In a pathetic attempt to smear Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan ahead of Tuesday's second presidential debate, NBC's Today seized on a story in Monday's Washington Post accusing Ryan and his family of washing already clean pots and pans at a soup kitchen in Ohio for a photo-op. Co-host Matt Lauer wondered: "Would a campaign do that? We're gonna talk about it." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Following a report on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton taking responsibility for security failures in the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya, political director and chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd actually treated the supposed dishwashing incident as if it were a scandal: "Paul Ryan is dealing with some fallout from that weekend photo-op....something that – that the campaign is a little nervous about because they're trying to get through this idea of whether they're in touch or out of touch."
ABC's Good Morning America and CBS This Morning chose not to cover dishwashing-gate.
After Todd's reporting on the manufactured controversy, Lauer turned to former McCain advisor and MSNBC contributor Steve Schmidt, again asking: "Is it within the realm of possibility that Paul Ryan was washing clean dishes? Would a campaign do that, Steve?" Schmidt replied: "It is absolutely within the realm of possibility." That prompted a roar of laughter, with Lauer adding: "I thought you were gonna say no...Wow, okay, that's good."
In the Washington Post article, Brian Antal, president of the Mahoning County St. Vincent De Paul Society charity that ran the soup kitchen, attacked the Romney campaign for having "ramrodded their way" into the facility.
Antal claimed to be politically independent, however, the Post later updated the item to note that he had voted in Democratic primaries for the past 17 years.
Here are portions of the October 16 coverage that included the cheap shot:
MATT LAUER: We all know that campaigns are about creating images. Well, some people are paying attention to this image right here, that's Paul Ryan, he was washing dishes at a soup kitchen in Ohio over the weekend. But now the charity's president says the dishes that he was washing were already clean. Would a campaign do that? We're gonna talk about it.
CHUCK TODD: Meantime, Paul Ryan is dealing with some fallout from that weekend photo-op. He visited a soup kitchen in Ohio, cleaned dishes. Well now, according to the Washington Post, the charity's president says those dishes were, in fact, already clean. Matt, it is something that – that the campaign is a little nervous about because they're trying to get through this idea of whether they're in touch or out of touch.
LAUER: You've run your share of campaigns. Is it within the realm of possibility that Paul Ryan was washing clean dishes? Would a campaign do that, Steve?
STEVE SCHMIDT: It is absolutely within the realm of possibility.
LAUER: I thought you were gonna say no.
SCHIMDT: And those dishes are extra clean now, absolutely.
LAUER: Wow, okay, that's good.