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Kissinger? Kissinger Who?

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By Jim Naureckas
Hillary Clinton and Henry Kissinger
Hillary Clinton and Henry Kissinger
(Image by U.S. Department of State)
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Last week, presidential challenger Bernie Sanders attacked his rival Hillary Clinton live on US television for taking advice from Nixon-era Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, whom he accused of paving the way for genocide with his bombing of Cambodia.

You know who wasn't impressed? US television.

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According to a search of the Nexis news database, there were exactly two references to Kissinger following the debate on the major broadcast networks. CBS's Gayle King (Early Show, 2/12/16) reported that "Sanders questioned why Clinton would praise former secretary of State Henry Kissinger," and then played an excerpt from the exchange:

SANDERS: Henry Kissinger was one of the most destructive secretaries of state. Count me in as somebody who will not be listening to Henry Kissinger.

CLINTON: I know journalists have asked who you do listen to on foreign policy and we have yet to know who that is.

SANDERS: Well, it ain't Henry Kissinger, that's for sure.

CLINTON: That's fine. That's fine.

On NBC's Today show, Andrea Mitchell (2/12/16) played an even shorter excerpt (beginning with "journalists have asked you...") as an illustration of how the candidates "hammered each other...on foreign policy."

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That was it. The three network evening newscasts, with a typical combined nightly viewership of 24 million, didn't mention Kissinger. Nor did any of the Sunday morning talkshows. Even PBS NewsHour, whose Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff moderated the debate, never discussed the Kissinger exchange.

Twenty-four-hour cable news did a little better, with CNN Newsroom (2/12/16) replaying the entire exchange, including Sanders' explanation of why he objected to Clinton citing Kissinger as a mentor:

"Kissinger's actions in Cambodia, when the United States bombed that country, overthrew Prince Sihanouk, created the instability for Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge to come in, who then butchered some 3 million innocent people, one of the worst genocides in the history of the world."

This was aired in the context of former California Democratic Party chair Bill Press saying that "the weirdest part, I think, of the whole debate" was Hillary wrapping herself in the arms of Henry Kissinger as a role model," since "90 percent of Democrats are going to say who is Henry Kissinger and the other 10 percent are going to say they hate him." After which longtime Clinton family adviser Paul Begala lectured: "A president actually has to get advice from all kinds of people."

On CNN's Legal View (2/12/16), author/activist Jonathan Tasini--who ran unsuccessfully for New York's Democratic senatorial nomination against Hillary Clinton in 2006, and incidentally wrote a study of labor coverage for FAIR in 1990--seems to have been the only commentator on national TV who took a moral stand against taking advice from Kissinger:

"I don't think we would have imagined that in a Democratic debate someone would say that Henry Kissinger's an adviser...A war criminal. Someone who should have been indicted, should have been impeached, should have been in prison."

Tasini was interrupted by Democratic funder Robert Zimmerman -- "And what's your point, Jonathan? What's your point?"--who went on to give what seemed to be the Clinton campaign's line of the day: "Hillary Clinton, to her credit, takes input from a number of different people."

That was also the line taken by retired Gen. Mark Hertling, a CNN military commentator (New Day, 2/12/16):

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