We Dug Up the 20-Years-Old Video CNN Wants You to Forget: Clinton Is Elvis

CNN gushing over a Democratic president didn’t start with Joe Biden Biden or even Barack Obama. You have to go back all the way to Bill Clinton to see the birth of the cable channel’s love affair with liberal presidents. It was 20 years ago this week that CNN produced a syrupy, vomit-inducing valentine to Bill Clinton comparing him to, yes, Elvis Presley. Then-senior political analyst Bill Schneider gushed over the two “brothers under the skin.”

On August 16, 2001, years after Bill Clinton had been accused of sexual harassment, sexual abuse and rape, John King hyped the connections: “Today is the 24th anniversary of the death of the King of Rock and Roll. And three days from now, the former President of the United States celebrates his 55th birthday.”

Schneider swooned:

Bill Clinton, Elvis Presley: brothers under the skin. Elvis, the first rock star. Clinton, the first rock star President. It’s no secret that Bill Clinton drew on Elvis for inspiration. You might say Elvis won the 1992 election for Clinton.

Parroting DNC celebrity talking points, Schneider continued, “[Clinton] used Elvis to demonstrate that he had the common touch, and Bush didn’t.” If you don’t think CNN is in love with Democrats, try getting through this Schneider quote without gagging on your Saturday morning coffee:

Clinton, too, has found life after political death. And he’s trying to do good: Fight AIDS and racism. Clinton is now a free man, a pure celebrity, being paid record amounts of money to tell his story. At long last, Clinton can be Elvis. [imitating Elvis] Thank you, thank you very much.

Thankfully, even for CNN, it stretched credulity beyond the breaking point for them to try a comparison like this with Joe Biden. Maybe the liberal hacks at the networks could work on a Kenny G or Michael Bolton connection?

For more examples from our FLASHBACK series, which we call the NewsBusters Time Machine, go here.

A transcript of the segment is below. Click “expand” to read more.

CNN

08/16/2001

JOHN KING: Today is the 24th anniversary of the death of the King of Rock and Roll. And three days from now, the former President of the United States celebrates his 55th birthday.

BILL SCHNEIDER: John, Bill Clinton, Elvis Presley: brothers under the skin. Elvis, the first rock star. Clinton, the first rock star President. It’s no secret that Bill Clinton drew on Elvis for inspiration. You might say Elvis won the 1992 election for Clinton.

AL GORE (At the 1992 Democratic Convention):  I have to tell you, I have been dreaming of this moment since I was a kid growing up in Tennessee; that one day, I’d have the chance to come here to Madison Square Garden and be the warm-up act for Elvis.

SCHNEIDER: Elvis was everywhere in the ’92 campaign.

CLINTON (singing as Elvis) You know I can be found. [Back to normal voice in same interview.] That’s all that I can do.” (Singing again): “Sit home all alone.”

Schneider: “President George Bush made fun of Clinton’s Elvis fixation.”

President George H.W. Bush at the 1992 Republican convention: “I guess you’d say his plan really is Elvis economics. America will be checking in to the “Heartbreak Hotel.”

Schneider: But Clinton knew what to do with that. He used Elvis to demonstrate that he had the common touch, and Bush didn’t.

SCHNEIDER: “How much did Clinton and Elvis have in common? Rock critic Greil Marcus wrote, quote: ‘As white male Southerners without family money, hillbillies, no-counts, white trash — Presley and Clinton always had to prove themselves.’ And they did, by connecting with people. As Marcus says: Clinton had a talent for convincing anyone listening to him that he was speaking only to them, just as Elvis convinced someone in the 100th row that he was singing only to them.

Presley drew on black culture for inspiration. Clinton draws on black culture for solace. They were both culturally polarizing figures. Censors tried to shield Elvis’ gyrating hips from public view to protect the country’s morals. Elvis brought in the culture of the ’60s. Clinton came out of it. Conservatives believe the ’60s corrupted American culture with an ethic of self-indulgence. Well, these are two self-indulgent men, both famous for their appetites.”

CLINTON: “In his later years, he did a lot of good work, but his life was a lot sadder and it is not the memory I think he would want us to have.”

SCHNEIDER: When told of Elvis’ death in 1977, a Hollywood cynic remarked, ‘good career move.’ And it was. In death, Elvis became bigger than life, a cultural martyr. Graceland is his shrine. His memorabilia are cherished. He is imitated. He is loved. America loves bad boys who try to do good.

SCHNEIDER: Elvis once asked President Nixon to make him a narcotics agent. Clinton, too, has found life after political death. And he’s trying to do good: Fight AIDS and racism. Clinton is now a free man, a pure celebrity, being paid record amounts of money to tell his story. At long last, Clinton can be Elvis. [imitating Elvis] Thank you, thank you very much.

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