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On October 31, all three broadcast networks led their nightly news programs with coverage of the controversy surrounding an October 30 statement by Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), which Kerry has said was a botched joke intended to criticize President Bush on his Iraq war policies, but has been misrepresented by Republicans and some in the media as denigrating U.S. soldiers in Iraq. Kerry stated: "You know, education -- if you make the most of it, you study hard and you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq." In contrast, at no point has NBC's Nightly News, ABC's World News, or the CBS Evening News even mentioned* -- much less led with -- President Bush's October 30 statement during a campaign speech that a Democratic victory in the midterm elections would mean that "terrorists win and America loses."
Speaking during a campaign appearance in Statesboro, Georgia, as noted on the weblog Talking Points Memo, Bush said, "However they put it, the Democrat [sic] approach in Iraq comes down to this: The terrorists win and America loses." The statement received no coverage on the October 30 and 31 broadcasts of the network news programs, yet what Kerry admitted was a mangled joke was the lead-off story for all three networks on October 31.
From the October 31 broadcast of NBC's Nightly News with Brian Williams:
WILLIAMS: A week from tonight here, we will be covering the midterm elections. They are often a referendum on the president in power and this year, especially, given the situation in Iraq, that seems especially true.
In a moment, Tim Russert will join us as we release our brand-new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll but, for starters, we can show you the president's benchmark approval number. Tonight, that number stands at 39 -- that's up one point from our last measurement, with 57 percent saying they do not approve of the job the president is doing. If you had landed on Earth today after a long absence, you might have thought the last presidential campaign was still going because today's political debate was between Senator John Kerry and President George W. Bush; and like so much of the talk this election year, the debate is over Iraq.
From the October 31 broadcast of ABC's World News with Charles Gibson:
GIBSON: Good evening. One week before the election, you'd have thought today we were approaching the 2004 presidential election, not the 2006 off-year election. One week before the election, you'd have thought today it was Kerry v. Bush all over again. And what happened today is an object lesson in how, in this day and age, an idle political remark gets seized upon, becomes fodder for the talk shows, the blogs, and the politicians, and suddenly obscures discussion of all other issues.
From the October 31 broadcast of the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric:
COURIC: Hi, everyone. With just one week to go now before the next election, tonight it looks like they've decided to rerun the last one. President Bush and Senator John Kerry were going at it again today, fighting about Iraq, American soldiers, and who said what about them. The sparks are flying. Here's Jim Axelrod at the White House.