Imperial Brian Williams Huffs: I Had to Wait '55 Days' to Talk to Palin!

If observers of this campaign have learned one thing, it's that you had better not stand up David Letterman or Brian Williams if you hope to run for high office, lest you risk their diva-like wrath and pouting. Promoting his exclusive interview with John McCain and Sarah Palin, on Thursday's "Today" show the anchor of "NBC Nightly News" repeatedly complained about how long he had to wait to interview Palin, as Williams whined at the top of the segment:

Well let's be very blunt. We have waited patiently, 55 days since Sarah Palin was named to this ticket to get this interview, since her naming as vice presidential nominee.

Then after airing a few clips from the interview, Williams moaned to "Today" show anchor Matt Lauer:

So Matt, again, a 55 day wait for this interview, limited amount of time between the three of us and then later the two of us.

Williams also emphasized his own network's poll that Palin had become a drag on the ticket:

And for those watching this and trying to decipher things like tone and body language. Remember the day before, the NBC News poll that put this race at 10 points and said 55 percent of respondents no longer believe Sarah Palin is qualified to be president. The fact that Palin is to be deposed in the so-called Troopergate story tomorrow. It had just been revealed the $150,000 worth of clothing paid for by the party to be donated by charity for Palin and her family.

The following are Lauer and Meredith Vieira's teasers and then the complete Williams segment as they occurred on the October 23, "Today" show:

MATT LAUER: Sarah Palin has been the subject of intense scrutiny ever since John McCain chose her as his running mate. According to our poll, out this week, a lot of Americans feel that she has been a drain on the ticket and that she is not ready to be a heartbeat away from the presidency.

MEREDITH VIEIRA: So does she have the experience for the job? Brian Williams asked her and Senator McCain about that in his exclusive interview. And we'll have that for you in just a moment.

...

LAUER: But first with 12 days to go until the election let's begin with NBC News' Brian Williams and his exclusive interview with John McCain and Sarah Palin on the campaign trail in Ohio. Hi Brian, good morning.

BRIAN WILLIAMS: Matt good morning to you.

LAUER: Tell me how it went. What types of things were on their minds?

WILLIAMS: Well let's be very blunt. We have waited patiently, 55 days since Sarah Palin was named to this ticket to get this interview, since her naming as vice presidential nominee. The campaign insisted that most of our sit down interview she be seated next to the nominee, John McCain. We were allowed time with cameras with just Sarah Palin but only a few minutes later. I think elapsed time, in all, 28 minutes to ask what were weeks worth of pent up questions. We started with one of the issues in the news this week, the comments about testing a new president by Senator Joe Biden.

(BEGIN INTERVIEW CLIP)

WILLIAMS: You mention Senator Biden's comment the other day about a new president and a test of the new president's mettle. One of your very closest friends in the Senate, Joe Lieberman, said on "Face the Nation," quote, "Our enemies will test the new president early." And it has happened throughout modern history.

JOHN MCCAIN: Well look I've been tested, they know me. They know me very well. I've been tested. Senator Biden said it. What if Sarah or I had said it, "Oh my God!" It would've been terrible.

SARAH PALIN: Can you imagine?

MCCAIN: Imagine. His own running mate said it's because he's young and new and untested. That's why Senator Biden said, "mark my words." "Mark my words," is what he said, that there's gonna be an international crisis. And then he compared it to the Cuban Missile Crisis. My friend I was in the Cuban Missile Crisis. I was on the aircraft carrier Enterprise in the air wing. We were close to nuclear war. I wouldn't predict that from, I mean that, that's remarkable. When a vice presidential candidate predicts, because a young, untested president is going to face an international crisis, like the Cuban Missile Crisis. Unbelievable. Americans know I've been tested.

WILLIAMS: Governor Palin yesterday you tied this notion of an early test to the new president with, with this notion of pre-conditions.

PALIN: Right.

WILLIAMS: That you both have been hammering the Obama campaign on. What, first of all, what in your mind is a pre-condition?

PALIN: You have to have some diplomatic strategy going into a meeting with someone like Ahmedinejad or Kim Jong-Il, one of these dictators that would seek to destroy America or her allies. It is so naive and so dangerous for a presidential candidate to just proclaim that they would be willing to sit down with a leader like Ahmedinejad and, and just talk about the problems, the issues that are facing them. So that, that's, that's some ill-preparedness right there. But following up with your comment about Biden also, when Biden, what he had done the other night to his Democrat donors and talking to them in a fundraiser, warning them, saying, "mark my word there will be an international crisis if Barack Obama is elected." He was confirming what he had been saying all along in the primary race. He had warned voters that Barack was not prepared yet to be president. And that the presidency is not a place for on-the-job training. So there was confirmation that, in the comments that he made.

WILLIAMS: Let me ask you both about what must have been a hurtful Sunday for you, especially you Senator McCain. Colin Powell's endorsement of Barack Obama. And, and Governor, respectfully, the, the heart of his quote about Governor Palin, Senator McCain. "I don't believe she's ready to be President of the United States, which is the job of Vice President. And so that raised some question, in my mind, as to the judgment that Senator McCain made." When you heard those words from a man you've known for a long time, what was your reaction? Saying basically we have little to judge these future leaders on except for the big decision of picking a running mate.

MCCAIN: Well if, I know that if General Powell had wanted to meet Governor Palin we could have arranged that easily, number one. But number two is, then obviously, General Powell does not know Governor Palin's record. Reform, governor 24,000 employees, I believe, of the state of Alaska. Negotiated a $40 billion natural gas pipeline by taking on the oil and gas interest. Took on the governor of her own party who was an incumbent. Stood up against corruption. Cut taxes. Gave her, her, her constituents money back. Shares my world, my world view. Has, frankly, in all due respect, a son who's got his life on the line right now, in defense of freedom. And that's not qualified? Tell me what is qualified. I am overjoyed to have a person who's a real reformer. What do Americans want right now, more than anything else? They want us to reform the way we do business in Washington and they want our economy put back on track. Here's a proven record. And so all I can say is, I see all these attacks on, on Governor Palin, I don't live in a bubble. But those people obviously, are either not paying attention to or don't care about the record of the most popular governor in the United States of America.

PALIN: And, and, and look let me interrupt for a second here too. I'm not gonna toot my own horn but I do have more executive experience than Barack Obama even has, dealing with multi-billion dollar budgets and thousands of employees in positions as, as mayor, as a manager, as a regulator of oil and gas and then as governor. But let's not forget also in, in this context of one endorsement Senator, or Colin Powell's that you have received the endorsement of at least four former secretaries of state.

MCCAIN: Five, five secretaries, former secretaries of state.

PALIN: Five!

MCCAIN: And hundreds of retired top U.S. brass and, and U.S. military brass that see also, in John McCain, the ability to win the wars and to keep our nation safe. And, of course, those who are in more economic-minded, also, who are endorsing John McCain because they know too that he will get our economy back on track. He will reduce taxes on our small businesses and on our families so that we can keep more of what we produce and earn so that we can hire more people as business owners. That's how jobs are created. That's how the economy gets rolling. And he's got that in him. He's got that in his plan and that's recognized. So I'm appreciative of all the endorsements that you have received.

(END CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Just a part of the interview early on. And for those watching this and trying to decipher things like tone and body language. Remember the day before, the NBC News poll that put this race at 10 points and said 55 percent of respondents no longer believe Sarah Palin is qualified to be president. The fact that Palin is to be deposed in the so-called Troopergate story tomorrow. It had just been revealed the $150,000 worth of clothing paid for by the party to be donated by charity for Palin and her family. Later on, in our morning with them that stretched into afternoon, we went to a different area of a high school campus and talked with just Sarah Palin, where another topic came up. These recent calls to release her medical records.

(BEGIN CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Did I hear you just agree to release your medical records?

PALIN: I, the, the medical records, so be it. If that, if that will allow some curiosity seekers, perhaps, to have, oh, one more thing that they can either check the box off that, that they can find something to criticize perhaps. Or find something to rest them assured over. Fine. I'm healthy, I'm happy. Had five kids. That's gonna be in the medical records. Never been seriously ill or hurt. And you'll see that in the medical records if they're released.

(END CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Now what we don't know is timing of that release. Some of the other topics we hit. The new definition of a domestic terrorist. What an elitist is? Does Sarah Palin consider herself a feminist? And she talks about her press coverage thus far. So Matt, again, a 55 day wait for this interview, limited amount of time between the three of us and then later the two of us. We're putting this out as the conversation happened on "Nightly News," and of course here on "Today."

LAUER: Alright, Brian Williams thanks very much. And a 55 day wait for you to get out of be early, finally, one morning also, Brian.

WILLIAMS: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah.

LAUER: Nice to see you, we appreciate it. You can see more of Brian's exclusive interview with Senator McCain and Governor Palin tonight on "NBC Nightly News."

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.