NBC debate moderators can't get past Edwards haircut story, despite acknowledgment it's "silly"

››› ››› SIMON MALOY

During the September 26 Democratic presidential debate at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, moderator and NBC News Washington bureau chief Tim Russert asked former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC): "Your campaign has hit some obstacles with revelations about $400 haircuts, half-million dollars working for a hedge fund, $800,000 from Rupert Murdoch. Do you wish you hadn't taken money in all those cases or hadn't made that kind of expenditure for a haircut?" Russert's question about Edwards' haircuts marks the second time a moderator from NBC News has asked about the topic during a debate since the story "broke" in April. As Media Matters for America noted, NBC's Nightly News anchor Brian Williams asked Edwards about the haircuts during an April 26 debate, despite having acknowledged three days earlier that the story was "silly."

Politico senior political writer Ben Smith first highlighted Edwards' haircuts in an April 16 blog entry. A July 17 post on NBC News' First Read blog -- an analysis of the day's political news, from the NBC News political unit -- advised readers to "look for Edwards supporters to use this as a test to see if the MSM covers [Republican presidential candidate Mitt] Romney as harshly as Edwards was." However, as Media Matters documented, NBC seized on the Edwards story but completely ignored disclosures that Romney's presidential campaign spent $300 on makeup.

From MSNBC's 9 p.m. ET broadcast of the September 26 debate:

RUSSERT: Sen. Edwards, you mentioned candor with the candidate -- a president -- with the American people. Your campaign has hit some obstacles with revelations about $400 haircuts, half-million dollars working for a hedge fund, $800,000 from Rupert Murdoch. Do you wish you hadn't taken money in all those cases or hadn't made that kind of expenditure for a haircut?

EDWARDS: Well, first of all, I think if you look at my entire life, I am proud of what I've spent my life doing. I'm not perfect. There's not a single person on this stage who's perfect. But I came from a family -- I was born into nothing. I was brought home to a two-room house in a mill village. I have spent my entire life fighting for the kind of people that I grew up with, that worked in a mill with my father, and I don't apologize for the fact that I've worked hard and built a life, which I hope will make life easier for my children. I'm proud of that. I'm not ashamed of that.

And I'm proud of having stood up for the people that I grew up with. It's what I have done my entire life. I did it for 20 years as a lawyer; it's what I've done every minute that I've been in public life. It is the reason that I've been walking -- going around the country helping organize workers into unions. It is the reason we started a college-for-everyone program for low-income kids. It is the reason Elizabeth and I started an after-school program for kids who otherwise would have no chance to go to an after-school program, having access to technology. I'm proud of what I've done from -- with my life, and I do not apologize for it.

Network/Outlet
MSNBC, NBC
Person
Tim Russert
Stories/Interests
John Edwards, 2008 Elections
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