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CBS Seizes on Trump COVID Diagnosis as ‘October Surprise’



Refusing to let go of campaign politics even for a day, on Friday, CBS This Morning seized on President Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis as the “October surprise” of the 2020 campaign. The broadcast also decided that it was important, just hours after the troubling news broke, to remind viewers of polling showing the pandemic was a supposed political advantage for Joe Biden.

During a discussion early in the 8:00 a.m. ET hour, co-host Anthony Mason turned to 60 Minutes correspondent John Dickerson and wondered: “…let me ask you, as much as the President seemed to be flirting with the coronavirus by not wearing a mask and going to big rallies, what was your – what was your first thought when you heard the news overnight?”

 

 

Without skipping a beat, Dickerson went straight to politics: “Well, my first thought was we didn’t have to wait long into October before we got our October surprise.” He then briefly expressed a wish that “partisans wouldn’t embrace their worst instincts in reacting to this.” Conveniently, he never specified that the left was doing just that.

The network’s senior political analyst then proclaimed:

I mean, COVID waits for no man. You know, the President has downplayed the virus, he’s mocked mask wearing as recently as in the debate. And yet, the pandemic is relentless and does not care where it goes. And now it’s gone inside the most protected building in America.

Minutes later, Mason reiterated: “…as you said, it didn’t take long for us to get the October surprise….do you think it’s going to affect the campaigns of both candidates?” Dickerson replied:

Well, it obviously takes the President off the campaign trail. That means he’s not out there making the kind of news he wants….it keeps that issue right at the center of the campaign, and the President’s response to it, which is not something that he wants at the center of the campaign because the polls have consistently shown that the country is disappointed with his handling of the issue.

To that point, earlier on the broadcast, correspondent Ed O’Keefe touted a recent poll showing the pandemic may benefit Biden:

…over the course of the pandemic, the former Vice President has made the argument that the President has failed to address the coronavirus and that he would do better….A recent CBS News Battleground Tracker poll of registered voters nationwide found 50% believe Biden would do a better job of handling the pandemic, to the President’s 38%.

CBS was not alone in seizing on the President’s medical situation to score political points. ABC’s GMA argued Trump was paying a price for his “dangerous gamble” on the virus and all three networks excitedly jumped on the possibility that the 25th Amendment might be invoked.

The crass politicization was brought to CBS viewers by Toyota and Wells Fargo. You can fight back by letting these advertisers know what you think of them sponsoring such content.

Here are transcripts of the two October 2 segments:

7:13 AM ET

TONY DOKOUPIL: The Biden campaign has yet to respond this morning to the President’s positive test. The former Vice President, who is older than Mr. Trump, did maintain social distancing during Tuesday’s debate. Biden has also stayed out of public view for much of the past six months, campaigning virtually and avoiding any large gatherings of supporters. Our Ed O’Keefe is covering campaign 2020 for us. Ed, good morning to you. Have we heard anything at all yet from the Biden camp?

ED O’KEEFE: As you just said, Tony, not yet. We are awaiting a response from them. But remember, over the course of this campaign – well, certainly over the course of the pandemic, the former Vice President has made the argument that the President has failed to address the coronavirus and that he would do better. Remember also he has said that he and his running mate, Kamala Harris, are being tested regularly for COVID-19 and that they would announce if they ever test positive.

A recent CBS News Battleground Tracker poll of registered voters nationwide found 50% believe Biden would do a better job of handling the pandemic, to the President’s 38%. Today Biden is scheduled to fly to Grand Rapids, Michigan for an event. But again, we have yet to hear whether he still plans to keep that schedule today. He’s supposed to talk about the economy in a state that he’s hoping to win back for Democrats.

As a precaution overnight, however, his campaign did ask a reporter who was with the President during his trip to Minnesota on Wednesday not to serve in what’s called the press pool today, the group of reporters that travel with him as he flies across the country.

Remember, the Biden campaign has been incredibly vigilant about the pandemic over the course of the last several months. Rarely holds events, they’re very small. Everyone who goes into them has their temperature taken. We get asked whether we have symptoms or have been in contact with people. It’s limited his exposure across the country. Some say that’s a smart thing, others say he’s potentially putting his ability to win the race at risk. But I think today, you know, we will see whether they keep to that vigilance and decide to hold off or whether he proceeds with his plans.

Remember, 32 days to go in this election and many Americans are already voting. All of these overnight developments put everything in flux. Anthony?

ANTHONY MASON: Ed O’Keefe. Thank you, Ed.

(…)

8:08 AM ET

(…)

ANTHONY MASON: John Dickerson, let me ask you, as much as the President seemed to be flirting with the coronavirus by not wearing a mask and going to big rallies, what was your –  what was your first thought when you heard the news overnight?

JOHN DICKERSON: Well, my first thought was we didn’t have to wait long into October before we got our October surprise. My second thought was I – I hoped partisans wouldn’t embrace their worst instincts in reacting to this. And the third one was that COVID sleeps for no man. I mean, COVID waits for no man. You know, the President has downplayed the virus, he’s mocked mask wearing as recently as in the debate. And yet, the pandemic is relentless and does not care where it goes. And now it’s gone inside the most protected building in America.

(…)

8:11 AM ET

MASON: John Dickerson, as you said, it didn’t take long for us to get the October surprise. How – if we can even anticipate at this point – do you think it’s going to affect the campaigns of both candidates?

DICKERSON: Well, it obviously takes the President off the campaign trail. That means he’s not out there making the kind of news he wants. That’s also a physical drain on him. When you talk to his aides, they talk about those rallies as if they are oxygen for him. So he’ll be sort of down in that aspect. And also it keeps the campaign, this is why COVID waits for no one, it keeps that issue right at the center of the campaign, and the President’s response to it, which is not something that he wants at the center of the campaign because the polls have consistently shown that the country is disappointed with his handling of the issue. And then the question is what happens with the next – with the next debate, how much is the vice presidential debate taken over by this issue? All of which are complicated questions and ones that the Trump campaign doesn’t want to be talking about.

(…)



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