NBC Touts ‘Civility’ at GOP Debate Then Calls for More Attacks

Friday’s NBC Today began by condescendingly congratulating Republicans on having a “civil” debate Thursday night that “finally” covered “substantive” issues. However, only minutes later, the same broadcast called on the candidates to attack each other more.  

At the top of the show, co-host Matt Lauer announced: “Playing nice...The Republican presidential hopefuls abandon nasty insults and stick to the issues at last night's debate.” Moments later, he noted how the “surprising display of civility” at the event was a “striking turnaround from their 11 previous clashes.”

Correspondent Peter Alexander lectured: “It was a much kinder, gentler GOP on display here last night....Instead of insults, finally a substantive battle over immigration, trade, and foreign policy.”

Despite Lauer and Alexander applauding the shift in tone, Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd followed by predicting doom for the contenders who didn’t go on the attack: “I was stunned because this race – Donald Trump is four days away from putting this race away, and to see Cruz and Rubio just sort of take a pass....while I understand they didn't want to go in the gutter, they sort of – they may have overcorrected here.”

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The morning after the contentious March 3 Republican debate, NBC joined CBS and ABC in condemning it as “vulgar” and “childish.” The network also denounced candidates for taking the “low road” in the February 25 debate before that.

That scolding only came after they had repeatedly demanded the GOP candidates go after one another.

ABC’s Good Morning America demonstrated similar schizophrenic behavior on Friday. Co-host George Stephanopoulos suggested Marco Rubio wasn’t trying hard enough to defeat Donald Trump, even though the show previously accused the Florida Senator of getting “ugly” for hitting Trump in earlier debates.

If Republicans go on the attack, they’re taking the “low road,” but if they are civil, they’re taking a “pass.” Either way, they can never win in the eyes of the media.

Here are portions of the March 11 coverage on Today:

7:00 AM ET TEASE:

MATT LAUER: Playing nice.

DONALD TRUMP: I cannot believe how civil it's been up here.

LAUER: The Republican presidential hopefuls abandon nasty insults and stick to the issues at last night's debate.

7:02 AM ET SEGMENT:

MATT LAUER: Let's start this morning, this Friday morning, with the presidential race and a surprising display of civility at the Republican's final debate before next Tuesday's high stakes primaries. It was a striking turnaround from their 11 previous clashes. We have complete coverage, including a new controversy for Donald Trump. Let’s start with NBC national correspondent Peter Alexander. Hi, Peter, good morning.

PETER ALEXANDER: Hey, Matt and Tamron, good morning to you. It was a much kinder, gentler GOP on display here last night. It may also have been the last opportunity for both Marco Rubio and John Kasich. Big weeks ahead in their home states. No more mud slinging, no “Little Marco” or “Lying Ted.” In fact, Donald Trump himself described the night as “elegant.”

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: A Kinder Gentler GOP Debate; Final Four Candidates Talk Issues Without Insults]

For the Republicans, turns out the 12th time’s the charm.

DONALD TRUMP: So far I cannot believe how civil it's been up here.

ALEXANDER: Instead of insults, finally a substantive battle over immigration, trade, and foreign policy.

(...)

7:08 AM ET

MATT LAUER: A week or so ago, you had a Republican debate that looked like wrestle mania. Last night it looked more like Woodstock. What happened and who benefitted most from the civil tone?

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: A Kinder Gentler GOP Debate; Final Four Candidates Talk Issues Without Insults]

CHUCK TODD: Well, what happened? What happened was if you just looked at our polling and everybody else's polling in that week, Marco Rubio's personal ratings took a nosedive. Ted Cruz saw his ratings go down. Even Donald Trump got hurt by this. So individually – and the only guy that benefitted in the last week had been John Kasich.  So individually, I understood why Marco Rubio laid off. Why Ted Cruz laid off. Obviously, this has worked for Kasich. But, Matt, I have to say, I was stunned because this race – Donald Trump is four days away from putting this race away, and to see Cruz and Rubio just sort of take a pass – again, I get what Kasich is doing. It's been working for him. But the other two, while I understand they didn't want to go in the gutter, they sort of – they may have overcorrected here.

LAUER: Rubio, they say this is his last stand before Florida's primary. Did he do anything, in your opinion, that would help turn his fortunes around?

TODD: I don't know if any – look, I question whether any of these debates are going to have any impact on Trump. It's not about him, I think Marco Rubio did fine. It was whether – did anything happen with Trump where he would start to come down? You know, that's what Rubio’s got to do. He has a lot of ground to make up. It's not just him getting to 35, he’s got to bring Trump down. And that's what I didn't see last night. I didn't see anything that Trump did that made him come back to the pack.

(...)

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