NBC Cheers President Obama Being 'Tobacco Free' After 'Long Struggle'

On Tuesday's NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer excitedly announced to viewers: "President Obama passed his latest physical with flying colors, one of the headlines coming out...the President is now tobacco free." White House correspondent Kristen Welker reported: "President Obama has never made a secret about his struggle to quit smoking....But it seems now it's a habit he may have finally put out."        

Welker sympathetically noted: "Mr. Obama is tobacco free, that's a marked difference from last year's medical report...suggesting he was still in the process of giving up smoking. A long struggle which the President has openly discussed....smoking has dogged him since his days on the campaign trail."

Supportive sound bites were included in the report. Dr. Cheryl Healton, President of the American Legacy Foundation, declared: "Quitting smoking is an enormous achievement." The Washington Post's Nia-Malika Henderson saw it as good politics: "I think people want their presidents to be role models and it only just reaffirms that this president is human, he has struggles, and that in this instance he was able to overcome."

Welker went so far as to use the President's quitting to take a jab at Herman Cain: "More than 46 million Americans smoke, but for a politician, taking a drag can be a bit of a lightning rod. A Herman Cain campaign video went viral showing the candidate's campaign manager smoking. Many Americans were angered, forcing Cain to explain he does not endorse smoking."

Wrapping up her fawning report, Welker proclaimed: "Now the physical also says that President Obama is eating healthy, he's physically active. His cholesterol is even down. In essence, it says at age 50 he is fit to serve and at least for now, free of tobacco."


Here is a full transcript of the November 1 segment:

7:11AM ET

MATT LAUER: President Obama passed his latest physical with flying colors, one of the headlines coming out of that physical examination from his doctor is that the President is now tobacco free. NBC's Kristen Welker is at the White House with details on that. Kristen, good morning.

KRISTEN WELKER: Good morning to you, Matt. Well, President Obama has never made a secret about his struggle to quit smoking. In fact, he and the First Lady have discussed it publicly. But it seems now it's a habit he may have finally put out. President Obama insisted his bad habit was a thing of the past last week on Jay Leno.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: No Butts at the White House; President Obama Declared "Tobacco Free"]

JAY LENO: Talk about some lighter stuff, about dealing with the pressure of being president. Now, I know you quit smoking.

BARACK OBAMA: I did. I did, definitively.

WELKER: And now the President's got the medical records to prove it. According to a physical released Monday, Mr. Obama is tobacco free, that's a marked difference from last year's medical report, which listed the President as taking "nicotine replacement therapy," suggesting he was still in the process of giving up smoking. A long struggle which the President has openly discussed.

OBAMA: Look, I've said before that as a former smoker, I constantly struggle with it. Have I fallen off the wagon sometimes? Yes.

WELKER: It's a habit the President started decades ago. These photos show a young Obama, cigarette in hand, at Occidental College. But as an adult, smoking has dogged him since his days on the campaign trail.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: When's the last time that you've fallen off the wagon?

OBAMA: You know, I don't remember. But it was probably – it's been a while.

WELKER: He was often seen on the trail chewing Nicorette gum to keep the cravings down. Mrs. Obama urged her husband to quit smoking before taking office, famously asked for America's help on 60 Minutes.

MICHELLE OBAMA: Please, America, watch, keep an eye on him and call me if you see him smoking.

DR. CHERYL HEALTON [PRESIDENT, AMERICAN LEGACY FOUNDATION]: Quitting smoking is an enormous achievement. It is very, very difficult to stop a long-term nicotine addiction.

WELKER: More than 46 million Americans smoke, but for a politician, taking a drag can be a bit of a lightning rod. A Herman Cain campaign video went viral showing the candidate's campaign manager smoking. Many Americans were angered, forcing Cain to explain he does not endorse smoking. Analysts say the stigma may be one more reason the President worked so hard to quit.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON: I think people want their presidents to be role models and it only just reaffirms that this president is human, he has struggles, and that in this instance he was able to overcome.

WELKER: Now the physical also says that President Obama is eating healthy, he's physically active. His cholesterol is even down. In essence, it says at age 50 he is fit to serve and at least for now, free of tobacco. Matt.

LAUER: Alright, Kristen Welker at the White House this morning. Kristen, thank you very much.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC