In an effort to insulate President Obama from criticism during the government shutdown and focus all blame on members of Congress, NBC's Today created the Twitter topic #DearCongress to provide "a forum for you to vent." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
After urging viewers on Tuesday to use the hastag in their anti-Congress tweets, on Wednesday, the hosts of the network morning touted the success of the effort. Co-host Savannah Guthrie announced "growing public outrage on day two of the government shutdown." In a report that followed, White House correspondent Peter Alexander proclaimed: "Across the country, a growing chorus of frustration....Americans stepping up to the mic under the #DearCongress, that launched...here on Today."
In a later segment, Guthrie credited new co-host Carson Daly, focused on engaging viewers on social media, with the popularity of the online meme: "You really started something with that DearCongress hashtag yesterday." Daly gushed: "Yeah, we're really excited by it, too. Yesterday we wanted just to create a forum for you to vent day one of the government shutdown....it was actually the number one trending topic at one point....we're glad that you found us as a home to just sound off."
Daly then introduced a taped segment highlighting some of the Congress-bashing. In a video posted to Vine, a woman ranted: "Dear Congress, it's obvious you no longer care about the welfare of those that you represent." One Twitter post read: "Your actions make children fighting over crayons look like a debate of scholars." Daly noted: "On Instagram, a telling message on voting." A young woman lectured: "Dear Congress, do you ever wonder why young people don't vote? This is why."
Following the produced report, Daly cheered: "#DearCongress yesterday was so popular we actually have a bit of a word cloud here....You see words like 'paycheck,' 'government,' even 'ego' and 'shame.' Obviously big themes that were out there."
On Thursday's Today, Daly used the hastag as a way for viewers to bash a Republican member of Congress.
During an earlier report, Alexander explained: "The World War II Memorial was opened to that war's veterans Wednesday, but closed to all other tourists. Texas Congressman Randy Neugebauer confronted a park ranger, demanding she open the memorial to all....A furloughed federal worker overheard that and confronted the Congressman."
While a clip played of the furloughed worker in question arguing with the Congressman, a headline appeared on screen telling people to "Tweet Us Your Thoughts" using #DearCongress.
Minutes later, Daly delivered the results: "[Twitter] just kind of going ablaze right now just based on that piece we showed you five minutes ago...about the Congressman from Texas being confrontational with that furloughed national park worker there....I think that piece really struck a nerve, because we've just gotten a ton of activity on that."
After replaying the exchange between the Congressman and the worker, Daly recited a series of tweets:
They're coming in hot and heavy. "Did he really scold a park ranger for doing her job which Congress itself is responsible for? #DeatCongress get your act together." That's from Ellen [Margaret] this morning. Bill [Largess] writes in, "They shouldn't be used as props for posturing hypocrites playing to the cameras, either." Literally just about five seconds ago, "#DearCongress how dare one of you confront a park ranger at the World War II Memorial in D.C. about her responsibilities? It's your fault she's furloughed."
On Tuesday, as the hashtag launched, Daly got in-person reaction from a woman on the plaza outside of the Today show studio, who ranted: "I think all of this amounts to is the Republicans are against President Obama. They don't want the President to be successful. I think he is the best president we have had in a very long time."
Here is a full transcript of Daly celebrating #DearCongress on October 2:
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Let's check in with Carson, he's over in the Orange Room. You really started something with that DearCongress hashtag yesterday.
CARSON DALY: Yeah, it was something else. Yeah, we're really excited by it, too. Yesterday we wanted just to create a forum for you to vent day one of the government shutdown. Let us know your thoughts, just sound off on the topic, created that hashtag DearCongress. And all day long yesterday – it was actually the number one trending topic at one point – we got a tremendous amount of tweets and Instagrams and Facebook posts and Vine videos, it was really just something else. So we're glad that you found us as a home to just sound off. And here's a little sampling of what you had to say.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: #DearCongress; NBC News Taps Into Voter Outrage]
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Dear Congress, it's obvious you no longer care about the welfare of those that you represent.
DALY: One Vine suggests Congress is going to the dogs.
[ON-SCREEN QUOTE: #DearCongress At least the dog park is still open and those here play well with others!]
DALY: On Instagram, the hashtag DearCongress spawned memes with messages from movie characters. Like Morpheus from the Matrix.
[ON-SCREEN PICTURE OF MORPHEUS AND QUOTE: What if I told you putting limits on congressional terms would solve a lot of problems?]
There's even a scolding from George Washington.
[ON-SCREEN PICTURE OF WASHINGTON AND QUOTE: You had one job.]
DALY: On Twitter, Megan [@shmeg_flynn] shared advice from Abraham Lincoln. "A house divided against itself cannot stand." Maybe someone else could get the job done, like the AT&T guy and his gang of kindergarteners.
[ON-SCREEN PICTURE OF COMMERCIAL AND QUOTE: #DearCongress the dude and the kids from those AT&T commercials could get more done than you guys]
UNIDENTIFIED MAN [ACTOR FROM COMMERCIAL]: Well, when you say it like that, it makes perfect sense.
DALY: Eddie G [@arrwoooo] says, "Your actions make children fighting over crayons look like a debate of scholars." One mom shared a trick she uses when her kids aren't getting along.
[ON-SCREEN PICTURE OF TWO KIDS WEARING ONE T-SHIRT LABELED "OUR GET ALONG SHIRT" WITH QUOTE: Can we do this for our government?]
DALY: Some vow to use their vote to make their voice heard.
[ON-SCREEN IMAGE OF TWEET FROM JORDAN BLAZOVICH: #DearCongress I will not be voting for a single incumbent next year, regardless of Democrat or Republican. You cannot do your elected job.]
DALY: But on Instagram, a telling message on voting.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN B: Dear Congress, do you ever wonder why young people don't vote? This is why.
DALY: Yeah, there you go, just a few of what you had to say. You know, it was interesting, if you look over here, the #DearCongress yesterday was so popular we actually have a bit of a word cloud here. The size of these words represents how many times these words populated some of the messages that we were getting. You see words like "paycheck," "government," even "ego" and "shame." Obviously big themes that were out there.
Coming up also later, guys, we're gonna give you a little highlight clip of some of the late-night hosts. About the only people on the planet who are really enjoying this government shutdown. So we'll give you some highlights from that coming up.
MATT LAUER: But not to get preachy here, but you know, the woman who said, "this is why young people don't vote," this is exactly why young people should vote. It's the opposite of that. But I think her sentiment is understood by a lot of people.
DALY: Yes, sir, good point.
LAUER: Carson, thank you very much.
DALY: You got it.