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Citing Wins by 'Fringe Candidates,' Couric Regurgitates Concern Moderate Republicans Becoming an 'Endangered Species'

Following a story on how "big primary victories by fringe candidates open a rift in the GOP," in which Jeff Greenfield warned "moderate Republicans worry that if the Tea Party movement drives the GOP too far to the right, it could jeopardize their prospects in November and in 2012," CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric fretted: "Does this mean moderate Republicans are becoming an endangered species?"

Hardly an original thought, however, from Couric. From a quick perusal of the MRC's archive, I discovered that on NBC's Today show back in 2005 she worried about whether "the religious right has too much influence on the Republican Party" and, after listing some non-conservative positions held by "moderate Republican" Senator Arlen Specter, empathized with him: "Do you feel like an endangered species these days?" (Specter, of course, a few years later fled the GOP for the Democratic Party where he was promptly defeated in their primary.)

Couric teased Thursday's newscast by characterizing conservative Republican winners as "fringe" players: "The party crashers. Big primary victories by fringe candidates open a rift in the GOP."

She set up the September 16 story on how the Tea Party is supposedly hurting the Republican Party:

Our latest poll found 78 percent of registered voters believe the incumbents in the Democratic-controlled Congress should be tossed out. So you would think this would be a golden opportunity for Republicans. But as Jeff Greenfield reports, after big victories this week by candidates of the Tea Party, the Grand Old Party is in turmoil.

Greenfield concluded his piece:

Moderate Republicans worry that if the Tea Party movement drives the GOP too far to the right, it could jeopardize their prospects in November and in 2012. Tea Party supporters note that, except in Delaware, every one of their Senate candidates is even or ahead in the polls.

Couric then queried: "And does this mean moderate Republicans are becoming an endangered species, Jeff?"

Greenfield replied: "Well, you have Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe in Maine, Dick Lugar fro Indiana, Scott Brown from Massachusetts, but certainly compared to the Congress of 15 or 20 years ago, there are far fewer, and in contrast, the Democrats went out and recruited a lot of moderates four years ago in the so-called blue dogs. The Tea Party is driving the Republicans, I think, the other way."

Rewind to the Friday, May 13, 2005 Today show, as reported in a MRC CyberAlert item by Rich Noyes, "Couric Fawns Over Specter, Blames GOP for 'Disgusted' Public," which recounted:

...NBC then switched to the taped piece that Couric narrated: "Feisty, firm, with the razor sharp mind of a former prosecutor, Arlen Specter, 75, has never been afraid of a fight. Recently diagnosed with stage four Hodgkin's lymphoma, Specter is now undergoing chemotherapy."

Referring to how Specter has lost most of his hair, Couric proclaimed: "His look may be different, his drive is not." After a few questions about his health, she outlined the liberal views that have helped make Specter a media favorite:

"Specter's a Republican who favors abortion rights, is against a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, and is a vocal supporter of embryonic stem cell research." Sitting across from Specter in an interview, she asked him: "Do you feel like an endangered species these days?"

He replied: "No, I think that the small band of moderates are very, very important in the Senate. We frequently hold the balance of power."

She later inquired of Specter: "Do you believe the religious right has too much influence on the Republican Party at this point?"

- Brent Baker is Vice President for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.