NBC's Brokaw Hypes GOP 'Jihad' Against Romney; Confuses Mitt and George 3 Times

Appearing on Thursday's NBC Today, special correspondent Tom Brokaw touted GOP presidential candidates attacking Mitt Romney's business experience at Bain Capital: "It's the Republican Party equivalent of a jihad....the real danger for the Republicans is that it will deeply divide the party at a time when they want it to be united." [Audio available here]

While promoting the Republican infighting, Brokaw repeatedly confused Mitt Romney with his father and former Michigan Governor George Romney: "[Senator Jim DeMint said] George Romney is going to win this primary in South Carolina....They're going hard after George Romney....George Romney seems to be holding his own and the momentum continues for him..." At one point, co-host Ann Curry corrected him: "Mitt Romney." Brokaw explained: "His father was George Romney, that's my generational slip." [View video after the jump]

Curry began the segment by wondering: "Could Gingrich, in portraying essentially Romney as part of the 1%, create a backlash that could actually hurt the Republican chances of getting in the White House?" Brokaw then took a moment to attack Gingrich's wealth: "Newt's also a member of that club. I mean, we've looked at his financials, he got $1.8 million from the federal housing agencies, for example, ran up a half million dollars in bills in Tiffany's. So I think he's going to have a hard time portraying himself as just a man of main street."

Moments later, Brokaw proclaimed: "Democrats are pretty happy about this because they think that they're doing the work – that Governor Perry and Newt Gingrich are doing the work of Democrats come the fall campaign."

Near the end of the exchange, Brokaw observed that Romney could win the South Carolina primary because most voters are, "looking for somebody who can solve the economy. And many of them have set aside their so-called social conservative issues."


Here is a full transcript of the January 12 segment:

7:01AM ET TEASE:

MATT LAUER: Also ahead, Tom Brokaw is here, he's going to weigh in on the GOP presidential race. Is the criticism of Mitt Romney's business practices by his opponents actually hurting the Republican Party's chances of winning back the White House? Tom's going to talk about that and some other things.
                    
7:08AM ET SEGMENT:

ANN CURRY: We've got NBC special correspondent Tom Brokaw here to share his perspective on the presidential race. He's also the author of the new book called "The Time of Our Lives: A Conversation About America." Tom, good morning to you.

TOM BROKAW: Good morning, Ann.

CURRY: Could Gingrich, in portraying essentially Romney as part of the 1%, create a backlash that could actually hurt the Republican chances of getting in the White House?

BROKAW: Well, I think you have to point out that Newt's also a member of that club. I mean, we've looked at his financials, he got $1.8 million from the federal housing agencies, for example, ran up a half million dollars in bills in Tiffany's. So I think he's going to have a hard time portraying himself as just a man of main street.

Now having said all of that, this has had a kind of two-tiered effect. First of all, it's prompted a lot of people to come to Mitt Romney's defense. Notably, Jim DeMint, who is a senator from South Carolina, is widely perceived to be the most powerful Republican in that state, has not endorsed, but he said in the last 24 hours, George [Mitt] Romney is going to win this primary in South Carolina. And he criticized both Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich for lashing out at what he said was the exercise of the free enterprise system. He defended Mitt Romney.

So it's worked against them as well as for them. Democrats are pretty happy about this because they think that they're doing the work – that Governor Perry and Newt Gingrich are doing the work of Democrats come the fall campaign.

CURRY: Yeah well, Gingrich got some push-back at an event just recently where a voter asked him, you know, look, maybe you should be criticizing Romney on another tack, not on this one. And while Gingrich's comments may have been misinterpreted about – in terms of whether or not he thought that was a mistake, he did, his campaign did release this statement, saying, "We will continue to examine what decisions he," being Romney, "made at Bain. Why he made those decisions, what was motivating him to make those decisions and the American people can decide whether or not they want an investment banker-in-chief as their commander-in-chief." So how ugly could this get in south Carolina? Because it looks like Gingrich is doubling down.

BROKAW: It's the Republican Party equivalent of a jihad. They're going hard after George [Mitt] Romney. Rick Perry and-

CURRY: Mitt Romney.

BROKAW: Going after Mitt Romney, his father was George Romney, that's my generational slip. They're going hard after Governor Romney, in part because they see that he has got a big head of steam at this point. He's very likely going to be the candidate if it continues as well as it has in the opening two phases of this campaign. But it's, the real danger for the Republicans is that it will deeply divide the party at a time when they want it to be united. Because most Republicans, as we've seen demonstrated in Iowa and again in New Hampshire, want somebody who they think is electable. Who can run a strong race against President Obama.

CURRY: Well the real question then becomes, is will it work? Will this tactic work in terms of taking down Romney? Because Romney is saying 'Look, it didn't work in Iowa and it didn't work in New Hampshire. So why do you think it's going to work here on?' What do you think?

BROKAW: Well, we still have a week to go in South Carolina. And a lot of things could happen, there's a debate between now – two debates between now and then. And that's always the test, about who makes the biggest mistake or the strongest impression. My guess is, it won't work.

I've been talking to a lot of people in South Carolina. I'm going down there next week. And the issue for them is the economy. They've got very high unemployment, almost 10% of the state. And they're looking for somebody who can solve the economy. And many of them have set aside their so-called social conservative issues. It's a very conservative state. It's a very religious state. But most people that we're talking to are saying this time we've got to get somebody who can fix this economy.

And Romney continues to run very strongly in all of the South Carolina polls. So at this stage of the game – and a week away is a lifetime in primary politics – at this stage of the game, George [Mitt] Romney seems to be holding his own and the momentum continues for him, especially because Senator DeMint spoke up for him.

CURRY: That's right, for Mitt Romney. Alright, thank you so much.

BROKAW: My pleasure.

CURRY: Tom Brokaw, it's always great to have you here.

BROKAW: Good to be here, thank you.

CURRY: And get your great perspective. And we'll see you back also tomorrow because we're going to have our big 60th anniversary celebration. Which we want to – have we mentioned that? I know.

BROKAW: Has anybody been talking about that? I hadn't heard about that. Is that true? We ought to say something about that on television. Could we talk about it a little more here on the Today show?

CURRY: Alright. Point well taken, Mr. Brokaw. 

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