NBC's Myers Highlights Obama Hypocrisy in Appointing Fund-raisers

Saturday’s NBC Nightly News aired a report filed by NBC News correspondent Lisa Myers in which she looked into President Obama’s tendency to award lavish jobs as ambassadors to some of his top campaign fund-raisers – whose qualifications in foreign policy are questionable – and in which she noted that Obama had criticized President Bush for appointing donors to positions in government. Myers: "It's worth noting that candidate Obama criticized President Bush for rewarding his donors with ambassadorships."

Anchor Lester Holt introduced the story: "Now to NBC News ‘In Depth,’ and another tradition still going strong in Washington: rewarding major fund-raisers with plum positions as foreign ambassadors. It's a custom apparently embraced by President Obama. One-third of his nominees raised big money for his campaign."

Myers started by recounting the case of former Citigroup executive Louis Susman, "a Chicago fund-raiser nicknamed the ‘Vacuum Cleaner’ for his skill at sucking up cash," and informed viewers that the choice had led to "grumbling" in Britain. Then came a soundbite of British political columnist Simon Hoggart: "This choice of ambassador is like business as usual. It's like saying, ‘Look, I'm just another pol, I need the money, I've got to reward my cronies.’"

After describing the luxurious homes that would be used by the ambassadors to Britain, France and Japan, Myers played a clip in which she asked White House press spokesman Robert Gibbs about the qualifications of Obama’s choices, with Gibbs flippantly remarking that the choice for ambassador to Britain "speaks English," before abruptly calling on another reporter.

Myers concluded: "A White House spokesman also said that all three fund-raisers have strong professional backgrounds and are eager to serve their country. Still, it's worth noting that candidate Obama criticized President Bush for rewarding his donors with ambassadorships."

Below is a complete transcript of the report from the Saturday, June 13, NBC Nightly News:

LESTER HOLT: Now to NBC News "In Depth," and another tradition still going strong in Washington: rewarding major fund-raisers with plum positions as foreign ambassadors. It's a custom apparently embraced by President Obama. One-third of his nominees raised big money for his campaign. Our report from NBC’s senior investigative correspondent Lisa Myers.

LISA MYERS: Among the most coveted assignments – Great Britain, France and Japan – which come with trappings worthy of royalty. For Great Britain, President Obama has nominated former Citigroup exec Louis Susman, who raised at least $400,000 for Obama's campaign and inauguration, a Chicago fund-raiser nicknamed the "Vacuum Cleaner" for his skill at sucking up cash. That's generated grumbling across the pond.

SIMON HOGGART, POLITICAL COLUMNIST: This choice of ambassador is like business as usual. It's like saying, "Look, I'm just another pol, I need the money, I’ve got to reward my cronies."

MYERS: For France, Obama chose Charles Rivkin, former CEO of the company that brought us Kermit and the Muppets, now head of an entertainment company. He raised at least $800,000. And for Japan, high-tech lawyer John Roos, who raised at least $500,000. All three are accomplished individuals, but critics note that none have foreign policy expertise.

SHEILA KRUMHOLZ, CENTER FOR RESPONSIVE POLITICS: The appearance that's left with the public is that these posts are for sale.

MYERS: Some of the country's top diplomats have criticized the tradition, arguing a complex world requires diplomatic experience.

RONALD NEUMANN, AMERICAN ACADEMY OF DIPLOMACY: This is the last holdout of a system that dates back centuries of giving jobs away for political favors.

MYERS: These jobs come with lavish perks. This is the ambassador's home in London, stately Winfield House – 35 rooms and the second largest private garden in London, surpassed only by the Queen's. The ambassador's residence in Paris is equally opulent with a dining room that seats 140. And in Tokyo, this spacious residence was once the site of an historic meeting between Emperor Hirohito and General Douglas MacArthur. So far, the White House has brushed aside all criticism.

MYERS, IN THE WHITE HOUSE PRESS ROOM: What are Mr. Rivkin's qualifications to be ambassador to France? Does he speak French? Is he a close personal friend of the President?

ROBERT GIBBS: He does. He does, he is a friend of the President.

MYERS: And Mr. Susman, for Great Britain, for the United Kingdom, what his-

GIBBS: He speaks English.

[GIBBS THEN TAKES A QUESTION FROM SOMEONE ELSE]

MYERS: A White House spokesman also said that all three fund-raisers have strong professional backgrounds and are eager to serve their country. Still, it's worth noting that candidate Obama criticized President Bush for rewarding his donors with ambassadorships. Lisa Myers, NBC News, Washington.