CBS on 'Plunder-Woman' Margaret Thatcher: 'Contentious'; 'Reviled and Revered'; 'Bullying Style'

Monday's CBS This Morning played up the domestic critics of Margaret Thatcher as they covered the breaking news of her death. Mark Phillips, reporting from London, spotlighted how Thatcher was once called "Plunder-woman" by a British union leader, and how she was "contentious here, famous for breaking the back of the very strong labor movement in Britain." Phillips also noted how the former prime minister was "a figure both reviled and revered."

During a retrospective on the "Iron Lady", correspondent Elizabeth Palmer ballyhooed how Thatcher's "trademark helmet hair, cut-glass accent, and bullying style became a staple of British satire".

Palmer led the segment by pointing out how "Margaret Thatcher's passionate admirers and her fervent critics all agreed on one thing: she was tough." Moments later, the CBS journalist's emphasized the British politician's apparent "bullying style" with a clip of a puppet version of the former prime minister crying, "Wake up you blithering idiot!" as it slapped another puppet. Towards the end of her report, Palmer bizarrely labeled Thatcher an "unlikely commander-in-chief...[who] led British forces to victory in the Falklands War against Argentina."

Almost a half hour later, the CBS morning newscast turned to Phillips, who wasted little time before using his "reviled and revered" label of Thatcher. He cited the decades-old "Plunder-woman" insult near the end of his report:

Mark Phillips, CBS News Correspondent; Screen Cap From 8 April 2013 Edition of CBS This Morning | MRC.orgMARK PHILLIPS: ...Margaret Thatcher – Baroness Thatcher, as she was at the time of her death, was 87 years old. She had been out of public view for some time. She was suffering from dementia. She had had a series of strokes, and the family announced this morning that it was a stroke, in the end, that killed her. She was a figure both reviled and revered, but the tributes that are coming into her speak very fondly and with great respect of the time that she had spent as the leader of Great Britain, of course, from 1979 until 1990.

The Queen issued a statement this morning, saying she was 'sad to hear of the death of Baroness Thatcher. Her Majesty will be sending a private message of sympathy to the family', the palace announced. The current prime minister, David Cameron, issued a statement. He was traveling in Europe. He said, "It was with great sadness that I learned of Lady Thatcher's death. We lost a great leader, a great Prime Minister and a great Briton.' Tributes flowing in even from the U.S. as well. John McCain – of course, the former candidate for president and a Republican, saying that Margaret Thatcher was one of the great leaders of the 20th Century. She had been called the 'Iron Lady', we recall, from – by President Gorbachev of the Soviet Union.

She was a figure who was both contentious here; famous for breaking the back of the very strong labor movement in Britain; called 'Plunder-woman' by, in fact, a labor – labor leader here at the time. But the tributes are flowing in. There will, undoubtedly, be a great state funeral for a woman who was not just a leader of the right in Britain, but a champion of the cause of conservativism both throughout the rest of the world; and, of course, a great colleague of Ronald Reagan as well.

The CBS correspondent didn't use such terminology when he broke the news of Thatcher's death, just moments before Palmer's retrospect. But he misleadingly stated that the former British prime minister was "part of the great conservative movement here and in America during '90s", mere moments after noting that "she was the prime minister of Britain, of course, from 1979 until 1990."

ABC and NBC gave similarly biased reporting on their morning shows on Monday. Fill-in host Elizabeth Vargas underlined on Good Morning America that Thatcher was "both adored and vilified even to this day in Great Britain – a very controversial, but very, very important figure, undoubtedly." NBC correspondent Martin Fletcher hyped on Today that the deceased politician was "both loved and loathed....determined, dynamic, and deeply controversial."

The full transcript of correspondent Elizabeth Palmer's report from Monday's CBS This Morning:

ELIZABETH PALMER (voice-over): Margaret Thatcher's passionate admirers and her fervent critics all agreed on one thing: she was tough.

MARGARET THATCHER: Britain needs an iron lady. (audience applauds)

PALMER: Born Margaret Roberts in 1925, she became a chemist, a proud housewife-

THATCHER: Always, a big batch of cooking at the weekend-

THATCHER: Good morning-

PALMER: And a conservative member of Parliament, which she thought was as far as she would get.

THATCHER: I don't think there will be a woman prime minister in my lifetime.

PALMER: In 1979, she proved herself spectacularly wrong, and her trademark helmet hair, cut-glass accent, and bullying style became a staple of British satire. (clip of puppet lookalike of Thatcher slapping another puppet and saying, "Wake up you blithering idiot!")

But the 'Iron Lady' had a serious mission: to modernize British industry and break the powerful trade unions. The fallout was brutal – rocketing unemployment and violent strikes. But Mrs. Thatcher never wavered.

THATCHER: You turn if you want to (audience laughs and applauds). The lady's not for turning.

PALMER: Slowly, the economy did improve, and Mrs. Thatcher's uncompromising capitalism caught on with a new generation.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 1 (on-camera): I am making more money now – yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 2 (off-camera): How about you?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 3: Yes, I'm making much more money too.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN 3: Much more than I used to, yes.

PALMER (voice-over): In the 1980's, as an unlikely commander-in-chief, Mrs. Thatcher led British forces to victory in the Falklands War against Argentina, and appointed herself referee-in-chief between Moscow and the White House. She was at the top of her game then, and loving it.

THATCHER: Yes. I hope to go on and on.

PALMER: But enemies were on the march. A deeply unpopular new property tax brought riots and her final undoing. In a bitter blow, her own party turned against her, and in 1990, threw her out.

THATCHER: Ladies and gentlemen, we're leaving Downing Street for the last time.

PALMER: It was the only time she shed tears in public, and marked the beginning of a long decline. Eventually, she grew frail and developed dementia, but she'll be remembered like this: Maggie, the 'Iron Lady', who her supporters still believe put the great back into Britain. Elizabeth Palmer, CBS News, London.

— Matthew Balan is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.