On Friday's NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer touted "breaking news" that Ohio Senator Rob Portman, "a leading figure in the Republican Party," was now in favor of gay marriage after learning that his son was gay. Leading off the report that followed, White House correspondent Peter Alexander proclaimed that Portman "...is now joining a growing list of Republicans to come out in support of gay marriage..." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Turning to coverage of the Conservative Political Action Conference, Alexander asserted: "The Republican Party now faces an identity crisis, with no clear leader and no clear path to widening its appeal." Wrapping up the report, Alexander continued to push the meme of a GOP in disarray: "But if you need any more evidence of the divide that now exists in the Republican Party, consider this. One of the most popular figures in the party, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, the guy who praised President Obama's response to Hurricane Sandy last fall, was not invited."
Here is a full transcript of Alexander's March 15 report:
7:00AM ET TEASE:
MATT LAUER: Change of heart. Ohio Senator Rob Portman, a leading figure in the Republican Party, reveals he now supports same-sex marriage, after his own son tells him he's gay. A reversal that's bound to be a topic of conversation at a meeting today of the nation's top conservatives.
7:05AM ET SEGMENT:
LAUER: Now to another breaking story overnight, Ohio Senator Rob Portman, a key Republican and one of Mitt Romney's close confidants, reversing his stance on same-sex marriage. This as Governor Romney returns to the spotlight today, addressing a major gathering of conservative leaders. NBC's Peter Alexander covered the Romney campaign. Peter, good morning.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE Breaking News; "Change of Heart"; Son's Sexuality Changes Senator's View on Gay Marriage]
PETER ALEXANDER: Matt, good morning to you. Senator Rob Portman is now joining a growing list of Republicans to come out in support of gay marriage, saying he now has what he called "a new perspective as a dad" after learning that his college-aged son is gay. And his change of position actually comes just a week before the Supreme Court is going to hear oral arguments over a 1996 federal law. That law asserts that gay marriage is not legal and it's a measure that Portman himself co-sponsored at the time.
ROB PORTMAN: I see the Romney/Ryan team going all the way to the White House!
ALEXANDER: For the prominent Ohio conservative, Senator Rob Portman, who was a fixture on the campaign trail, at one time considered a favorite to become Mitt Romney's running mate, it's a deeply personal announcement and a dramatic reversal on gay marriage.
PORTMAN: I've come to the conclusion that for me, personally, I think this is something that we should allow people to do, to get married and to have the joy and the stability of marriage that I've had for over 26 years. I want all three of my kids to have it, including our son, who is gay.
ALEXANDER: Portman has voted against same-sex marriage many times in the past.
Today Mitt Romney marches back into the political spotlight, his remarks at an annual conference for conservatives marking Romney's first public speech since he exited the stage last fall. Since then we've only seen rare glimpses of the former Republican nominee.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Back in the Spotlight; The Return of Romney; Former GOP Nominee to Speak at Conservative Conference]
MITT ROMNEY: Move on. I mean, I don't spend my life looking back.
ALEXANDER: These days he's enjoying more time with his grandkids, and just this week celebrated his 66th birthday. His oldest son Tagg tells NBC News today's appearance does not mean Romney's considering a political comeback. "He doesn't want to be back," Tagg said, "he's done."
CHRIS CILLIZZA [WASHINGTON POST]: He wants to show conservatives across the spectrum that he's not in hibernation, that this defeat last November has not devastated him.
ALEXANDER: The Republican Party now faces an identity crisis, with no clear leader and no clear path to widening its appeal. Among those vying for conservative support Thursday, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who insisted Americans should be able to respectfully disagree about gay marriage.
MARCO RUBIO: Just because I believe that states should have the right to define marriage in a traditional way does not make me a bigot.
ALEXANDER: And Governor Romney is not only the high-profile speaker on tap today, Matt. Also taking the stage, Jeb Bush, Donald Trump, Paul Ryan. But if you need any more evidence of the divide that now exists in the Republican Party, consider this. One of the most popular figures in the party, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, the guy who praised President Obama's response to Hurricane Sandy last fall, was not invited.
LAUER: Alright, Peter Alexander in Washington. Peter thank you very much.