Network Morning Shows Ignore Obama's No Nukes Comment

On Friday, the network morning shows downplayed or ignored 2008 Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s muddled comment that nuclear weapons shouldn’t be used in "any circumstances" in Afghanistan or Pakistan. On CBS, the "Early Show" didn’t cover the story at all. During the three hour broadcast of the "Today" show, NBC found time for only one brief anchor read.

ABC’s "Good Morning America" provided the most coverage, but that simply amounted to a solitary anchor brief and then a quick, defensive summery of Obama’s statement by "This Week" host George Stephanopoulos:

George Stephanopoulos: "...Barack Obama, appearing to rule out the use of nuclear weapons in going after al Qaeda or the Taliban in Pakistan....What he's drawing fire for though is talking about it. A lot of nuclear strategists say you should never talk about how or when you're going to use nuclear weapons. The Barack Obama people though say they make no apologies. They're not going to back down at all and that they’re saying, uh, the correct policy that people need to hear."

Of the three networks, only NBC’s "Today" show actually quoted Obama’s confusing, somewhat contradictory statement, given in an interview to the AP:

Ann Curry: "Obama was asked if he would ever use nuclear weapons against terror targets in Afghanistan or Pakistan. He said, quoting here, ‘I think it would be a profound mistake for us to use nuclear weapons in any circumstances.’ Then after a pause he added, ‘against civilians.’And then said, ‘Let me scratch that. There's been no discussion of nuclear weapons. That's not on the table.’"

GMA anchor Kate Snow simply summarized Obama’s assertion, leaving out the embarrasing "Let me scratch that" comment.

In contrast, several print outlets slammed Obama’s odd statements. The New York Daily News observed:

Yesterday, Obama was less than surefooted when asked if he could ever see going nuclear in that region to defeat terrorism. He replied: "I think it would be a profound mistake for us to use nuclear weapons in any circumstance." And then he said: "Involving civilians." And then he said: "That's not a hypothetical that I'm going to discuss." He'll need a minute to work it out.

In an editorial on Friday, the New York Post brought another point that apparently escaped the networks:

Substantively, it's a little bizarre that Obama doesn't know (or maybe doesn't care) that a first-strike option has been a part of U.S. strategic policy pretty much since the bomb was invented during World War II.

Weirder still is that a would-be commander-in-chief is willing publicly to repudiate a military option even before taking office.

But that's Obama for you.

A round-up of the networks August 3 morning coverage can be found below:

GMA

7:15am

Kate Snow: "The war of words between presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton has taken a new turn. Clinton is now criticizing Obama for ruling out the use of nuclear weapons to fight terrorism in Pakistan or Afghanistan. Obama said he believes using nuclear weapons on civilians would be a profound mistake. Clinton called those statements ‘careless’ and ‘unpresidential.’"

7:45am

Sawyer: "Talking about the non use of nuclear weapons, taking some fire for that. Is this serious? Is this going to continue?"

Stephanopoulos: "Well, he is just driving this foreign policy debate for good or ill right now, Barack Obama, appearing to rule out the use of nuclear weapons in going after al Qaeda or the Taliban in Pakistan. Now, realistically, I don't think any of the candidates or any president would use nuclear weapons in that situation. What he's drawing fire for though is talking about it. A lot of nuclear strategists say you should never talk about how or when you're going to use nuclear weapons. The Barack Obama people though say they make no apologies. They're not going to back down at all and that they’re saying, the correct policy that people need to hear."

Today

7am tease

Meredith Vieira: "Nuclear fall out. Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama stumbles over a question on whether he’d use nuclear weapons and rival Democrats are already pouncing."

7:19am

Ann Curry: "And we begin with the dust-up, a new dust-up, that Meredith was talking about, between Senator Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton over comments he made Thursday about nuclear weapons. Obama was asked if he would ever use nuclear weapons against terror targets in Afghanistan or Pakistan. He said, quoting here, ‘I think it would be a profound mistake for us to use nuclear weapons in any circumstances.’ Then after a pause he added, ‘against civilians.’And then said, ‘Let me scratch that. There's been no discussion of nuclear weapons. That's not on the table.’ His remarks drew harsh criticism from Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, who said presidents since the cold war have used nuclear deterrence to keep the peace. She said presidents should not make blanket statements about using or not using them."

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org