Nonsense"

David BrinkleyEditor's Note: David Brinkley, who passed away in Houston Wednesday at age 82, was probably a pretty conventional liberal during much of his career with NBC News and later with ABC News (in an April 10, 1988 Washington Post Magazine profile he revealed: "If I had to pick the best Presidents in my lifetime, I would of course pick Roosevelt and Kennedy, and I would also pick Harry Truman"), but in his latter years his more cantankerous side came out as he:

1. Conceded the media do have a liberal bias and denounced a liberal question from Paula Zahn: "That is so loaded, it's overloaded and it destroys itself in its own excess. Nobody would ever take that question seriously."

2. On election night 1996, chided Bill Clinton, charging he "has not a creative bone in his body. Therefore, he's a bore and will always be a bore." Just after President Clinton's victory speech, Brinkley, who thought he was off the air, bemoaned having to look forward "to four years of wonderful, inspiring speeches full of wit, poetry, music, love and affection. More goddamn nonsense."


From the January 1996 MediaWatch, a since-ended publication of the MRC:

Paula Zahn is "Overloaded"
Brinkley Agrees Media are Liberal

In a December 7 [1995] appearance on CNBC's Cal Thomas, David Brinkley reacted with dismay when read a quote from the MRC's Best Notable Quotables of 1995: The Eighth Annual Awards for the Year's Worst Reporting.

Thomas, one of the judges who voted on which quotes deserved inclusion in the year-end issue, asked: "Could you get away, for example, with asking a question like this, that was recently asked by a major network anchor of Pat Buchanan...'You've got political enemies out there calling you an isolationist, a bigot, you're anti-gay, and some even go so far as saying your social stands are reminiscent of Nazi Germany.' Now that's the kind of ideologically loaded stuff that turns a lot of people off, isn't it?"

Brinkley agreed: "That is so loaded, it's overloaded and it destroys itself in its own excess. Nobody would ever take that question seriously, I wouldn't even bother to answer it." Though Brinkley didn't know it, the quote, first runner-up for the "Damn Those Conservatives Award," came from Paula Zahn's July 5 [1995] CBS This Morning interview.

Earlier in the show the former NBC anchor and current This Week host acknowledged liberal bias. "Well, it's there and it doesn't show itself in everything that is printed or broadcast but it is there, and I think we're all used to it, we discount it. Some of the press also is more conservative and it's just the way the action is in this country and I don't know any way to change it. You just have to live with it."

END Reprint of MediaWatch article

(Zahn is now with CNN and will soon return to the air as anchor of the 7-9pm EDT time slot.)

From the November 7, 1996 CyberAlert:


Networks reporters regularly referred to Bob Dole's "harsh" rhetoric and media professional didn't complain. But in Thursday's newspapers you may be reading about a critical comment about Clinton that David Brinkley uttered. At the very end of ABC's broadcast, just before 1am ET, Sam Donaldson, Cokie Roberts, Jeff Greenfield, Lynn Sherr, and Hal Bruno stood by the anchor desk where Peter Jennings and Brinkley sat.

Jennings asked Brinkley for a final comment. Referring to the assembled ABC crew, Brinkley announced: "OK, fine, I'm not going to say much. Among things I admire, almost near the top is creativeness, and everyone in this group has it. It shows in your work, it shows in your thinking, and it shows in your speech, what you do, what you write, what you say, and it's one reason this group is so terrific. Bill Clinton has none of it, he has not a creative bone in his body. Therefore, he's a bore and will always be a bore."

END Reprint of CyberAlert article

A follow-up from the November 8, 1996 CyberAlert:

....[CyberAlert] predicted that his remarks would become big news as the journalistic community cringed at the anti-Clinton remarks.

Well, Thursday's newspapers brought plenty of stories and a remark earlier election night that didn't air on ABC's Washington affiliate. Just after Clinton finished his speech, at about 12:30am ET, this exchange occurred, as printed in the November 7 Dallas Morning News. (Rush Limbaugh on Thursday also played a tape of Brinkley's comments.)

Brinkley: "I wish to say that we all look forward with great pleasure to four years of wonderful, inspiring speeches full of wit, poetry, music, love and affection. More goddamn nonsense."
Peter Jennings: "You can't say that on the air, Mr. Brinkley."
Brinkley: "Well, I'm not on the air."
Jennings: "David, we are on the air."
Brinkley: "Too bad. I told you I was leaving."

END Excerpt from CyberAlert

A later CyberAlert noted that Brinkley had the class to apologize:

On Friday [November 8, 1996] David Brinkley taped an interview with Bill Clinton for airing on Sunday's [November 10, 1996] This Week, his last show as host. Brinkley, who had called Clinton "a bore" and said his election night speech was full of "goddamn nonsense," began the interview:
"Before we begin I am reminded of something I wrote years ago. 'It may be impossible to be objective,' I said. 'But we must always be fair.' Well after a long day election day, and seven hours on the set, what I said at the end of our election night coverage was both impolite and unfair. And I'm sorry. I regret it."

END of Excerpt

It would be nice if a few of the liberals in the media who rudely castigate conservatives, Bryant Gumbel and Bill Moyers come to mind, had the same class as David Brinkley displayed.

For the ABC News-posted article on Brinkley's career: http://abcnews.go.com/

For a page of remembrances: http://abcnews.go.com/

-- Brent Baker