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C-SPAN's blasts from the past

When Christine O'Donnell seemingly came out of nowhere to win her party's Senate nomination in Delaware, journalists quickly unearthed a treasure trove of information about her.

Their not-so-secret source: the C-SPAN Video Library.

The online archive, available for free, has turned out to be a deep sea in which reporters can fish for embarrassing or revealing tidbits.

"C-SPAN has always been the network of record for following political candidates, and now the entire past nearly quarter-century is at your fingertips," says Robert Browning, the archive director.

Talking Points Memo, for instance, reported that it "has unearthed a 1997 C-SPAN video that shows O'Donnell voicing concerns that a drag queen ball 'celebrates the type of lifestyle which leads to the disease.'"

Separately, "In a C-SPAN appearance the Huffington Post unearthed from December 1996, the Delaware Republican said it was a 'misconception that you, quote unquote, can't legislate morality.'"

And Politico reported that "C-SPAN's video archives reveal O'Donnell's participation in a December 2003 Intercollegiate Studies Institute event held at the Heritage Foundation."

The three-time Republican candidate made a half-dozen C-SPAN appearances dating back to 1995. Some of these clips were played on NBC, MSNBC and CNN.

That's hardly the only contest where the archive has been a boon for both journalists and oppo researchers.

In the Senate race in Pennsylvania, the Allentown Morning Call reported comments that don't look so hot in the wake of the Wall Street meltdown: "A third video surfaced Tuesday showing Republican Pat Toomey praising derivatives, saying in 2003 that over-the-counter derivatives are "perhaps the most important, creative and innovative development in finance in the last 30 years....the DSCC found a series of CSPAN videos of Toomey defending the type of derivative he's aimed to distance himself from." That's the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

And here's The Washington Post on Mark Kirk, the Republican Senate nominee in Illinois: "Kirk, whose campaign has emphasized his military service as a reservist, similarly misidentified the award during a House committee hearing in March 2002. In a remark recorded by C-SPAN, he said, 'I was the Navy's Intelligence Officer of the Year."'

Not as sexy as witchcraft, but still.

In the media age, if you say something in front of a camera, it's fair game. The challenge has always been to find these blasts from the past. C-SPAN makes it that much easier for journalists on deadline.

By Howard Kurtz  | September 23, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Latest stories, Television, Top story  | Tags:  C-SPAN, Christine O'Donnell, campaign, opposition research  
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Comments

I will stop reading anything from Mr. Kurtz. I used to come to grab his Media Notes, the long article with everything in it. Is he now expecting me to visit five times a day? too much to expect!!!

Posted by: nidaye3322 | September 23, 2010 10:45 PM | Report abuse

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