NBC Joins White House 'PR Offensive' to Scare People About Sequester Cuts

Acting like an extension of the White House press office on Monday's NBC Today, correspondent Peter Alexander promoted Obama administration talking points on the upcoming budget sequester: "This morning, the White House is picking up the pace of its PR offensive, they are rolling out reports for each of the country's states and how they will be affected by these automatic budget cuts." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

Alexander listed the "dire warnings" coming from the executive branch: "In California, 9,600 low-income students could lose their college financial aid. In Florida, nearly $4 million could be slashed to provide meals for needy seniors. And in Texas, nearly 10,000 fewer children will receive vaccines for diseases like whooping cough and the flu."

All three networks have been following the same administration script when it comes to the sequester, while ignoring that it was President Obama's idea to start with.

On Sunday's NBC Nightly News, Alexander touted White House efforts to "add to the urgency" of the cuts by sending out cabinet secretaries to fearmonger on behalf of the President on the Sunday morning talk shows. Following sound bites of Education Secretary Arnie Duncan and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Alexander noted: "$85 billion [in cuts] overall, that administration officials warned could cripple air travel, force firefighter layoffs, even kick preschoolers out of child care."

Unlike his Today report devoid of Republican criticism of the President, Alexander did mention the opposition during his Nightly News segment: "Many Republicans place the blame on the White House....many are questioning how bad the cuts will be. Accusing the President of exaggerating the consequences."

Sound bites included Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and Arizona Senator John McCain calling on Obama to lead on budget negotiations. Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn denounced White House hype about the modest spending cuts: "To not cut 2.5 percent out of the total budget over a year when it's twice the size it was 10 years ago. Give me a break."

By Monday morning, there apparently wasn't any room for perspectives that might upset the narrative of Obama's latest "PR offensive."


Here is a full transcript of Alexander's February 25 Today report:

7:12AM ET

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: And now to Washington, where those sweeping automatic budget cuts are set to take effect in just four days unless lawmakers reach a deal. NBC's White House correspondent Peter Alexander takes a look at how it will affect everything from air travel to the food we eat. Peter, good morning to you.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Sequester Stalemate; How Will the Looming Budget Cuts Affect You?]

PETER ALEXANDER: Yeah, Savannah, that's all true. This morning, the White House is picking up the pace of its PR offensive, they are rolling out reports for each of the country's states and how they will be affected by these automatic budget cuts. A little bit later today the President is going to speak to the governors, who are here in Washington for their winter meetings. Republicans also don't like these cuts, but they accuse the President of failing to lead, and ultimately, it's you who could be affected.

At this shipyard in Norfolk, Virginia, 1,600 letters warning of possible pink slips are already in the mail, while workers wait for Washington to act.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: You know, if they take this away, a lot of people are going to be hurt.

ALEXANDER: Still with the clock ticking down, no signs of progress, but plenty of dire warnings from the administration about the potential impact of the so-called sequester. Fewer FBI agents on the job. Kids kicked out of child care programs. Even meat shortages that could jack up prices, with fewer inspectors working.

DEAN DEWIG [OWNER, DEWIG MEATS]: If we don't have inspection, we're not going to be working, so I don't need the employees here.

ALEXANDER: Air travel could be crippled, fewer TSA agents would mean longer security lines. Fewer air traffic controllers, meaning more time on the tarmac.

States wild be hard hit, too, the White House releasing these new figures overnight. In California, 9,600 low-income students could lose their college financial aid. In Florida, nearly $4 million could be slashed to provide meals for needy seniors. And in Texas, nearly 10,000 fewer children will receive vaccines for diseases like whooping cough and the flu. Just in time for spring, national parks, like Yosemite, will see their services cut. The Pentagon is planning to force more than 700,000 civilian Defense Department workers to take one day off a week, a 20% pay cut. Near Quantico Marine Base in northern Virginia, the anticipation is already breeding anxiety.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: People are hunkered down, they are really afraid to spend any kind of money.

ALEXANDER: So there is bipartisan agreement for one thing, both sides seem to agree that these cuts will go into effect at the end of this week. There's also at least some good news, most of the layoffs and furloughs, Savannah, won't actually take place until a month from now.

GUTHRIE: Well, maybe they will sort it out at some point. Peter Alexander at the White House, thank you very much.

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