On the Democratic side, both NBC's Andrea Mitchell and CBS' Byron Pitts played catch-up with ABC's report by Kate Snow (embargoed link) on Friday about the introduction of racial history into the contest between Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama. The only explicit reference to race by either turned out to be a comment by Rodham Clinton to FOX News Channel concerning Martin Luther King last week. NBC's Mitchell replayed it: "Dr King's dream began to be realized when President Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964."
Her words amount to a thin straw on which to base a controversy. Admittedly, NBC's Mitchell is accurate when she offered the correction that "historians of the period say King deserves the lion's share of the credit"--but even that is a long way from finding Rodham Clinton to be in error. Then, Mitchell narrated, "instead of apologizing" Rodham Clinton "blamed the Obama Campaign for distorting her remarks." Obama responded by calling the distortion charge "ludicrous." CBS' Pitts sat down with Obama to ask why not stop the back and forth. "It is more back than forth. This is strategy on their part…We are sort of entering the silly season in politics right now." ABC's George Stephanopoulos saw both campaigns "trying to tamp down this racial debate. They thought it was hurting both of them. They essentially declared a ceasefire." The Democrats debate in Nevada Tuesday night on MSNBC. "People here are more concerned about jobs than political bickering about race," Pitts concluded.
NBC's Brian Williams, anchoring from Los Angeles, hit the nail on the head when he cited unidentified "cooler heads" in the Democratic Party who called the spat "much ado about very little." But, then, if they are correct, it was inflammatory for Williams to assign Andrea Mitchell to turn it into a story.
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