Instead of Wright, NBC Touts Childhood Friends: 'Good Luck Barry!'

Friday's NBC Nightly News allocated a mere 22 seconds to Barack Obama's condemnation of what fill-in anchor Ann Curry vaguely described as “inflammatory remarks that his long time pastor made about Hillary Clinton and the nation,” but instead of informing viewers of any of those remarks, such as Reverend Jeremiah Wright's suggestion that the U.S. deserved 9/11, the newscast then devoted three minutes to a celebratory piece about how excited Obama's childhood friends in Indonesia are about his candidacy.

In a story which began and ended with a picture of Obama's classmates in front of huge “Good Luck Barry!” lettering, reporter Ian Williams trumpeted the wonders Obama is doing abroad: “The fact that Obama lived in Jakarta and studied at this school has really captured the popular imagination. It's already working wonders for America's battered image here.” A local commentator oozed over how “Obama's candidacy confirms the romantic ideals people like me have held since childhood that America's the land of opportunity.”

Williams concluded with how “friends remember Barry playing barefoot in the paddy fields with a real spirit of adventure,” and so now “hope there'll be no turning back on his journey to the White House. And Barry might attend their next reunion as President of the United States.”

Williams made sure to discredit fears Obama attended a madrasa, stressing that “classmates say little religion was taught” at the school Obama attended in the early 1970s since it “was secular and academic, in spite of Indonesia being the world's most populous Islamic country.”

The 22-second item didn't include how Reverend Jeremiah Wright suggested America deserved the 9/11 attacks and declared: “Not God bless America, God damn America.” Curry announced:
On the campaign trail, Barack Obama is condemning inflammatory remarks that his long time pastor made about Hillary Clinton and the nation. In a blog on the Huffington Post, Obama called comments by the Reverend Jeremiah Wright “appalling,” stressing that words that degrade individuals have no place in public dialogue. But Obama's campaign said the pastor would not be asked to leave an advisory committee.

Friday night, ABC didn't have anything on Wright, though after Thursday's Good Morning America aired a story by Brian Ross about Wright's rants, Thursday's World News was the only broadcast network evening newscast to touch Wright as Jake Tapper ran this one soundbite from Wright attacking Hillary Clinton: “Barack knows what it means to be a black man, living in a country and a culture that is controlled by rich, white people. Hillary can never know that. Hillary ain't never been called a n----er.”

Friday's CBS Evening News carried a story by Dean Reynolds which ran the “Not God Bless America, God [bleep] America” before Reynolds explained the close connection between Wright and Obama: “Reverend Wright officiated at Obama's wedding and the baptism of his children and he is described as a mentor for whom Obama took the phrase 'the audacity of hope' for the title of his book.”

[UPDATE: Saturday's World News and NBC Nightly News (as well as Sunday's World News) ran the "Not God Bless America, God Damn America" soundbite. (College basketball meant no CBS Evening News on Saturday, none in the EDT/CDT on Sunday.)]

So, ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscast viewers have yet to hear Wright's suggestion the U.S. deserved the 9/11 attacks. A screaming Wright, in a clip played Friday on all the cable news networks:

We bombed Hiroshima! We bombed Nagasaki! And we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye. [edit jump] We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back into our own front yard.
Back to the Friday, March 14 NBC Nightly News, with “The Early Years” as the on-screen header, Curry segued from her 22-second item to this much longer report [MSNBC.com's video of this story]:
Now a look at a part of Barack Obama's life that most people have probably never known about. NBC's Ian Williams went back to the neighborhood where Obama spent some of his early years, tracking down old friends who have stories you may not have heard.

IAN WILLIAMS, OVER PHOTO WITH “GOOD LUCK BARRY”: Barack Obama's latest endorsement from his old classmates in Jakarta, Indonesia. They'll be sending these photographs to the boy they all knew as Barry.

RULY DAASAD, FORMER CLASSMATE: We'll send this to him as solidarity, support, respect for him.

WILLIAMS: He arrived in Jakarta in 1967, age 6 with his mother who'd married an Indonesian student. His stepfather, first in the army, later worked for an oil company. Young Barry's half sister Maya rounded out the family photo. Obama was the only foreigner at the upscale Menteng school, mastering the Indonesian language. He towered over classmates who remembered him as a happy-go-lucky child.

DAASAD: Always chasing around here, running, playing hide-and-seek with me.

WILLIAMS: And doodling during class, super-heroes his specialty.

MAN: Spiderman

WILLIAMS: Classmates say little religion was taught. The school was secular and academic, in spite of Indonesia being the world's most populous Islamic country.

WIDIY ANTO, FORMER CLASSMATE: That school is not and will never be a madrassa. No, no. It's a public school.

WILLIAMS: A former teacher told me that, in Obama's day, Menteng did teach Christianity and Islam but neither played a big role.

WILLIAMS: So really, it's quite a small role.

EFFENDI, OBAMA'S FORMER TEACHER: Small.

WILLIAMS: The fact that Obama lived in Jakarta and studied at this school has really captured the popular imagination. It's already working wonders for America's battered image here. Indonesian television has given massive coverage to the U.S. election. Obama is being treated almost as a native son.

WIMAR WIROELER, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Obama's candidacy confirms the romantic ideals people like me have held since childhood that America's the land of opportunity.

WILLIAMS: And it seems there are few who haven't been watching. From the market-

MAN: I like Obama.

WILLIAMS: -to the university.

WOMAN: It's really exciting for me.

WILLIAMS: The old Obama family house still stands on the outskirts of the city. Friends remember Barry playing barefoot in the paddy fields with a real spirit of adventure.

DAYA ZAKIR, CHILDHOOD FRIEND: Just walk as far as we could until we got scared that we were too far away from the bungalow. Only then we come back.

WILLIAMS: Now his friends hope there'll be no turning back on his journey to the White House. And Barry might attend their next reunion as President of the United States. Ian Williams, NBC News, Jakarta.
[UPDATE, Engish translation of article from the 'Algemeen Dagblad' newspaper in The Netherlands: “Obama Fan Club Launched by Indonesian Former Classmates”]

Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center