The three networks made contrasting assignment decisions to cover the Judiciary Committee hearings: NBC's Congressional correspondent, ABC's man at the Justice Department, CBS from the White House. Whatever the beat the reporter came from, the angle was the same: the failure of Gonzales to answer questions about why he fired those eight prosecutors.
Gonzales apologized sincerely for the manner in which he let them go and conceded that he had misspoken previously when he claimed a lack of involvement. But why did he fire them? "He denied that politics played any role," NBC's Chip Reid reported, but could not recall much else. Reid made a Jon-Stewart-style montage of that repeated line and showed a scorekeeper marking off the number of times the Gonzales' memory failed him. He testified "I don't recall" more than 70 times. When he was unable to recall a date, ABC's Pierre Thomas (subscription required) told us, "Democrats were livid." Thomas also used that montage technique, but with less rapid fire than Reid. "This was the day on which the Attorney General looked like he was the one being prosecuted," Thomas concluded.
CBS assigned the Attorney General to Jim Axelrod, who famously reported last month that it was "inevitable" that Gonzales would resign. Now, Axelrod found that Gonzales "is not indicating that he is any closer to making that decision." When anchor Katie Couric asked about that very inevitability, Axelrod backtracked: "It is not entirely clear that it is inevitable yet." For President George Bush, "it is a loyalty thing." On ABC, George Stephanopoulos (no link), anchor of This Week, too saw Gonzales as secure--"no wavering at all" at the White House. Yet Stephanopoulos damned Gonzales with faint praise: at the hearings he had not performed "so poorly" that he is going to lose his job "immediately."
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