NBC Ignores Todd Grilling President Over ObamaCare 'Train Wreck' to Hit From the Left on Gitmo

While NBC's chief White House correspondent and political director Chuck Todd pressed President Obama during a Tuesday news conference on the possibility of ObamaCare being a "train wreck," the network coverage of the presser completely avoided any mention of the question, instead seizing on Obama being pressured from the left to close the Guantanamo Bay prison.

Anchor Brian Williams lead off Tuesday's Nightly News by declaring: "The hunger strike at Guantanamo that's now gotten so bad prisoners are being force fed, as the President faces tough questions." Introducing a report on the topic, Williams lectured: "We don't get to see them or know their names, and most Americans actually prefer not to spend a whole lot of time thinking about the men who've been rounded up as enemy combatants and imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba."

Williams sympathetically added: "And tonight those prisoners are back in the news because a hundred of them are on a hunger strike, apparently preferring to take their own lives and do it slowly to the life they have under heavy guard at Guantanamo Bay." Correspondent Andrea Mitchell explained: "Their lawyers say they're protesting years of detention, most without being charged, and no release in sight."

NBC's Guantanamo coverage was prompted by CBS White House correspondent Bill Plante asking Obama: "Is it any surprise, really, that they would prefer death rather than – have no end in sight to their confinement?"

Meanwhile, here's the question Todd put to the President:

Mr. President, thank you. Max Baucus, Democratic senator, referred to the implementation of your health-care as a potential train wreck. Other Democrats have been whispering nervousness about the implementation and the impact – the impact that it might have on their own political campaigns in 2014. Why do you keep – just curious, why does Senator Baucus, somebody who extensively helped write your bill, believe that this is going to be a train wreck? And why do you believe he's wrong?

After Mitchell's Nightly News report on the terror detainees, Williams did speak with Todd, noting: "Those Guantanamo comments you just saw, part of a wide-ranging news conference today." However, the only other topic Todd spoke to was Obama's statement on the conflict in Syria.

Mitchell laid the blame for Obama failing to close the prison on Congress: "The President promised to close Guantanamo as soon as he took office, but years later he has been blocked by Congress, the military court system, and now facing that hunger strike by the prisoners, he's clearly frustrated."

During a report on Wednesday's Today, Mitchell included a sound bite of Lieutenant Colonel David Frakt of the U.S. Air Force Judge Advocate General Reserves Corps fretting: "The fact that we have kept these men at Guantanamo for years makes them essentially political prisoners. And there's no place for political prisoners in the United States."


Here is a full transcript of Mitchell's April 30 Nightly News report:

7:00PM ET TEASE:

BRIAN WILLIAMS: The hunger strike at Guantanamo that's now gotten so bad prisoners are being force fed, as the President faces tough questions.

7:01PM ET SEGMENT:

WILLIAMS: We don't get to see them or know their names, and most Americans actually prefer not to spend a whole lot of time thinking about the men who've been rounded up as enemy combatants and imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. We think of them when they become an issue, like when candidate Obama vowed to close the facility. And tonight those prisoners are back in the news because a hundred of them are on a hunger strike, apparently preferring to take their own lives and do it slowly to the life they have under heavy guard at Guantanamo Bay.

Some of them are being force fed now, and now the President is facing some tough questions about what to do. Our chief foreign affairs correspondent, Andrea Mitchell, watching it all from our D.C. newsroom today. Andrea, good evening.

ANDREA MITCHELL: Good evening, Brian. The President promised to close Guantanamo as soon as he took office, but years later he has been blocked by Congress, the military court system, and now facing that hunger strike by the prisoners, he's clearly frustrated.

Guantanamo Bay, where 100 of 166 prisoners are on a hunger strike, some since February. Their lawyers say they're protesting years of detention, most without being charged, and no release in sight. Today President Obama agreed the prison needs to be closed.

BARACK OBAMA: The idea that we would still maintain forever a group of individuals who have not been tried, that is contrary to who we are, it is contrary to our interests, and it needs to stop.

MITCHELL: Extra doctors and nurses arrived today to help force feed 21 of the detainees. This despite the American Medical Association's protest to Defense Secretary Hagel, that force feeding, quote, "violates core ethical values of the medical profession" once a prisoner makes a rational decision to refuse food.

LT. COL. DAVID FRAKT [U.S. AIR FORCE JUDGE ADVOCATE GENERAL CORPS RESERVE]: The administration seems to be more worried about the bad publicity from a detainee dying than they are from the bad publicity of force feeding the detainees.

OBAMA: I don't want these individuals to die. Obviously, the Pentagon is trying to manage the situation as best as they can. But I think all of us should reflect on why exactly are we doing this?

MITCHELL: The military says dozens of prisoners clashed with guards two weeks ago and were hiding makeshift weapons.

COL. JOHN BOGDAN [U.S. ARMY]: We hit the point where, you know, I felt we were accepting too much risk, and it was time to take action.

OBAMA: By the authority vested in me as president.
 
MITCHELL: The President tried to close Guantanamo two days after he took office. What happened? Congress fought him at every turn, blocking a plan to build a supermax prison in Illinois, or try prisoners, like alleged 9/11 Mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, in lower Manhattan, or send them home. Eighty six prisoners, low-level detainees, mostly from Yemen, were cleared to be sent back three years ago, but either Yemen won't take them or can't satisfy U.S. security demands for their transfer. Guantanamo costs taxpayers $800 million a year, with no solution for the prisoners or for the President. Brian.

WILLIAMS: Andrea Mitchell starting us off from D.C. tonight. Andrea, thanks.

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