Network Newscasts Apoplectic Over Perry, ‘White House Tells Him to Watch What He Says’

“Republican presidential contender Rick Perry rustles up a controversy when he appears to threaten the head of the Federal Reserve,” CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley teased Tuesday night in taking literally Perry’s remarks about Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. CBS then played a clip of Perry: “We would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas.”

Brian Williams teased the NBC Nightly News by promoting President Obama’s scolding, in a CNN interview, of Perry: “On the broadcast tonight, fighting words. Rick Perry comes out swinging and talking and the White House tells him to watch what he says.”

ABC’s Jake Tapper, over on World News, began his piece by conveying an Obama campaign talking point which denigrated the entire Republican field: “Texas Governor Rick Perry has been blazing a trail through Iowa with some occasionally eyebrow-raising remarks. Democrats say that until Perry came along, they never thought they’d meet a candidate who made the other Republican candidates look responsible.”

CBS focused on Perry’s shot a Bernanke that “printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treacherous – or treasonous, in my opinion” while ABC and NBC also raised how Perry has supposedly questioned Obama’s patriotism.

Williams intoned at the top of the Tuesday, August 16 NBC Nightly News:

The rest of the country is learning what Texans already know about their Governor, what he says, what he does, how he does business, and it's given the rest of us something to talk about and watch closely right here in the middle of August. And as proof that the campaign is already on, today's debate had to do with money, name calling and whether or not the President of the United States loves his country.

Reporter Andrea Mitchell soon eagerly passed along how “Perry's comments also crossed the line for some Republicans. Fellow Texan Karl Rove said it's not presidential.” ABC’s Tapper at least added, “of course, there is some bad blood not only between Rove and Perry but between the Bush camps and the Perry camps.”

After reciting Perry’s claims about job growth in Texas, which she attributed to “partly because of the oil and gas boom, partly because of growing trade with Mexico and federal defense spending in Texas,” but not to lower taxes or regulatory and lawsuit reform, Mitchell asserted: “Critics point out that Texas has the highest percentage of residents with no health insurance and ties Mississippi for the percentage of low-wage jobs.”

On the CBS Evening News, Pelley announced:

The presidential race is all about the economy, of course, and Governor Rick Perry kicked up a controversy when he was asked about the Federal Reserve. To keep the recovery going, the Fed Chairman, Ben Bernanke, dropped interest rates nearly to zero and expanded the money supply. Governor Perry was asked about those policies at a house party last evening in Iowa.

RICK PERRY: I'll take a pass on the Federal Reserve right at the moment, to be real honest with you. I know there's a lot of talk and what have you about him. If this guy prints more money between now and the election, I don't know what y'all would do him Iowa, but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas. I mean, printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treacherous – or treasonous, in my opinion.

PELLEY: John Dickerson is our CBS News political analyst with the Perry campaign in Iowa and, john, it seems to avoid controversy, all the Governor needed was a period right after he said “I'll take a pass on the Federal Reserve,” but he just kept on going....

ABC’s World News:

DIANE SAWYER: Issuing a battle cry about jobs tonight. The human tornado from Texas, Governor Rick Perry, who electrified the Republican race, raised the decibel level today against the President, challenging to a kind of political duel on ways to jump-start jobs, fast. ABC's Jake Tapper is in Peosta, Iowa tonight. Hello, Jake.

JAKE TAPPER: Good evening, Diane. Well, Texas Governor Rick Perry has been blazing a trail through Iowa with some occasionally eyebrow-raising remarks. Democrats say that until Perry came along, they never thought they’d meet a candidate who made the other Republican candidates look responsible. He’s fashioning himself as some sort of jobs cowboy, striding into town to rescue the American people.

KID, TO PERRY: How many jobs are going to create?

PERRY: As many as I can. Okay?

TAPPER: Governor Rick Perry has been relentlessly criticizing President Obama, almost stalking him in Iowa. At one point today, their bus tours were within seven miles of each other.

PERRY: How do you fix the economy, Mr. President? Well, apparently, he thinks it's to create a new jobs agency.

TAPPER: Does the president love America?

PERRY: Well, you need to ask him.

TAPPER: His thoughts on Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke, first appointed by George W. Bush.

PERRY: We could treat him pretty ugly down in Texas. I mean, printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treacherous, or treasonous.
...

Earlier today, Karl Rove, President George W. Bush's political guru, called the comments Perry made about Ben Bernanke unfortunate and unpresidential. Of course, there is some bad blood not only between Rove and Perry but between the Bush camps and the Perry camps, which we'll no doubt hear about in the weeks and months to come.

Williams led the NBC Nightly News which, unlike ABC and CBS also covered Tea Party activists confronting Obama on a rope line about Joe Biden calling them “terrorists”:

Good evening. It's the summer of 2011, but right about now, it sure seems like the summer of 2012. We don't vote for President again for a good long while, and yet all the candidates are out on the road. The President, the entire GOP field, and right about now, the rest of the country is learning what Texans already know about their Governor, what he says, what he does, how he does business, and it's given the rest of us something to talk about and watch closely right here in the middle of August. And as proof that the campaign is already on, today's debate had to do with money, name calling and whether or not the President of the United States loves his country. We begin here tonight with NBC's Andrea Mitchell.

ANDREA MITCHELL: Campaigning today in Iowa at the world's largest truck stop, Rick Perry was not backing down about the storm he created by taking aim at Fed Chairman, Ben Bernanke.



RICK PERRY: If this guy prints more money between now and the election, I don't know what y'all would do to him in Iowa, but we'd -- we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas. I mean, printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treacherous -- or treasonous, in my opinion.

MITCHELL: Perry's comments also crossed the line for some Republicans. Fellow Texan Karl Rove said it's not presidential.

KARL ROVE: It was a very unfortunate comment. You don't accuse the Chairman of the Federal Reserve of being a traitor to his country, of being guilty of treason, and suggesting that we treat him pretty ugly in Texas.

MITCHELL: In a rough and tumble few days, Perry, a former Air Force pilot, has also repeatedly questioned President Obama's patriotism.

PERRY: The President had the opportunity to serve his country, I'm sure at some time, and he made a decision that that wasn't what he wanted to do.

MITCHELL: Is he saying the President doesn't love America?

PERRY: You need to ask him.

MITCHELL: Late today, the President responded to Wolf Blitzer on CNN.

PRESIDENT BARCK OBAMA ON CNN: You've got to be a little more careful about what you say. But I’ll cut him some slack. He has only been at it for a few days now.

MITCHELL: Perry's Texas swagger is his calling card, bred of a hardscrabble boyhood on the family farm and aggie roots at Texas A&M. Perry's chief claim to challenging President Obama is the Texas jobs record. Perry says his state produced 40 percent of all the jobs created across America in the last two years. With an unemployment rate at 8.2 percent, well below the national average, partly because of the oil and gas boom, partly because of growing trade with Mexico and federal defense spending in Texas. Critics point out that Texas has the highest percentage of residents with no health insurance and ties Mississippi for the percentage of low-wage jobs. Still, those who know Perry say don't underestimate him.

PAUL BURKA, TEXAS MONTHLY: Anybody who sells him short and thinks that he's a lightweight is making a big mistake.

MITCHELL: Perry had repeated opportunities all day today to back off his comments about the President and the Fed Chairman and he did not, clearly showing how he plans to separate himself from the other candidates, like fellow Tea Party-supported candidate Michele Bachmann and clearly, Mitt Romney. Brian?

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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