Networks Continue to Hype Perry Indictment, Ignore Prominent Liberals Defending Him

All three network morning shows on Monday continued to hype the Friday indictment of Texas Governor Rick Perry, but none of the broadcasts mentioned prominent liberals like Obama adviser David Axelrod or Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz coming to Perry's defense and dismissing the charges as politically motivated.

On NBC's Today, correspondent Peter Alexander proclaimed Perry to be "the first Texas governor to be indicted in nearly a century." The reporter then attempted to paint the entire field of possible 2016 Republican presidential candidates as plagued by scandal: "It's another possible 2016 contender with a blemish on his resume. You've got Perry's indictment, Chris Christie's bridgegate, and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker under new scrutiny for allegations of campaign finance violations." [Listen to the audio]

In a similar report for ABC's Good Morning America, correspondent Jim Avila declared: "This morning another first for the longest-serving governor in Texas history. Rick Perry is now the first chief executive of the Lone Star State to be indicted in nearly a hundred years, charged with abuse of power and coercing a public servant."

On CBS This Morning, correspondent Jan Crawford described Perry being in "a political mess that is about the size of Texas," noting how the Governor was "going to have to stop by the police department in Austin to have his fingerprints taken and get a mugshot" before visiting anymore presidential primary states. She concluded: "Two images that a man interested in running for president obviously does not want out there."

While all three segments briefly explained that the charges against Perry stemmed from his attempt to remove a Texas district attorney from office who had been convicted of drunk driving and served jail time for the crime, none of the stories noted the liberal voices defending the Governor.

After news broke of the indictment, David Axelrod, former top aide to President Obama, tweeted that given the known facts of the case the "Perry indictment seems pretty sketchy."

At the same time, left-wing Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz told Newsmax: "Everybody, liberal or conservative, should stand against this indictment."

Even Ari Melber, liberal co-host of MSNBC's The Cycle, admitted a "weak case against Rick Perry" in a Sunday article for MSNBC.com.   
 
While people were crossing the ideological divide to stand up for Perry, the networks were too busy focusing on the Governor's "embarrassing" 2012 presidential run and his attempt to "rehabilitate" himself in time for 2016.

On Today, Alexander announced: " Rick Perry has been in the midst of a political makeover of sorts....recently revamping his image, trading in his cowboy boots for a pair of stylish glasses. All to help erase memories of an embarrassing 2012 presidential run."

On GMA, Avila almost identically remarked: "The governor who has ditched the cowboy boots in favor of hipster eyeglasses has not changed his reputation for power politics and tough talk."

On CBS This Morning, Crawford observed: "Perry's indictment comes as the Governor is in rehab mode, fighting to regain his political footing after a poor showing in the Republican presidential primary two years ago."

Saturday's ABC and CBS evening newscasts had already eagerly touted the "political embarrassment of a mugshot" for Perry.

Saturday's NBC Nightly News provided the only network mention of liberals giving support to Perry, with a single sentence from White House correspondent Kristen Welker at the end of her report: "But today largely bipartisan support for Perry, with former Obama advisor David Axelrod tweeting that the indictment 'seems pretty sketchy' and potential 2016 rival Jeb Bush calling the charges politically motivated and ridiculous."

Here are transcripts of the August 18 morning show coverage:

Today
7:06 AM ET

MATT LAUER: Texas Governor Rick Perry is fighting back against a grand jury indictment on abuse of power charges. This as the Republican was positioning himself for another run for the White House. NBC's national correspondent Peter Alexander has more on this. Hi, Peter.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Gov. Perry's Texas Showdown; Charges Come Amid Makeover for Possible 2016 Run]

PETER ALEXANDER: Hey, Matt, good morning to you. Rick Perry has been in the midst of a political makeover of sorts. But now he's the first Texas governor to be indicted in nearly a century. Still, Governor Perry remains defiant, he's vowing to fight these charges of abuse of power and he argues, "If I had to do it again, I would make exactly the same decision."

The longest-serving governor in Texas history, Rick Perry, appears focused on 2016, recently revamping his image, trading in his cowboy boots for a pair of stylish glasses. All to help erase memories of an embarrassing 2012 presidential run.

RICK PERRY: I can't. The third one, I can't. I'm sorry. Oops.

ALEXANDER: But that reinvention faces a new obstacle. Perry blasting his indictment as outrageous and a farce.

PERRY: This is not the way that we settle differences – political differences in this country. You don't do it with indictments. We settle our political differences at the ballot box.

ALEXANDER: A Texas grand jury indicted Perry on two felony charges of abuse of power for allegedly intimidating Democratic district attorney Rosemary Lehmberg into resigning after she plead guilty to drunk driving. Her arrest and booking caught on tape.  

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN [POLICE OFFICER]: You've been arrested for DWI.

LEHMBERG: That's y'all's problem, not mine.  

ALEXANDER: Prosecutors said Perry threatened to use his veto power to withhold state funds from Lehmberg's agency that investigates public corruption. When Lehmberg didn't step down, Perry vetoed the funds. And this weekend, fired back at state Democrats.

PERRY: This indictment amounts to nothing more than abuse of power and I cannot and I will not allow that to happen.

ALEXANDER: Having ruled out running for a forth term as governor, Perry spent last week reintroducing himself to Republicans in Iowa, with stops in New Hampshire and South Carolina slated for later this month.

Perry has vowed to stay in office until the end of his term, that's January. But his indictment does raise another issue for Republicans. It's another possible 2016 contender with a blemish on his resume. You've got Perry's indictment, Chris Christie's bridgegate, and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker under new scrutiny for allegations of campaign finance violations. Matt.

LAUER: It's gonna be interesting. Peter Alexander, thank you very much.


Good Morning America
7:12 AM ET

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: We're going to get the latest now on Texas Governor Rick Perry, fighting back after being indicted over the weekend, charged with abuse of power. The GOP presidential hopeful is calling the prosecution a farce. And ABC's Jim Avila brings us the story from Austin.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Rick Perry Fighting Back; Calls Abuse of Power Charges "Outrageous"]

JIM AVILA: This morning another first for the longest-serving governor in Texas history. Rick Perry is now the first chief executive of the Lone Star State to be indicted in nearly a hundred years, charged with abuse of power and coercing a public servant. But the governor who has ditched the cowboy boots in favor of hipster eyeglasses has not changed his reputation for power politics and tough talk.

RICK PERRY: This farce of a prosecution will be revealed for what it is. And those responsible will be held accountable.

AVILA: The prosecution originated from Perry's effort to defund the Texas public integrity unit, formed to root out corruption, and just as it was investigating one of the Governor's pet projects. Perry said the Austin district attorney, Rosemary Lehmberg, who ran the unit, was unfit after she was arrested for a DUI. This videotape shows her kicking at doors, sticking out her tongue, and even pretending she had a gun.

ROSEMARY LEHMBERG: Y'all are going to be in jail, not me.

Lehmberg went to jail for three months, but Perry wanted her out of office and she refused, so she cut her budget. That, says the special prosecutor appointed by Republicans, is illegal.

MICHAEL MCCRUM [SPECIAL PROSECUTOR]: The grand jury's spoken that at least there's probable cause to believe that he committed two crimes, two felony crimes.

AVILA: Perry says it was political hard ball and not a crime.

PERRY: If I had to do it again, I would make exactly the same decision.

AVILA: It is a big week for Governor Perry. First, this morning his defense attorneys are scheduled to meet with the special prosecutor who indicted him. And then it's off for a mugshot and a court appearance in Texas here. And then, finally, he'll end the week by going back on the campaign trail in presidential primary states. Robin.

ROBIN ROBERTS: Big week indeed. Alright, Jim, thank you.


CBS This Morning
7:12 AM ET

JEFF GLOR: Texas Governor Rick Perry is fighting back and making no apologies this morning after Friday's grand jury indictment against him. Jan Crawford is in Washington as well, where everyone is wondering what this new legal battle means for 2016. Jan, good morning to you.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Perry On the Offensive; Texas Gov. Vows to Fight Abuse of Power Charges]  

JAN CRAWFORD: Well, good morning, Jeff. You know, I mean, this is a political mess that is about the size of Texas. And it all started when a powerful Democratic district attorney in Austin was charged with drunk driving more than a year ago and her behavior was caught on camera.

The video is embarrassing and criminal. It shows the most powerful district attorney in Texas, Rosemary Lehmberg, drunk and abusive as she's booked for drunk driving.

ROSEMARY LEHMBERG: Do you know what you're doing?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN [POLICE OFFICER]: Yes, ma'am. We've asked you plenty of times to stop kicking the door and you didn't stop kicking the door.

CRAWFORD: Governor Rick Perry called on Lehmberg to resign and warned he would cut state funding for her office if she refused. Lehmberg stayed and Perry followed through on his threat, striking more than $7 million from her budget. That move is why Perry now is facing two felony charges. A prosecutor and now grand jury say he illegally tried to coerce Lehmberg, a Democrat, to quit. Tony Plohesky is covering the political and legal drama for the Austin American Statesman.

TONY PLOHESKY: There is no question that the Governor has constitutional veto authority over line items in the budget. But again, the issue here is that fact that he attached that, allegedly, to a threat. He tried to say to a district attorney, "You must leave office. You must resign if you want $7.2 million."

CRAWFORD: Perry's indictment comes as the Governor is in rehab mode, fighting to regain his political footing after a poor showing in the Republican presidential primary two years ago.

RICK PERRY: I think it's time to have some real change in Washington, D.C.

CRAWFORD: With recent visits to key primary states it's been looking like he's thinking of another run. Over the weekend, Perry came out swinging.

PERRY: I exercised this authority to veto funding for an office whose leadership had lost the public's confidence by acting inappropriately and unethically.

CRAWFORD: And he went on the offensive during a Sunday talk show.

PERRY: I stood up for the rule of law in the state of Texas. And if I had to do it again, I would make exactly the same decision.

CRAWFORD: Now Perry is going to New Hampshire this week. But first he's going to have to stop by the police department in Austin to have his fingerprints taken and get a mugshot. Two images that a man interested in running for president obviously does not want out there. Norah.

NORAH O'DONNELL: Indeed. Jan, thank you.

— Kyle Drennen is News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Kyle Drennen on Twitter.