Former Republican National Committee chairman Haley Barbour set some firsts when he testified before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee. CNN and MSNBC aired their first significant live coverage in weeks. Barbour prompted the first night in which all three broadcast network evening shows aired full stories on the hearings since the night of the opening statements, meaning the first time they all aired a full story on a day of witness testimony. ABC and NBC offered their first interview segments in weeks (albeit with their own network pundits), while CBS skipped it all for Cunanan again this morning.
Evening shows, July 24:
On ABC's World News Tonight, reporter Linda Douglass aired the program's first witness soundbite of more than two words. Douglass said "Haley Barbour marched in and declared the foreign money fundraising scandal is not bipartisan," but she ended by pushing the Democratic spin: "All along the Democrats have called the loan a sham transaction, but legal or not, one thing the hearings have made clear is that both parties were so consumed by money, laws were bent if not broken."
On NBC Nightly News, Tom Brokaw relayed: "At the campaign finance hearings today, the former head of the Republican National Committee was on the hot seat defending his party against the same charges that party has been making against the Democrats - taking money from foreign sources." Reporter Lisa Myers said nothing about yesterday's New York Times story showing the President requested phone lists of donors, despite reporting on it yesterday morning.
CBS Evening News led with four stories on Cunanan (they aired a fifth later in the show), but the hearings were the second topic of the show, just after the first ad break. Bob Schieffer filed a report half on Barbour, half on the Clinton fundraising memo, making CBS the only broadcast network evening show to cite the memo about how Clinton personally placed calls.
CNN's hour-long The World Today devoted its first half-hour to Cunanan. Candy Crowley's 3-minute report on Barbour left out the New York Times Clinton story.
Morning shows, July 25:
CBS This Morning ignored the hearings for the 12th weekday morning in a row, devoting seven full news stories or interview segments to the Cunanan story.
ABC's Good Morning America aired a talk with ABC's Cokie Roberts in the 7:30 half hour, the first interview segment since the 13th. Co-host Charles Gibson asked if the Barbour charges were "very serious, or a chance for the Democrats to say 'Aha, you Republicans do it, too?'" Rebutting Linda Douglass's evening assertions, Roberts replied: "The second." Gibson ended by asking: "Everyone agrees this is a horrible system we have, campaign finance system. Do you see reform coming out of these hearings or are we going to be left with the same system everybody agrees doesn't work?"
On NBC's Today, news anchor Sara James did an interview (the first since July 8) with Tim Russert. NBC showed video of Barbour telling Russert on the March 16 Meet the Press that the GOP think tank named the National Policy Forum never took foreign money. Later, James asked: "Does it end here, Tim?" Russert said no: "The country right now still believes they all do it, although even some Democrats are willing to acknowledge the excesses by the Clinton administration were much worse than the Republican Party thus far." That's funny. You'd never know that from watching the nightly news. - Tim Graham & Brent Baker