Marching into the Lion's Den: Palin Guest Hosts on Historically Hostile Today Show

Sarah Palin will be walking into the proverbial lion’s den when she guest hosts Tuesday’s Today show, as the NBC morning program’s hosts, reporters and guests have repeatedly trashed the one-time Vice Presidential candidate. While the former Alaska governor was treated to jovial jabs from the cast when she called into Monday’s Today show, she’s been subjected to much harsher attacks over the past four years.

On the show Palin has been blamed for the shooting of Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, denounced as a political liability for the GOP, been called a “Nazi” by journalist/stalker Joe McGinnis, and has seen herself and family become the object of rampant speculation and crude mockery. (videos after the jump)

The following are some of the worst instances of Palin bashing that were aired on NBC’s Today show:

Blaming Palin for Gabrielle Giffords Shooting

NBC’s Matt Lauer, at the top of the January 10, 2011 Today show, alerted viewers that Sarah Palin was being drawn into the Gabrielle Giffords shooting as he teased an upcoming Andrea Mitchell story this way: “Sarah Palin has been coming under some criticism. While there is no evidence her Web site featuring a target on Giffords’ district had anything to do with this attack, some are asking if today’s political rhetoric is inspiring the lunatic fringe?”

On the same show, NBC’s Lee Cowan, inspired by Arizona Sheriff Clarence Dupnik’s blaming political rhetoric for the Gabrielle Giffords shooting, highlighted Sarah Palin’s Web site map featuring crosshairs on Giffords’ district, as he scolded: “Not since Timothy McVeigh attacked the federal building in Oklahoma City has a crime sparked so much attention on anti-government rhetoric. That map Sarah Palin put up on Facebook last year, targeting Congresswoman Gifford’s seat, made Gifford nervous, even then.”

Before the Giffords shooting, NBC’s Ann Curry, on the March 25, 2010 Today continually harangued Senator John McCain about Republican lawmakers “encouraging the violence” against Democrats, and even urged the Arizona senator to condemn his former running mate Sarah Palin. After Curry recounted that the former Alaska governor had”posted a map highlighting weak Democratic districts...with a crosshair symbol” she pressed McCain: “Do you know recommend that your party use less incendiary language?" When McCain responded that terms like “targeted” and “battleground” are just part of the “political lexicon” Curry persisted: “These are very dangerous times. Is this the language that we should be hearing today?”

Denouncing Palin as Political Liability to GOP

On the March 29, 2010 Today show the bashing of Palin was so bad conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham came to her defense. Ingraham took Lauer and his colleague George Lewis and MSNBC to task for their slanted reporting of Sarah Palin and the tea party. After a Lewis set-up piece, in which the reporter asked if Palin gets “people too riled up?” Ingraham, in her interview with Lauer, charged him with bias: “How do you go from Sarah Palin giving a speech to saying did she rile up the people too much and then talk about death threats? I think that kind of reporting, really is what drives people crazy about the dinosaur media.” Lauer countered that “some people” have noted that Palin’s “comments”  and “graphics” have “incited some people.”

Later on in the interview Lauer claimed Palin was “polarizing” to which Ingraham, citing low approval ratings for Obamacare, fired back at Lauer: “Well I think that, if you want to look at polarizing people right now, I wouldn’t look at Palin, I’d look at Barack Obama.”

On the January 28, 2011 Today show co-anchor Meredith Vieira determined Palin’s mocking of Barack Obama’s Winning the Future slogan as the precise moment when the new era of “civility” in Washington, came to an end. After Vieira opened this morning’s show announcing: “End of civility? Sarah Palin takes a shot at President Obama’s call for winning the future...is the new tone of togetherness in Washington already over?” she brought on MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell to chastise Palin and Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann:

“[Palin] really struggles with that sounding presidential thing. It’s a real challenge for her. And you know, look it’s, it’s as weird as it gets. But really if you are looking for a lack of civility or the argumentative stuff...this week you really have to go to Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann. No one else is doing it.”

Today Grants Platform to Palin Stalker Joe McGinnis


NBC’s Today touted an “exclusive” interview on the September 15, 2011 show, with Palin stalker and author Joe McGinniss, smearing the former governor with unsubstantiated allegations. NBC didn’t try to prove them. They just spread them. Fill-in co-host Savannah Guthrie proclaimed: “Stunning allegations made about Sarah Palin in a bombshell book. Is she really the hockey mom she claims to be? How strong is her marriage to Todd?...Does she use her children as props?”

McGinniss, promoting his newly released book that amounts to an anti-Palin screed, declared the former Alaska governor to be “An utter fraud. An absolute and utter fraud." Guthrie responded:”You call her a tenth grade mean girl.” McGinniss went further:”Oh, that’s – those are kind words compared to a lot of what you would hear in Wasilla today. The thing that I found, Savannah, that really surprised me, was that the people who know her best like her least.”

Guthrie presented McGinniss’s outrageous and unfounded accusations against Palin as shocking revelations:”McGinniss describes a rocky Palin marriage, with Todd and Sarah fighting incessantly and threatening divorce, something they’ve denied in the past. Another bombshell, McGinniss writes that both Todd and Sarah have used cocaine in the past...”

Back on the June 1, 2010 Today show Lauer invited McGinnis on to defend his moving in next to the Palin residence in Wasilla, Alaska, and the author had the audacity to play the victim as he compared the former Alaskan governor’s actions to that of a Nazi. After Lauer noted the author was receiving”death threats” McGinniss screeched “It’s a lesson for the American people of the power Palin has to incite hatred and her willingness and readiness to do it.” McGinniss went on to say that Palin’s use of her Facebook page to condemn McGinniss was the “same kind of tactic that the Nazi troopers used in Germany.”

Mocking Palin

Operating under a loaded either/or premise, NBC’s Amy Robach on the September 3, 2008 Today show derided, “The broader question if Sarah Palin becomes vice president, will she be shortchanging her kids or will she be shortchanging the country?”

Labeling the segment “the mommy wars,” Robach went on point out that Palin is running despite having an infant child with Down’s Syndrome and a pregnant 17-year-old daughter. She asserted that “the news has sparked both pride and condemnation.” Robach also featured New York Times writer Jodi Kantor, who authored a piece on the subject in the September 2 edition of the paper. In a clip, Kantor discussed the fact that Palin went back to work only a few days after giving birth this past April. According to the journalist, “fellow mothers” found this”a little bit hard to fathom, a little bit hard to identify with.”

VH1 comedian Chuck Nice appeared on the June 9, 2009 Today show and compared Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to the sexually transmitted disease herpes. He mocked: “But, Sarah Palin to the GOP, this is what I’ve got to say, she is very much like herpes, she’s not going away.”

The Best Week Ever contributor amazingly preceded his comments by instructing the show’s hosts and his fellow guests, who were there to discuss news events in the 10am (4th) hour of the show,“...Please don’t take it the way it sounds.” Amazingly, no one on the program really challenged Nice on his ugly remark. NBC News chief legal analyst Dan Abrams mildly observed: “That’s the advantage of being Chuck Nice. You can say that and there’s no repercussions.” Nia-Malika Henderson, the White House reporter for Politico, said nothing.

On the December 29, 2009 Today show, NBC’s Jenna Wolfe singled out Sarah Palin and grouped her with “flabby thighs, cheap men, [and] rude people” as subjects some people chose to ritually “purge” from their minds in an annual event in New York City called “Good Riddance Day.”

NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, on the April 15, 2010 Today show, delivered a snarky piece about Sarah Palin “making millions on books” and “highly paid speeches”going as far to portray the former Republican Alaskan governor as a diva who demands a Lear jet and”bendable straws” for her water bottles at appearances.

The Today show cast, on the December 7, 2010 show, previewed a guest appearance by reality show star Kate Gosselin on Sarah Palin’s TLC show, and after showing a clip of the former Alaska Governor frightening the celebrity mother of eight kids by firing off a gun, Vieira revealed she shared Gosselin’s fears as she yelped: “You’re with a woman with a gun. The whole thing makes me nervous, you know?”

NBC’s Peter Alexander, on the July 20, 2010 Today show, mocked Palin for making up a word, ‘refudiate’ in her tweets about the Ground Zero mosque controversy. Alexander, after initially reporting about the former Alaska governor wading into the controversy surrounding the building of a mosque at the Ground Zero site, then poked fun at Palin combining two words:

PETER ALEXANDER: The former vice presidential candidate is, herself, coming under fire for both her substance and style. Palin tweeted “Ground Zero mosque supporters, doesn’t it stab you in the heart, as it does ours, throughout the heartland? Peaceful Muslims, please refudiate. But, of course, “refudiate” isn’t an actual word, more like a blend of two words with similar meanings: refute and repudiate. Bloggers quickly pounced. “If Republicans can demand that immigrants speak English,” one tweeted “can’t we demand same for Sarah Palin?” For what it’s worth, Palin has refudiated before.

CLIP OF PALIN ON FOX NEWS: They have power in their words. They could refudiate what it is, that this group is saying.

On the December 31, 2010 Today show Thomas Roberts mocked Palin’s vocabulary: “All right, so a Michigan school is out with the annual list of worst phrases that should be banished in the new year 2011. Among the 14 chosen, ‘viral,’ ‘epic,’ ‘bff’ - or ‘best friends forever’ - ‘I’m just sayin’,’ and the word made popular by Sarah Palin, ‘refudiate.’”

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