Andrea Mitchell Lauds President Obama for Supporting Ground Zero Mosque; Questions Why He Changed His Tone Afterward

Not only did MSNBC anchor Andrea Mitchell hail President Obama's support of the Ground Zero mosque as "politically courageous," but she seemed disappointed when, on the next day, he walked back his comments a bit. On both her Monday and Tuesday MSNBC news hours, Mitchell seemed to emphasize that Obama once again kowtowed to the conservative media on an issue he was originally on the right side of.

Mitchell told Chuck Todd that Obama's remarks at the iftar dinner in support of the mosque were "politically courageous, in terms of domestic politics." She then asked why Obama then changed his tone the next day. She used the "politically courageous" phrase again, later on the show.

Chuck Todd, meanwhile, labeled the story as one "that was basically a creation of the conservative blogosphere in many ways."

"They amplified it nationally," Todd complained of the conservative media. "It was a local story happening in New York, and then it got amplified by some conservative opinion leaders, including Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin, and they seemed to allow themselves to be forced to wade in on the debate."

On her Tuesday news hour, Mitchell remarked to a guest that Obama was "on-text" Friday night. When she asked guest Karen Finney how the President got on everyone's wrong side over the issue, Finney answered that Obama had gone "off-text, so that's never a good thing as we know." Mitchell then responded that Obama was "on-text Friday night."

Mitchell also tried to throw water on the intensity of the conservative argument, when she argued that the Ground Zero site might not be so sacred – because three strip clubs already exist in the area.

"And one more question about that hallowed site," Mitchell asked at the end of the segment. "There are strip joints and tatoo parlors, and, I mean, this site is within two blocks, or two blocks away from Ground Zero. But aside from Ground Zero, this is New York. This is downtown New York. There are a lot of less-than-hallowed locations in the retail community there."   

A partial transcript of the two segments is as follows:

ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS 8/16/10 1:00 p.m. EDT
1:01 p.m.
ANDREA MITCHELL: Chuck, take us back to the Iftar dinner Friday night. The President made a statement and drew a lot of praise for at least taking a stand that was politically courageous, in terms of domestic politics. Why then did he seem to change the tone, if not the actual words of his endorsement the next day?

(...)

1:04 p.m.
CHUCK TODD: So it does come across as sort of this idea that he threw something out there to let anybody who wanted to interpret it a specific way, they could. And then, of course, that clarifying statement just added to the confusion and then extended this story. And that's where they realized – I think that's why you had Bill Burton, by the way, later that afternoon saying "Hey look, where the President was – he was not clarifying anything, that there is consistency here, because I think they didn't like this idea that it looked like he was backing away."

ANDREA MITCHELL: Because then he fails to get praise – I mean he's basically put himself in a position if he was clarifying it, then he's angered everybody. He doesn't get any credit, even for being politically courageous.

(...)
CHUCK TODD: And yet, this is a story that was basically a creation of the conservative blogosphere in many ways. They amplified it nationally. It was a local story happening in New York, and then it got amplified by some conservative opinion leaders, including Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin, and they seemed to allow themselves to be forced to wade in on the debate. So you do have to wonder on what they say about the media and how they react to it sometimes are two different things.

(...)
1:06 p.m.
ANDREA MITCHELL: You are one Republican who has initally supported – even before the President got into this – you were saying it was the right thing to say, and the wrong thing for Republicans to say. Yet fellow Republicans like Newt Gingrich, for instance, said folks who want to build this mosque who are really radical Islamists, who want to triumphally prove they can build a mosque where 3,000 Americans were killed by radical Islamists. Those folks don't have any interest in reaching out to the community. They're trying to make a case about supremacy. He even used the term "Nazi" to describe the analogy of, you know, we don't let Nazis and we don't let the Japanese build in Pearl Harbor. I mean,  he sort of all over the place.

We had Sarah Palin tweeting about the President, and she said that we all know that they have the right to do it, but should they? This is not above your pay grade, Mr. President.

What are Republicans doing in making – they're playing politics with the majority base, which is against the Ground Zero location. But what are they doing long-term?

(...)
1:09 p.m.
ANDREA MITCHELL: And one more question about that hallowed site. There are strip joints and tatoo parlors, and, I mean, this site is within two blocks, or two blocks away from Ground Zero. But aside from Ground Zero, this is New York. This is downtown New York.. There are a lot of less-than-hallowed locations in the retail community there.

ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS 8/17/10
1:46 p.m.
ANDREA MITCHELL: Karen, how did the President manage to get on the wrong side of everyone's position?

You know, as I understand it, I guess he went off-text, so that's never a good thing as we know.

MITCHELL: He was on-text on Friday night.

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014