Ratings? What ratings?

Published January 20, 2005 7:51PM (EST)

For an occasion draped in historical fanfare, and for television talking heads who have filled the programming day discussing history again and again, there's been glaringly little attention paid to one momentous fact: President Bush's historically low approval ratings. Bush is struggling to hit even the 50 percent mark. The latest New York Times/CBS poll out today puts Bush's rating at 49 percent, marking his standing the flimsiest for any president on Inauguration Day, at least since modern presidential polling began nearly 80 years ago. But shhhh, don't tell the Beltway talking heads.

Forced to fill up hour after hour of dead air leading up to Bush's actual swearing in, anchors, reporters, guests and analysts on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox and MSNBC all politely shied away from the topic of Bush's dismal ratings. Over the course of four hours of continuous inauguration coverage from 8 a.m. to noon (collectively, that's 24 hours among the six outlets), the topic of the president's (historically poor) approval ratings came up exactly four times, according to TVEyes.com, the continuous television monitoring service.

That dodge by the media herd is especially glaring next to all the talk of history today. In fact, the phrase "history" came up 229 times during the same four-hour block of air time. The tally will likely hit 500 by the end of the broadcast day.

Meanwhile, our favorite TV nugget of the day so far came courtesy of Barbara Walters, who matter-of-factly informed viewers that Laura Bush recently had her hair done by famed New York City stylist Sally Hershberger, who charges $700 for a haircut. Just take a moment to think back to the go-go '90s, and try to imagine what the press' hysterical reaction would have been if word ever leaked out that Hillary Clinton had sat down for a $700 trim.

By Eric Boehlert

Eric Boehlert, a former senior writer for Salon, is the author of "Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush."

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