Chuck Todd: ‘Technically Factual’ Ryan ‘Distorted the Truth’

NBC News demonstrated again Thursday night it has become little more than the more-watched broadcast arm of MSNBC, advancing the same left-wing attacks on conservatives as first trotted out on the cable side. While ABC and CBS managed to refrain from airing entire stories and interviews aimed to discredit Paul Ryan, NBC did not.

In packaging Obama campaign talking points, however, Chuck Todd had to concede the accuracy of what Ryan asserted in his Wednesday night convention address, humorously leading Todd to conclude that “what he said many times was technically factual” but, “by what he left out,” he “actually distorted the actual truth.”

(That reminds me of an exchange in the 1981 movie Absence of Malice. A reporter asks Sally Field, who is playing a fellow journalist: “That’s true, isn’t it?” Field replies: “No, but it’s accurate.”)

Audio: MP3 clip

NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams set up Todd by insisting that “even before” Ryan finished his speech, “the fact checkers were at work, calling him out on portions of it.”

Todd maintained “some of his most effective lines have raised some eyebrows because of either facts he changed or simply left out.” Todd recognized the inaccuracy of the Team Obama charges, but couldn’t let Ryan off without a scolding:

> “In fact, the President did say what Ryan claimed, but what he left out...”

> “In fact, Ryan’s claim that the President did not endorse the findings is true. But what Ryan left out...”

Following Todd’s piece, NBC ran a pre-recorded sit-down with Ryan in which Williams zeroed in on what excites liberals the most: The abortion language in the GOP platform:

Are you prepared to leave this gathering and own the fact that the platform of this party allows a woman, who has been raped, no exception but to carry that child to term?

Williams demanded: “In a business where you and your opponent are trying to attract – especially suburban women, does it send the right message?”

(Over on CBS, Scott Pelley also took on Ryan with an Obama talking point: “You also suggested that it was the President’s fault that the nation’s credit rating was downgraded, but when Standard & Poors issued that credit rating downgrade, it said that it was the Republican Congress that was at fault.”)

Question is, what are the chances NBC will be as aggressive next week in discrediting Joe Biden and Barack Obama and dissecting the popularity of Democratic platform planks.

From the Thursday, August 30 NBC Nightly News, transcript provided by the MRC’s Matthew Balan who corrected the closed-captioning against the video:

BRIAN WILLIAMS: Now, in fairness, this had been a borderline, low wattage event until about the final hour of last night, when Paul Ryan’s speech lit up the convention. It energized the floor, and even before it was over, the fact checkers were at work, calling him out on portions of it. Chuck Todd is on the convention floor with more on that. Hey, Chuck. Good evening.

CHUCK TODD: Good evening, Brian. Look, nobody got this crowd more excited than Paul Ryan, but some of his most effective lines have raised some eyebrows because of either facts he changed or simply left out.

PAUL RYAN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It will be hard. These times demand the best of all of us.

TODD (voice-over): Paul Ryan got a rock star reception Wednesday, but even before the cheers died down, the Obama campaign and the White House pushed back aggressively.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY (from press briefing): Perhaps, when the facts aren’t on your side, you ignore the facts.

TODD: So who's right? Let’s start with this, about a General Motors plant in Ryan’s hometown.

RYAN: Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said, I believe that if our government is there to support you, this plant will be here for another hundred years. As it turned out, that plant didn’t last another year.

TODD: In fact, the President did say what Ryan claimed, but what he left out: GM announced the plan to close the plant in June 2008, well before candidate Obama became President Obama, and more than six months before the auto bailout was approved by Congress, a bailout Ryan voted for.

Then, there is Ryan’s statement that seemed to blame the President alone for a downgrade of the nation's credit rating.

RYAN: It began with a perfect triple-A credit rating for the United States. It ends with a downgraded America.

TODD: What Ryan did not say is that the agency that downgraded America’s credit rating said it was because of - quote, ‘policymaking uncertainty,’ created last summer by the standoff over the debt ceiling. That political standoff was initiated, not by the President, but by House Republicans, who repeatedly refused to raise the debt limit without corresponding spending cuts.

Then, there was this charge on the Bowles-Simpson deficit reduction panel.

RYAN: He created a new, bipartisan debt commission. They came back with an urgent report. He thanked them, sent them on their way, and then, did exactly nothing.

TODD: In fact, Ryan’s claim that the President did not endorse the findings is true. But what Ryan left out: He himself was a member of that blue ribbon panel, and he voted against that report he claimed last night was so urgent.

TODD (on-camera): Brian, the challenge for voters is to listen to – well, what’s not being said, because while these politicians - and Paul Ryan last night, what he said many times was technically factual, by what he left out, actually distorted the actual truth.

WILLIAMS: Chuck Todd on the convention floor, we’ll be seeing more of you later as well. Chuck, thanks.

BRIAN WILLIAMS: And a short time ago, Paul Ryan dropped by our studio here above the floor. He talked some more about his speech to the group last night.

WILLIAMS (from pre-recorded interview): A lot of your speech was devoted to leadership that could also be construed as ownership. Are you prepared to leave this gathering and own the fact that the platform of this party allows a woman, who has been raped, no exception but to carry that child to term?

PAUL RYAN, (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think the platform is silent on that particular issue. Mitt Romney has a position on this. The President of the United States sets the policy, and Mitt Romney's position is that there are exceptions for rape, incest, and life of the mother.

WILLIAMS: There’s no exception in the platform.

RYAN: Well, I think the platform is silent either – one way or the other on that. The platform, which I think is a great document - I’m proud of the platform – it’s something that produced by the delegates. And the president of the United States sets policy on this issue, and Mitt Romney’s policy is well-known.

WILLIAMS: Well, I ask about this because it’s the third cycle now where there's a disconnect between the platform and the candidate running. And in a business where you and your opponent are trying to attract – especially suburban women, does it send the right message?

RYAN: You know, I think what suburban women are mostly worried about is jobs. I mean, look who got hit hardest in this economy. It's women. Poverty among women is at a 17-year high. Women are worried about the education of their children. They're worried about economic growth and opportunity. They're worried about the fact that we're mortgaging their kids' futures. So, that's what most women are asking us about.

WILLIAMS: On the GM plant, I know the plant is a big deal. Famously, however, Mitt Romney, the son of Detroit, had a choice and said that he disagreed with efforts to prop up the domestic auto industry. That would have saved the plant in your local town.
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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