The president couldn't get a word in edgewise this week as the press stayed glued to the story of W. Mark Felt.
Come Monday, the normal news cycle will likely return to the Beltway. And if President Bush were tempted to ask for a re-do on this week’s Rose Garden news conference then, it would be hard to blame him. When Bush sought to re-assert his relevance Tuesday, the story of the day — the disclosure that “Deep Throat” was W. Mark Felt — knocked him right out of the news cycle.
Instead, this week Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, despite having been scooped when “Deep Throat” was revealed in the pages of Vanity Fair, enjoyed a victory lap of sorts as they basked in their three-decade-old Watergate triumph and their ability to keep their source’s identity a secret.
That potent combination of nostalgia, media navel gazing, and real-live history being revealed fueled the flood-the-zone coverage among the D.C. media elite. Although, as a New York Times editorial noted, finding out that the often-suspected Mark Felt was “Deep Throat” was akin to learning that Superman’s secret identity is Clark Kent, the story captivated newsrooms.
But some newsrooms proved more captivated than others. As the Daily Howler noted, some high profile Fox News personalities like Bill O’Reilly initially stiff-armed the “Deep Throat” story when it broke Tuesday, focusing instead that night, as O’Reilly put it, on “the brutal murder of nine-year-old Jessica Lunsford.” And for the week, Fox News, perhaps apprehensive about digging up the GOP’s old Watergate wounds, generated the fewest scandal mentions, as compared to the other all-news cable outlets. According to TVEyes, the digital monitoring service, for the week there were 214 “Watergate” mentions on Fox, compared to 217 on CNN and an additional 218 on CNN Headline News. MSNBC ran away with the Watergate prize though, with 598 mentions. At the major networks, ABC, CBS, and NBC, the coverage was remarkably consistent, as they doled out 89, 88, and 82 Watergate mentions, respectively. (Internationally, the story also garnered enormous attention, with BBC World talking up Watergate 212 times this week.) Watergate even picked up a couple of mentions on ESPN this week. It got four shout-outs on E! Entertainment television as well as 78 on Comedy Central, thanks mostly to Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show.”
As for print, the Washington Post led the pack, with 32 separate articles, essays or letters that mentioned Watergate, according to a search of the Nexis electronic database. Of the major dailies, USA Today proved to be the least interested, publishing just 10 pieces this week that mentioned Watergate.
Eric Boehlert, a former senior writer for Salon, is the author of "Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush." More Eric Boehlert.
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