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Big 3 Ignore Benghazi Victims' Parents, Marvel at Caroline Kennedy's 'Shining' Moment

The Big Three broadcast networks made their slanted priorities clear on their Thursday evening newscasts, as they fawned over Caroline Kennedy's Senate confirmation hearing earlier that day, but failed to cover the emotional congressional testimony of Pat Smith. Smith is the mother of Sean Smith, who died in the 2012 Islamist attack on the U.S. post in Benghazi, Libya.

ABC's Martha Raddatz was awestruck over JFK's daughter: "For one brief shining moment, senators from both sides of the aisle seemed to harken back to the so-called Camelot days." NBC's Harry Smith gushed that "history and legacy were more important this morning than party or partisanship. The daughter of a president said she wanted to fulfill her father's wish." [MP3 audio available here; video below]

World News anchor Diane Sawyer trumpeted Kennedy's testimony: "Today, we all watched as a president's daughter stepped towards a new role in public service – questioned by the Senate, as she seeks to become the next U.S. ambassador to Japan." Raddatz then spotlighted the supposed history behind the hearing:

MARTHA RADDATZ: Today in this Capitol Hill chamber, where there has been so much contentious debate, memories of another time – 1957, when then-Senator John F. Kennedy sat on this same Foreign Affairs Committee. Caroline Kennedy was born that year. But now is her moment in the spotlight.

The ABC journalist continued with her "shining moment" line. Near the end of the segment, Raddatz hyped how "Caroline Kennedy is said to be looking forward to learning Japanese, living in Tokyo, where she can make her own history."

NBC Nightly News host Brian Williams introduced Harry Smith's report by underlining how "a famous daughter of a famous U.S. president went before Congress today – Caroline Kennedy, nominated as U.S. ambassador to Japan – and speaking today about her father and carrying on that family torch." The NBC correspondent led with his own hoopla: "As Senate hearings go, this one was anything but ordinary."

The former CBS anchor also zeroed in on the Camelot mystique, as Raddatz had, but without using that Arthurian label:

HARRY SMITH: She was a little girl when her parents moved into the White House, and the images of those days represent a more innocent time in our country. Fifty years ago this fall, her father was assassinated. Her family – including Teddy's widow – was nearby this morning as she spoke.

Smith used his "history and legacy" line later in his report, and signed off by claiming that "her father would have been proud" of her testimony.

By contrast, CBS Evening News didn't air a full report on Kennedy's confirmation hearing. Instead, anchor Scott Pelley gave a 30-second news brief. But like Raddatz and Smith, Pelley emphasized the supposed history of the moment and the bipartisan welcome Kennedy received from the committee members:

SCOTT PELLEY: More than half a century after John F. Kennedy served on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, his daughter, Caroline, appeared before the same panel today, as it considers her nomination to be ambassador to Japan....Caroline Kennedy got a warm reception from both Democrats and Republicans. She's expected to win confirmation easily.

The following morning, only CBS devoted air time to the confirmation proceedings on its morning newscast. Like Pelley, CBS This Morning anchor Gayle King hyped that "Caroline Kennedy says she's ready to carry on her father's legacy by serving as the U.S. ambassador to Japan. President John F. Kennedy's daughter testified at yesterday's confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. JFK served on that panel in the 1950s as a senator from Massachusetts."

The CBS morning show also devoted a full report to the House Oversight Committee's Benghazi hearing, unlike ABC or NBC. Sharyl Attkisson, who has provided hard-hitting reporting on the September 11, 2012 attack for months, highlighted the testimony of Ambassador Thomas Pickering, who led the State Department review board investigating the terrorist attack.  Attkisson pointed out Pat Smith's testimony, as well as that of Tyrone Woods' father, in a Thursday report on CBSNews.com, but she didn't mention it during her on-air report the following morning.

The full transcripts of Martha Raddatz's report from Thursday's World News on ABC, and Harry Smith's report from Thursday's NBC Nightly News:

09/19/2013
06:38 pm EDT
ABC – World News
Duration: 1 minute, 18 seconds

DIANE SAWYER: Today, we all watched as a president's daughter stepped towards a new role in public service – questioned by the Senate, as she seeks to become the next U.S. ambassador to Japan. This was Caroline Kennedy, and ABC's global affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz has the story.

[ABC News Graphic: "Family Legacy"]

MARTHA RADDATZ (voice-over): Today in this Capitol Hill chamber, where there has been so much contentious debate, memories of another time – 1957, when then-Senator John F. Kennedy sat on this same Foreign Affairs Committee. Caroline Kennedy was born that year. But now is her moment in the spotlight.

[ABC News Graphic: "A Kennedy's Journey: From First Daughter To Ambassador"]

CAROLINE KENNEDY, NOMINEE, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO JAPAN (from congressional hearing):  I'm conscious of my responsibility to uphold the ideals that he represented.

RADDATZ: For one brief shining moment, senators from both sides of the aisle seemed to harken back to the so-called Camelot days.

SEN. BOB CORKER, (R), TENNESSEE (off-camera, from congressional hearing): Certainly appreciate the wonderful legacy that you and your family have in public service.

RADDATZ: Caroline describing Japan as deeply ingrained in her father's story.

KENNEDY: As a World War II veteran, who served in the Pacific, he had hoped to be the first sitting president to make a state visit to Japan.

RADDATZ: Caroline Kennedy is said to be looking forward to learning Japanese, living in Tokyo, where she can make her own history. Martha Raddatz, ABC News, Washington.


09/19/2013
07:27 pm EDT
NBC Nightly News
Duration: 1 minute, 47 seconds

BRIAN WILLIAMS: Finally tonight, a famous daughter of a famous U.S. president went before Congress today – Caroline Kennedy, nominated as U.S. ambassador to Japan – and speaking today about her father and carrying on that family torch.

We get the story tonight from NBC's Harry Smith.

HARRY SMITH: As Senate hearings go, this one was anything but ordinary.

CAROLINE KENNEDY (from congressional hearing): I appreciate the confidence that President Obama and secretary [John] Kerry have shown in nominating me for this important position.

SMITH: Caroline Kennedy appeared before the Foreign Relations Committee today to offer her qualifications to become United States ambassador to Japan.

KENNEDY: I can think of no greater honor than to represent my country abroad.

SMITH: She was a little girl when her parents moved into the White House, and the images of those days represent a more innocent time in our country. Fifty years ago this fall, her father was assassinated. Her family – including Teddy's widow – was nearby this morning as she spoke.

KENNEDY: This appointment has a special significance, as we commemorate the 50th anniversary of my father's presidency. I'm conscious of my responsibility to uphold the ideals he represented – a deep commitment to public service, a more just America, and a more peaceful world.

SMITH: History and legacy were more important this morning than party or partisanship. The daughter of a president said she wanted to fulfill her father's wish.

KENNEDY: As a World War II veteran, who served in the Pacific, he had hoped to be the first sitting president to make a state visit to Japan. If confirmed as ambassador, I would be humbled to carry forward his legacy in a small way, and represent the powerful bonds that unite our two democratic societies.

SMITH: Her father would have been proud. Harry Smith, NBC News, New York.

— Matthew Balan is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Matthew Balan on Twitter.