PBS Offers Softballs to Democrat Patrick Leahy, But Hardballs to Republican Rodney Davis

News & Politics

In the final week of 2022, the PBS NewsHour put on display the kind of double standard that the liberal media typically show in its treatment of Republicans and Democrats as defeated conservative Republican Congressman Rodney Davis and retiring leftist Democrat Senator Patrick Leahy were interviewed within days of one another.

On Thursday, as she spoke with Senator Leahy, host Judy Woodruff recalled “You came into office on the heels of this great constitutional crisis in our country, Watergate. President Nixon resigned. As you leave office, a lot of people think we’re just on the edge of another constitutional crisis.”

Leahy recalled that Republican Senators had pushed their own party’s President, Richard Nixon, to resign in the 1970s, and then he complained:

Now, you see Senators who’ll tell you, “We don’t like what Donald Trump did, but we worry about our own political future if we say anything.” If you’re going to be one of 100 U.S. Senators, stand up and say what you think.

Woodruff followed up by cuing her guest to add to his criticism of Republicans: “And so what are you saying about Republican Senators who say that to you? Are they serving the country?”

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As Senator Leahy concluded by recommending that Senators should follow their conscience, a hint that Republicans do not, Woodruff missed the obvious opportunity to question why he and other Democrats defended President Bill Clinton after he lied under oath in a special-counsel probe. Did any of them have the courage to recommend Clinton resign?

And in her next followup, Woodruff further prodded him to be critical of the right-leaning U.S. Supreme Court:

You served for so many years on the Judiciary Committee. I believe it’s right that you have voted on every member of the sitting Supreme Court. What are you thinking at this point about that process and where we are with the courts?

The Democrat Senator preposterously claimed:

I respected the process because it was always above politics. In the past few years, it’s become very, very political. Donald Trump said, “I must have judges who vote my way.” I’ve argued cases in appellate courts — I’ve argued cases in trial courts. I’ve always assumed the judge is going to look at what the law is, not what my political party might be.

He added: “The reason we’re seeing such a diminishing of respect for the, for example, for the U.S. Supreme Court is because they see it as being political. Courts are not supposed to be political.”

Two days earlier, the show featured a pre-recorded segment in which congressional correspondent Lisa DesJardins wasted much of the interview pressing Republican Congressman Davis to defend his own party.

At one point, she vaguely claimed that Republican members of Congress have made “anti-Semitic” comments as she confronted her guest about Republicans “stoking” political tensions. She also failed to inform viewers that her guest was likely defeated because the Democrat state legislature aggressively gerrymandered his district, instead only specifying that President Donald Trump endorsed the congressman’s opponent, who defeated him in the Republican primary.

This episode of the PBS NewsHour was funded by Consumer Cellular as well as viewers like you.

Transcripts follow:

PBS NewsHour

December 29, 2022

7:34 p.m. Eastern

JUDY WOODRUFF: You came into office on the heels of this great constitutional crisis in our country, Watergate. President Nixon resigned. As you leave office, a lot of people think we are just on the edge of another constitutional crisis.

SENATOR PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT): I worry that we are, and I look at the — what happened back in the time of the Nixon era. Members of both parties came together and thought, “What should we do under the Constitution?” I remember having quiet conversations with some of the most conservative Republicans like Barry Goldwater, Hugh Scott, and others. They took no pleasure in going down telling Richard Nixon he had to leave, but they felt that was their duty to the American people — not to their own party, not to their own political future, but to the American people.

Now, you see Senators who’ll tell you, “We don’t like what Donald Trump did, but we worry about our own political future if we say anything.” If you’re going to be one of 100 U.S. Senators, stand up and say what you think.

WOODRUFF: And so what are you saying about Republican Senators who say that to you? Are they serving the country?

SENATOR LEAHY: They’re not in that regard, and I point out the number who are here now who do speak out. I also tell stories about Democrats and Republicans who spoke out on different things that might not have been popular in their party, but it was the right thing for the country….

WOODRUFF: You served for so many years on the Judiciary Committee. I believe it’s right that you have voted on every member of the sitting Supreme Court. What are you thinking at this point about that process and where we are with the courts?

SENATOR LEAHY: I respected the process because it was always above politics. In the past few years, it’s become very, very political. Donald Trump said, “I must have judges who vote my way.” I’ve argued cases in appellate courts — I’ve argued cases in trial courts. I’ve always assumed the judge is going to look at what the law is, not what my political party might be. The reason we’re seeing such a diminishing of respect for the, for example, for the U.S. Supreme Court is because they see it as being political. Courts are not supposed to be political.

(…)

PBS NewsHour

December 27, 2022

7:34 p.m. Eastern

JUDY WOODRUFF: When the new session of Congress gavels in next week, dozens of lawmakers will not be returning to the chamber. Republican Rodney Davis is one of them. He’s represented Illinois for the past 10 years but is leaving after losing his primary race earlier this year. Lisa is back now with this conversation that she recently recorded with Davis about Congress and about the Republican party.

LISA DesJARDINS: Congressman Rodney Davis of Illinois, thank you so much for joining me. Let’s start with the future of your party and the decisions ahead for Congress. Right now, it’s not clear that Kevin McCarthy will have the votes to be Speaker. I wonder what you think of his future? And why is it that the future leadership is in doubt?

(CONGRESSMAN RODNEY DAVIS (R-IL))

Let’s talk about the Republican party in general. Obviously, you oppose many of President Biden’s policies, but what do you think the Republican Party stands for right now?

(CONGRESSMAN DAVIS (R-IL))

DesJARDINS: As you were saying, President Trump has been a very big part of the change in the Republican party, and he is one of the reasons that you’re not returning to office. He endorsed your primary opponent. I wonder what you learned about President Trump in that process and his supporters?

(CONGRESSMAN DAVIS (R-IL))

DesJARDINS: You voted against impeachment of former President Trump when that vote came to the House floor, but we have now learned so much more about what was happening in the White House … (audio gap) … President Trump’s role. Do you think he broke his oath of office?

DAVIS :….Now, President Trump, is he — is he personally responsible for what happened on January 6? I honestly don’t think any one individual is personally responsible for inspiring that type of violence and hate, no more so than Nancy Pelosi and Bernie Sanders were responsible for a crazed gunman who screamed health care while firing at us, trying to kill us a few years ago on a baseball field in Alexandria, Virginia.

I blame the people who committed those actions.

DesJARDINS: You do have a special sort of perspective into political violence because you were at the Capitol on January 6 — because you were on that baseball field in Alexandria, Virginia, when a gunman tried to assassinate you and nearly did kill your fellow Republican, Steve Scalise. I wonder, did that change how you did your job?

DAVIS:Very much so. And that’s one thing I have tried to do is tone down the rhetoric, talk about bipartisanship, talk about where we agree on most things that we do in the Capitol. Unfortunately, you don’t see that in the news media. You only see the differences.

DesJARDINS: You are a Republican. I want to ask you: What is the Republican party’s responsibility for stoking hostility in this moment? And I know you have called out, for example, rhetoric on white nationalism. What is the party’s responsibility in terms of allowing that to continue?

DAVIS: The Republican party doesn’t allow white nationalism to continue, and that narrative that’s trying to be created is demonstrably false and very offensive to Republicans like me. In the end, rhetoric that is heated from both sides — where you had Bernie Sanders and Nancy Pelosi talking about Republicans killing people because we wanted to fix a broken health care system. Again, they’re going to use their rhetoric that they think is going to gain them support for legislation — gain them support for electoral wins. I don’t agree with it. It’s not something I use.

DesJARDINS: But do you think that is baseless? You know, there are —

CONGRESSMAN DAVIS (R-IL): Yes.

DesJARDINS: There are examples of Republicans — elected members of Congress — using anti-Semitic rhetoric. Your own primary opponent, you criticized for using what you said, you know, white nationalist language.

CONGRESSMAN DAVIS (R-IL): Well, if we want to talk about anti-Semitism, then we have some Democratic members of Congress that have used anti-Semitic language. This isn’t related just to the Republican Party. I call out bad behavior no matter whether somebody is a Republican or a Democrat because that’s who I am.

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