NBC's Lauer Ignores Obama Campaign Aide Calling Romney a Felon

In an otherwise tough interview with Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter on Tuesday's NBC Today about the negative tone of the President's re-election bid, co-host Matt Lauer failed to challenge her on the nastiest attack hurled by Democrats so far, Cutter's own charge that Mitt Romney may have committed a felony.

Lauer repeatedly grilled Cutter on President Obama abandoning the rhetoric of hope and change from the 2008 campaign: "If you think about what your candidate is out there on the campaign trail saying and compare it to what he was saying as a candidate four years ago....are you proud of the message he's out there delivering?...would you say the President has run an exceedingly positive or exceedingly negative campaign?" However, the obvious question about Cutter leading that "exceedingly negative campaign" never came.

In contrast to Lauer giving Cutter a pass on the issue, during an interview on MSNBC's Morning Joe on Tuesday, co-hosts Mike Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough pressed Cutter on whether she would be "walking back" her comments or had "any regrets" on the matter.   

Lauer did continue to push hard on Obama's changing tone from 2008, actually using the President's own words against him:

I want to give you some of then-candidate Obama's own words from the 2008 campaign. He said this, quote, "What you won't hear from this campaign is the kind of politics that sees our opponents not as competitors to challenge but enemies to demonize." And then, in accepting the nomination at the Democratic convention he said, quote, "If you don't have a record to run on then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from." You don't feel that President Obama in the last week or so has done just that?

Cutter replied: "I think that in talking about Mitt Romney's record – and you know, we're happy to talk about the President's record. The President's out there every single day doing that. But if we're talking about Mitt Romney's record, that's a legitimate discussion."

After Cutter proceeded to rant about Romney's time at Bain Capital and offshore bank accounts, failing to provide any positive defense of Obama's presidency, Lauer concluded: "And I believe you've answered my question. Stephanie Cutter, I appreciate your time this morning."

On Friday's Today, correspondent Peter Alexander actually touted Obama's claim that he wanted to put forward, "A story that gives Americans a sense of 'unity' and 'optimism'..."  


Here is a full transcript of Lauer's July 17 interview with Cutter:

7:14AM ET

MATT LAUER: Stephanie Cutter is the deputy campaign manager for President Obama's campaign. Stephanie, good to see you. Good morning.

STEPHANIE CUTTER: Good morning. Thanks for having me.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Romney's Record; Have Obama's Attacks On Bain Crossed the Line?]

LAUER: If you listen to what we've heard over the last week, it's been a preview of what can get pretty ugly over the next three or so months. If you think about what your candidate is out there on the campaign trail saying and compare it to what he was saying as a candidate four years ago – about changing the atmosphere in Washington and bringing hope to people who are having a difficult time finding hope – are you proud of the message he's out there delivering?

CUTTER: Well, Matt, I think if you look at what the President is saying on the campaign trail, it is about how we're going to move this country forward, how we're going to break the stalemate in Washington and do what we need to do for a strong middle class, for sustained economic growth. That's absolutely what he's out there talking about, including the choice-

LAUER: Well, as of late it's been an awful lot about Mitt Romney and his tax record and offshore accounts and his time at Bain.

CUTTER: Right. The President talked yesterday about the need to bring American jobs back here to America instead of outsourcing them overseas. That's a legitimate discussion to have in this campaign, especially when, you know, the President has put real incentives on the table to bring jobs back and closing loopholes that send jobs overseas. That's the President's policy.

LAUER: So when you look at the-

CUTTER: Mitt Romney has a different set of policies and I think that's part of the discussion that we're having.

LAUER: When you look, then, at the last week, Stephanie, would you say the President has run an exceedingly positive or exceedingly negative campaign?

CUTTER: I think the President is laying out the choice. Elections are about choices. And we have two very different directions that we can go in this country. And that's what the President is communicating. We can build an economy from the middle out or we can build an economy from the top down. President Obama has a set of policies that will strengthen the middle class, move the economy forward. Mitt Romney has a set of policies that'll continue building the economy from the top down and we know that doesn't work.
LAUER: So you're saying this is all about policy?

CUTTER: So that's the discussion on the campaign trail.

LAUER: But you're saying this is about policy and it's not personal, because I want to give you some of then-candidate Obama's own words from the 2008 campaign. He said this, quote, "What you won't hear from this campaign is the kind of politics that sees our opponents not as competitors to challenge but enemies to demonize." And then, in accepting the nomination at the Democratic convention he said, quote, "If you don't have a record to run on then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from." You don't feel that President Obama in the last week or so has done just that?

CUTTER: Matt, I think that in talking about Mitt Romney's record – and you know, we're happy to talk about the President's record. The President's out there every single day doing that. But if we're talking about Mitt Romney's record, that's a legitimate discussion. If we're talking about Mitt Romney's taxes, there's a reason we're talking about that.

One, he put Bain Capital at the center of his campaign, his rationale for the presidency, that he can fix the economy because of this business experience. Well, it's only natural that people would look at what that business experience was, to see if it does indeed qualify him. Part of that is to see where he's invested his money, where he's made his money. And from what we know, from what the one year of tax returns that they've released, we know that he's invested in offshore tax havens, in Swiss bank accounts. So I think the American people want to know, regardless of what our campaign does, I think the American people want to know, is this a potential president who has been investing his money in offshore accounts? And what does that say about the type of presidency he would have, how he would run this country? These are legitimate discussions.

You know, part of the election process is to give voters a lens into which – how presidents would make decisions, how pres – what judgments and perspectives and motivations that presidents would have. And I think where Mitt Romney invests his money, in a Swiss bank account, in offshore tax havens, in shell corporations in Bermuda, will affect the types of decisions he makes. So that's – that's this discussion that we're having and I think the American people are getting a lens into how Mitt Romney would make those decisions.

LAUER: And I believe you've answered my question. Stephanie Cutter, I appreciate your time this morning.

CUTTER: Thank you.

LAUER: Thank you very much.

CUTTER: Thanks, Matt.

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