NBC's Savannah Guthrie: Stenographer to the President Fighting 'Petty Politics'

On the first evening newscasts after President Obama’s State of the Union address, NBC’s Savannah Guthrie won hands down if there were an award for stenography to White House power. Guthrie loaded up with five Obama soundbites and one from Nancy Pelosi, leaving Republicans at the end with with one soundbite from House Minority Leader John Boehner.

On ABC, Jake Tapper offered two Obama bites and four of Republicans: two applauding Obama’s bipartisan tilt (Eric Cantor, Lindsey Graham) and two expressing skepticism (John Boehner, Jon Kyl).

CBS had two reports with a total four Democrat soundbites (three Obama, one Richard Durbin) and five Republican soundbites (two from Mike Pence, two from Cantor, one from Boehner).

Guthrie's 6-to-1 tilt stood out. It was made slightly worse when John Yang’s subsequent report offered a seventh presidential soundbite, followed by two from a very encouraged small businessman.

The transcript itself shows that Guthrie selected soundbites that let Obama sound bold notes against gridlock and set him up to decry "petty politics," as if he’s never engaged in any:

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: The president is following what's become presidential tradition, taking his State of the Union message on the road. His trip to Tampa today, to promote high-speed rail projects, the first of three trips in the next week, the president looking to reconnect with the people. The president in Tampa today:

BARACK OBAMA: Good to be back in the Sunshine State.

GUTHRIE: Getting out of Washington to campaign against Washington

OBAMA: I don't want gridlock on issue after issue after issue when there's so many urgent problems to solve.

Speaker NANCY PELOSI: The president of the United States.

GUTHRIE: Continuing where he left off Wednesday night.

OBAMA: Despite our hardships, our union is strong. We do not give up. We do not quit.

GUTHRIE: The president's 70-minute State of the Union address laid out jobs as his job one, pushing a package of small business tax breaks and chiding Republicans for sitting on their hands.

OBAMA: I thought I'd get some applause on that one.

GUTHRIE: The president spent less time on his signature issue, health care reform, but made an impassioned plea to fellow Democrats to get it done.

OBAMA: I will not walk away from these Americans, and neither should the people in this chamber.

GUTHRIE: Today some Democrats criticized the president for not laying out a specific legislative strategy to get health care passed, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said it will happen one way or the other.

PELOSI: If the fence is too high, we'll pole vault in. If that doesn't work, we'll parachute in, but we're going to get health care reform passed.

GUTHRIE: Down in the polls and battered by a year-long health care effort that has yet to deliver, the president vented against petty politics.

OBAMA: What frustrates the American people is a Washington where every day is Election Day.

GUTHRIE: Today Republicans were skeptical.

Rep. JOHN BOEHNER (House Minority Leader): We're going to look for a common ground, but we're not going to roll over on our principles. We're not going to vote for things that we believe will hurt our country.

GUTHRIE: Well, tomorrow the president, the administration, hoping to get some good economic news. The GDP numbers will be out, and they are hoping here for some good economic growth.

NBC Nightly News was the only one of the three network evening news shows not to single out the whisper of Supreme Court justice Samuel Alito suggesting the president’s attack on the recent court decision on campaign speech was "simply not true." Both ABC’s Terry Moran and CBS’s Jan Crawford Greenburg noted Obama’s remarks were quite rare for a State of the Union speech, and neither explicitly criticized Justice Alito.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis