NPR's Media Reporter Falsely Claims Vieira 'Passively' Dealt With Trump's Birtherism
On Wednesday's All Things Considered, NPR's David Folkenflik erroneously claimed that NBC's Meredith Vieira "notably failed to contradict Donald Trump or others casting doubt on where Mr. Obama was born. Vieira...acknowledged those remarks passively." In reality, the Today show challenged the billionaire about the birth certificate issue, twice asking, "Do you believe he's [Obama's] lying?" [audio clips available here]
The media correspondent began his report by noting how "there comes a moment in almost every American presidency when the commander-in-chief turns media-critic-in-chief." After playing two clips from President Obama's press conference earlier in the day regarding the release of his birth certificate, he continued, "Mr. Obama said that for too long, the nation has been distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers. Notice, however, the President's words didn't criticize the carnival barker. He criticized those who get distracted, like the press corps sitting in front of him."
[View video clips from Vieira's April 7, 2011 interview of Trump below]
Folkenflik then singled out Vieira, along with ABC's Christiane Amanpour, for their supposed timidity in pressing the most prominent birthers in interviews:
FOLKENFLIK: Some television interviews recently- and there have been a bunch- notably failed to contradict Donald Trump or others casting doubt on where Mr. Obama was born. NBC's Meredith Vieira and ABC's Christiane Amanpour acknowledged those remarks passively. Amanpour did not challenge the Reverend Franklin Graham when he said this-
REVEREND FRANKLIN GRAHAM (from ABC's "This Week"): The President, I know, has some issues to deal with here. He can solve this whole birth certificate issue pretty quickly. I don't know why he can't produce that.
Notice that the NPR reporter didn't support his claim by playing sound bites from specifically from Vieira or Amanpour. In the case of the NBC host's interview of Trump, it is abundantly clear that transcript doesn't support Folkenflik's assertion:
MEREDITH VIEIRA: Recently, you spent a lot of time talking about President Obama's birth certificate, or lack thereof. You don't seem convinced that he has one.
DONALD TRUMP: No, I'm not convinced that he has one. I've had very smart people say, 'Donald, stay on the China issue, stay on the Saudi Arabia issue, stay on the India taking our jobs and the Mexico, which is NAFTA, which cleaned out New England.'
VIEIRA: Get off the birth certificate issue.
TRUMP: Get off the birth certificate issue.
VIEIRA: Why don't you?
TRUMP: Because you know what? Three weeks ago, when I started, I thought he was probably born in this country, and now, I really have a much bigger doubt than I did before.
VIEIRA: But based on what?
TRUMP: And you know what? His grandmother in Kenya said he was born in Kenya and she was there and witnessed the birth, okay? He doesn't have a birth certificate or he hasn't shown it. He has what's called certificate of live birth. That is something that's easy to get. When you want a birth certificate it's very hard to get.
VIEIRA: But it's considered.-
TRUMP: Excuse me, excuse me.
VIEIRA: The equivalent and in-
TRUMP: It's not the equivalent.
VIEIRA: No, wait, in the state of Hawaii, they said they have seen this document-
TRUMP: Meredith, it's not the equivalent.
VIEIRA: It is evidence that he was born in the United States. That's good enough for them. Scholars have looked at-
TRUMP: A birth certificate is not even close. A certificate of live birth is not even signed by anybody. I saw his. I read it very carefully. It doesn't have a serial number. It doesn't have a signature. There's not even a signature-
VIEIRA: Do you believe he's lying?
TRUMP: And I'm starting to think that he was not born here.
VIEIRA: Do you believe he's lying?
TRUMP: He spent - listen, Meredith-
VIEIRA: Donald, come on, just answer.
TRUMP: Meredith, he spent $2 million in legal fees trying on to get away from this issue, and if he weren't lying, why wouldn't he just solve it? And I wish he would because if he doesn't it's one of the greatest scams in the history of politics and in the history, period. You are not allowed to be a president if you're not born in this country. He may not have been born in this country, and I'll tell you what: three weeks ago, I thought he was born in this country. Right now, I have some real doubts. I have people that actually have been studying it, and they cannot believe what they're finding.
If this is Vieira "passively" dealing with Trump's birther claims, one wonders what it would take to put it on the "active" part of the spectrum, according to Folkenflik's standards.
Later in his report, the NPR reporter did at least acknowledge that the President made a false claim of his own during that Wednesday press conference:
FOLKENFLIK: Today, President Obama said that during the budget battle two weeks ago-
OBAMA: The dominant news story wasn't about these huge monumental choices that we're going to have to make as a nation. It was about my birth certificate.
FOLKENFLIK: Now, that would appear to be a flat-out exaggeration.