This morning, NBC’s Katie Couric conducted a five-minute interview with Howard Dean touching on a range of timely topics. At one point, Dean spoke about “corruption scandals in Congress” and Republicans getting money from Jack Abramoff. Couric — no lefty, she — interrupted Dean in a scolding tone and said, “Wait a second. Democrats took money from Abramoff, too.”


Has Couric learned nothing from DebbieGate? A little precision, please. From everything we know to date, Democrats did not receive money “from Abramoff,” rather Abramoff’s personal donations went exclusively to Republicans — which is more or less what Dean then said to Couric. (What Dean did not say was that members of both parties received donations from some of Abramoff’s clients — with Republicans receiving the majority of these donations — although it’s not known if Abramoff “directed” any of this money or not.)


Proving that Couric is at least aware of the distinction, she then quoted dollar figures, citing the Center for Responsive Politics, of what “Abramoff and associates” (emphasis ours) had supposedly given to Republicans and to Democrats. Dean continued to protest, calling it a “Republican finance scandal.”


To Couric we say: Republicans are working hard to push the “it’s a bipartisan scandal” storyline and Democrats are eager to characterize it as “exclusively a Republican scandal.” A reporter’s job, supposedly, is to explain to her audience in precise language what is actually going on — even if there is no convenient shorthand with which to do so. Instead, Couric ended the interview by telling Dean she would “look into” his claim that it is actually a “Republican finance scandal” and “clarify that at a later date.”


No clarification occurred on today’s “Today.” Couric did, however, spend over eight minutes of air time this morning searching for “the best pants for every behind,” exploring “why some outfits make women’s derrieres look too large,” and letting female viewers know how to make the best of their butts.


Sigh.


Maybe the New York Observer was on to something yesterday when reporter Rebecca Dana fantasized that CBS was actually courting Couric’s morning show rival, Diane Sawyer — not Couric — for its evening news anchor job. After all, you didn’t see Sawyer this morning prattling on for a television eternity about big bottoms and what can be done to camouflage them.


Nope. Sawyer was off “on assignment” this morning — no doubt a serious assignment. Hard news. Something to atone, perhaps, for her four-minute segment yesterday on “what’s inside my purse” and what it says about me.

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.