Hosting Bennett to discuss Mideast conflict, NBC's Today continued trend of imbalanced morning-show coverage


NBC's Today hosted Bill Bennett on its July 26 edition to discuss the current conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, continuing the major morning shows' pattern of allowing Republicans and conservatives to dominate the shows' analysis of the topic.

Five days after Media Matters for America noted that Republicans and conservatives have been dominating the major networks' morning-show coverage of the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, the July 26 edition of NBC's Today continued that trend, hosting conservative radio talk-show host and former Reagan Education Secretary Bill Bennett for his views on the conflict and U.S. policy in the Middle East. Bennett is also a CNN contributor and chairman of the Claremont Institute's Americans for Victory Over Terrorism, an organization prescribing a set of principles for the United States to "prevail" in "the first war of the 21st century." Today has now featured four Republicans (including one Bush administration official), but only one progressive -- on its Saturday-morning edition -- to discuss the conflict since the opening of hostilities on July 12.

As Media Matters noted, between July 12 and July 21, Today and Weekend Today hosted* three Republicans and one progressive to discuss the conflict:

  • July 15: Juliette Kayyem, a lecturer at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government (progressive). Kayyem served as an adviser to Clinton administration Attorney General Janet Reno. Kayyem was also appointed by former House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt's (D-MO) to the National Commission on Terrorism from 1999 to 2001. (Appeared on an edition of Weekend Today.)
  • July 17: Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).
  • July 19: Former House Speaker and Fox News consultant Newt Gingrich (R-GA).
  • July 21: White House press secretary Tony Snow.

Other than the Bennett interview, NBC's morning programs have not featured any interviews with Republicans, conservatives, Democrats, or progressives regarding the conflict since July 21.

During his July 26 interview with Today co-host Matt Lauer, Bennett echoed the characterization, popular among conservative media figures, of recent hostilities in the Middle East as part of a new "world war." When asked by Lauer why he thinks the administration's handling of the "Axis of Evil" has been going "quite well," Bennett responded: "Because I think we're in World War III," adding that "[w]e're going to have this fight somewhere, and again, as you've heard before, it's better to have it there than elsewhere." Bennett later asserted that "the test with Iran ... is ... coming up, perhaps pretty soon, depending on how much Israel pushes Hezbollah."

From the July 26 edition of NBC's Today:

LAUER: Going back to the speech after 9-11 and the Axis of Evil --

BENNETT: Yeah -- yeah --

LAUER: -- and the president said we've got to deal with the Axis of Evil, so we're talking about Iraq, Saddam's gone, but it's become a magnet for terrorists. We have North Korea, we know what they're doing in terms of their nuclear ambitions and now testing missiles to deliver nuclear weapons. We know what Iran is doing: nuclear ambitions, funneling money to Hezbollah. How would you rate this administration's handling of the Axis of Evil?

BENNETT: I had my criticisms, but I think actually quite well, pretty consistent --

LAUER: How can you say that?

BENNETT: Because I think we're in World War III, Matt. I think it depends on your framework for looking at this thing. I think we're in World War III, and I think the United States is clearly supporting the right people, supporting Israel and pushing back the terrorists. We're going to have this fight somewhere, and again, as you've heard before, it's better to have it there than elsewhere.

LAUER: If we're going to have this fight somewhere, has the administration been aggressive enough in dealing with countries like Syria and Iran?

BENNETT: No. No, it has not. Again, you know, all of us have our criticisms. I think the fact that you've got an Iranian gunboat thumbing its nose at the U.S. Navy destroyer as it passes by is not a good sign. But the test with Iran, I expect, Matt, is coming up, coming up perhaps pretty soon, depending on how much Israel pushes Hezbollah. But be sure of the stakes. This is about the existence of the state of Israel, and we are in a worldwide war on terror.

*Nexis search of NBC News transcripts: show (today) and (israel! or leban! or hezbollah or hizbollah or hezbullah or hizbullah) and date(geq (7/12/06) and leq (7/21/06))

Bill Bennett
Today Show
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