CNN Explains Obama Gaffe but Rips Romney's '47 Percent' Comment

President Obama basically admitted failure when he said that Washington cannot be changed "from the inside," but CNN tried to explain his gaffe on Friday's Early Start while later dumping on Mitt Romney's "47 percent" remarks.

CNN's John Berman insisted "I know what he [Obama] is trying to say there" and political director Mark Preston argued that "What President Obama said was correct." In contrast, Berman later swung at Romney by saying "I think the 47 percent is more than just another gaffe or misspeak."

"What President Obama said was correct: The only way that you can change Washington is to try to elect people to come to Washington to make that change," argued Preston. Both Berman and Preston admitted that Obama's comment was not smart politically, but still offered explanations for it.

CNN then flipped the tables on Romney and his counter-attack. "But you've got to be careful if you're going to be critical because you might have said something like that in the past," warned Preston who then aired a similar 2007 quote by Romney.

"Meanwhile, Mitt Romney has also been taking quite a beating from conservatives all week for things he's said," reported Berman, tossing in the same criticisms from conservatives the media has re-heated and re-aired.  

"All gaffes are not created equal," Berman said later during Starting Point. "The 47 percent, for his [Romney's] critics, speaks to what they feel may be his inner beliefs, the character of Mitt Romney, which is why it may have more legs than saying something silly or making a $10,000 bet during a debate."

A transcript of the segment, which aired on Early Start on September 21 at 6:29 p.m. EDT, is as follows:

[6:29]

JOHN BERMAN: So President Obama says his biggest failure so far has been his inability to push through immigration reform during his first term in office. And he took full responsibility for that failure at a Univision forum yesterday, telling Latino voters he got sidetracked by the economy. But it's this comment the President made that has the opposition pouncing.

(Video Clip)

President BARACK OBAMA: I've learned some lessons over the last four years, and the most important lesson I've learned is that you can't change Washington from the inside. You can only change it from the outside. That's how I got elected and that's how the big accomplishments like health care got done, was because we mobilized the American people to speak out.

(End Video Clip)

BERMAN: Now, I know what he's trying to say there. Joined by CNN political director Mark Preston live from Washington. Mark, I think we know what the President was trying to say there, but when we heard it, "You can't change Washington from the inside, only the outside," to me it felt like a hanging curveball over the plate.

MARK PRESTON, CNN political director: It was, John. And you know, you're absolutely right. What President Obama said was correct: The only way that you can change Washington is to try to elect people to come to Washington to make that change. We saw that with the Tea Party. But politically, not a very smart thing to do, especially as we head into the home stretch, John. And Mitt Romney's campaign is really trying to run with it. In fact, the governor, when he heard this yesterday, jumped right on it. Let's hear what he had to say.

(Video Clip)

MITT ROMNEY, Republican presidential candidate: The President today threw in the white flag of surrender again. He said he can't change Washington from inside. He can only change it from outside. Well, we're going to give him that chance in November. He's going outside!

(End Video Clip)

PRESTON: You know, John, this is all about words and phrases, especially as we head into Election Day. But you've got to be careful if you're going to be critical because you might have said something like that in the past. In fact, let's take a look at this quote that Mitt Romney said back in 2007 when he was running for the Republican presidential nomination. He's speaking about John McCain right here. Let me quickly read it.

"So he certainly has political skill, but I believe that at this time, to change Washington, it would be helpful to have somebody who comes with more private sector skill, experience from outside Washington... I don't think you can change Washington from the inside. I think you change it from the outside." John, so you've got to be very careful if you're going to be critical. But of course the campaign, both of them, will try to seize on every opportunity they can.

BERMAN: Yeah, no question about that. But as you said, Mitt Romney has said the same things himself in the context of it, not so bad for the President. However, sometimes the context of this is you're running for President, be careful what you say.

Meanwhile, Mitt Romney has also been taking quite a beating from conservatives all week for things he's said. Peggy Noonan writing again in The Wall Street Journal. This time she says this: "The Romney campaign has to get turned around. This week I called it incompetent, but only because I was being polite. I really meant 'rolling calamity'."

Now, Mark, I think these creeds, screeds, from analysts is one thing, but I think what has the Romney campaign really nervous is the candidates, the other candidates out there running in this country right now.

(...)

[8:35]

BERMAN: I think the "47 percent" is more than just another gaffe or misspeak. The "47 percent," for his critics, speaks to what they feel may be his inner beliefs, the character of Mitt Romney, which is why it may have more legs than saying something silly or making a $10,000 bet during a debate. All gaffes are not created equal, and that one I think, again, may speak more to his character (Inaudible).

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