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Pergament: McMurray's emotional speech made leaving it tough call for TV news

Western New York viewers had to wait until the 11 p.m. newscasts Tuesday night to see the most captivating local moment of Election Night 2018 – the apparent concession speech made by Democratic congressional nominee Nathan McMurray in his race with incumbent Chris Collins.

It was said often during McMurray’s campaign that he did things differently.

And that was never more apparent than his decision to apparently concede the race when the media was still telling viewers it was still too close to call.

McMurray’s concession came moments after Erie County Democratic Committee Chairman Jeremy Zellner had just said on WKBW-TV (Channel 7), “I still think we can pull this thing off.”

“It sounded like a concession speech,” said Channel 7 anchor Ashley Rowe. “We’re not quite ready to declare that here.”

“It appears to be a concession speech, but nobody really has called the race yet,” said WGRZ-TV (Channel 2) anchor Scott Levin.

McMurray wore his emotions on his sleeve in a captivating speech that tested local TV’s patience with when to leave it. It was such a raw speech that I wanted the stations to stay with it longer than they did.

And when’s the last time anyone said that about a political speech?

Hours after conceding to Chris Collins, Nate McMurray calls for recount

The strongest sound bite came when McMurray addressed how Collins ran his campaign.

“It is sad that he ran a campaign where he lied about me,” said McMurray.

“You are seeing the breaking news moment of this campaign,” said WIVB-TV (Channel 4) anchor Jacquie Walker as the station pulled away from the speech.

Channel 2 came a little late to McMurray’s speech and the audio wasn’t clear, which required reporter Dave McKinley to do a little translation.

Interestingly, the reactions to McMurray’s speech were all over the map.

Channel 2 reporter Michael Wooten gave the harshest response.

“If he is conceding defeat, it certainly was not gracious in defeat, saying that his opponent had attacked him during the campaign,” said Wooten, who was busy counting the votes.

The comment seemed a little strange because McMurray was just being honest. Collins did attack McMurray with negative ads – and Wooten fact-checked them.

A few minutes later, Democratic analyst Bruce Fisher said the complete opposite in an interview on Wooten’s station.

“He gave a gracious concession speech,” said Fisher. “When is the last time you saw a politician sound like a graceful leader. It’s a gift. I’m verklempt.”

Over at Channel 4, former Erie County Democratic Chairman Len Lenihan said: “I thought it was tough to watch. I’ve never seen a race like this.” Then he praised McMurray for the race he ran.

Certainly, viewers have never seen a concession speech like the one McMurray gave.

Now on to some more highs and lows of election night:

Numbers Man: Perhaps Wooten’s less-than-gracious view of McMurray’s speech was partly the result of his trying to do two things at once. He was excellent showing the combined results from all counties in the Collins-McMurray race. Later, Fisher noted that there were potentially thousands of absentee ballots to count and nobody knew how they would break. That made McMurray's early concession seem even more premature.

Collins Talks: After ignoring the media for most of the night and most of the campaign, Collins was interviewed on all three stations just about the time they were going to sign off at 11:35 p.m. He attacked the media’s coverage of him, saying he talked to the media “when they are reasonable.” He borrowed a line from President Trump by calling this newspaper the Fake Buffalo News. He also slammed Channel 2. If Wooten thought McMurray wasn’t gracious, you wondered what he thought of Collins’ interview.

Awkward Moment: After McMurray's speech ended and he was interviewed by Channel 2’s McKinley, the Democrat praised the reporter:  “You did a great job,” said McMurray. “I just do my job,” replied McKinley.

Betting on Beto: CNN’s John King spent a considerable amount of time on the Texas Senate race between Republican incumbent Ted Cruz and Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke. “Is Beto O’Rourke going to pull off the Texas miracle?” asked King about 8:40 p.m. Just as King was showing that Beto had a path to victory, NBC projected Cruz the winner. The other networks took some time to do the same thing.

New York News: CNN declared New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was re-elected two minutes after the polls closed. Later, Channel 2’s Wooten showed that the governor didn’t do so well in Western New York.

Van’s Heartbreak: As the Senate races came in showing Republican gains, CNN’s Van Jones, a Democrat, said “This is heartbreaking." Later, when he saw the Democrats gains in the House, he said his heart improved.

Fox News Scoop: The president’s favorite network was the first to announce that the Democrats were going to take control of the House of Representatives. It took some time for the other networks to follow with that news.

MSNBC Scoop: When it became clear that the Democrats were winning the House, MSNBC legal expert Ari Melber reported that the Democrats were going to seek President Trump’s tax returns.

Just for Giggles: Analyzing and predicting the Republican gains in the Senate, CNN’s most valuable player Jake Tapper cracked: “Let’s give them Mississippi because it is Mississippi for God’s sake. Let’s give Texas to Democrats just for giggles."

Quote of the Night: While the Republicans widened their lead over the Democrats in the Senate, Tapper put the split in Congress in perspective: “What happens to the House is much more consequential to (Trump’s) presidency.” He noted the Democrats in the House will have subpoena power and now have the power to hold impeachment hearings if they choose to do so. Tapper was by far the most interesting and informative reporter-analyst this dial-switcher saw all night. He made it as hard to leave CNN as it should have been for local news to leave McMurray’s speech.

apergament@buffnews.com

 

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