The death of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy was the first of a liberal politician of legendary stature since the rise of the cable news networks and as such it brought out their biases in slightly new ways.
MSNBC, which has increasingly positioned itself as the anti-Fox, covered his death wall-to-wall and most often sounded the heroic note. CNN, staking out the middle, made it the day's main, but not only story. And Fox News, which had to measure respect for the dead against its habitual rightward spin, made its feelings known by treating it, for the most part, as just another of the day's news events (though the lead story, to be sure).
At MSNBC, Ed Schultz of "The Ed Show" was upfront about where he stood: "I'm going to take the opportunity to speak for millions of liberals across America," noting -- in reference to Kennedy's reputation as the "lion of the Senate," a phrase repeated endlessly Wednesday -- that "the lion in a fight never gives up; liberals, this is our calling to see this fight for healthcare for every American to a successful finish."
The network's Chris Matthews -- whose already scheduled warts-and-all-but-how-we-love-them documentary, "The Kennedy Brothers," was moved up a night, to Wednesday -- wondered "why would a good-lookin' rich guy spend his life worrying about people left out?" Of the Kennedys he said, "Despite their human frailties, they called us to a higher, and yes, nobler cause." And Keith Olbermann declared, "It is hard to imagine that there is an American living today whose body, literally body, is not in better shape than it would have been were it not for this man."