Networks Give a Scant 65 Seconds to John McCain's 'Blistering' Russian Attack, Skimp on Quotes

The three networks on Thursday morning allowed a scant 65 seconds to Senator John McCain's "blistering" op-ed published in the communist newspaper Pravdafeaturing a call for freedom and tolerance in Russia. Although ABC, CBS and NBC quickly summarized the Senator's international rebuttal to Vladimir Putin's New York Times op-ed, the morning shows offered the briefest of quotes and mostly portrayed the piece as a grudge match with Putin.

CBS This Morning devoted just 19 seconds to the "blistering opinion piece." Rose narrated, "[McCain] accuses Russian President Vladimir Putin of corruption and repression." Good Morning America's Josh Elliott allowed 23 seconds and insisted that the Senator "blast[ed] Russian President Vladimir Putin." According to Today's Savannah Guthrie, McCain offered a "scathing" attack on Russian corruption. Mostly absent from the three networks were full quotes highlighting the Senator's main topic, a defense of democracy and freedom.

In the op-ed McCain championed:

I am not anti-Russian. I am pro-Russian, more pro-Russian than the regime that misrules you today.

I make that claim because I respect your dignity and your right to self-determination. I believe you should live according to the dictates of your conscience, not your government. I believe you deserve the opportunity to improve your lives in an economy that is built to last and benefits the many, not just the powerful few. You should be governed by a rule of law that is clear, consistently and impartially enforced and just. I make that claim because I believe the Russian people, no less than Americans, are endowed by our Creator with inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

A Russian citizen could not publish a testament like the one I just offered. President Putin and his associates do not believe in these values. They don't respect your dignity or accept your authority over them. They punish dissent and imprison opponents. They rig your elections. They control your media. They harass, threaten, and banish organizations that defend your right to self-governance. To perpetuate their power they foster rampant corruption in your courts and your economy and terrorize and even assassinate journalists who try to expose their corruption.

He concluded:

President Putin doesn't believe in these values because he doesn't believe in you. He doesn't believe that human nature at liberty can rise above its weaknesses and build just, peaceful, prosperous societies. Or, at least, he doesn't believe Russians can. So he rules by using those weaknesses, by corruption, repression and violence. He rules for himself, not you.

I do believe in you. I believe in your capacity for self-government and your desire for justice and opportunity. I believe in the greatness of the Russian people, who suffered enormously and fought bravely against terrible adversity to save your nation. I believe in your right to make a civilization worthy of your dreams and sacrifices. When I criticize your government, it is not because I am anti-Russian. It is because I believe you deserve a government that believes in you and answers to you. And, I long for the day when you have it.

In contrast, all three morning shows on September 12 offered full reports on Putin's New York Times op-ed denouncing American "exceptionalism." GMAToday and CBS This Morning included the same types of descriptions as with McCain, calling the article a "blistering" taunt." However, Putin's op-ed was given much more time, as well as a fuller consideration of the Russian President's points and motives.

Transcripts from the three September 19 shows are below:


7:05 ET

JOSH ELLIOTT: Also breaking overnight, Senator John McCain blasting Russian President Vladimir Putin in print. In an op-ed, in fact, published today in Russia's communist newspaper Pravda, McCain writes that "Putin rules by corruption, repression and violence." That's a quote. It is, of course, a come back to Putin's op-ed that ran in the New York Times criticizing President Obama. Overnight, the Kremlin responded to McCain, essentially saying, mind your own business.

CBS This Morning

7:18 ET

CHARLIE ROSE: Russia's Pravda news website published a blistering opinion piece by Arizona Republican Senator John McCain. He accuses Russian President Vladimir Putin of corruption and repression. On Syria, McCain says Putin is making friends with tyrants. The piece is a response to Putin's opinion piece in the New York Times last week.


7:12 ET

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: A week after Russian President Vladimir Putin wrote that scathing op-ed in the New York Times, Senator John McCain has answered back. Today in an op-ed published on a Russian news site under the headline "Russians deserve better than Putin. McCain accused Putin of corruption and Repression. McCain told the Russian that people he himself is, quote, "more pro-Russian than the regime that misrules you today."

— Scott Whitlock is Senior News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Scott Whitlock on Twitter.