After promoting the Obama campaign's Bird Bird ad on Tuesday's NBC Today, not to mention it being played repeatedly on MSNBC, in an interview with campaign advisor Robert Gibbs on Wednesday's Today, co-host Matt Lauer wondered: "...is that the kind of political ad that a campaign releases when it feels that it has ideas and solutions on its side, or is that the kind of political ad a campaign releases when it simply wants to get attention?"
Gibbs defended the juvenile ad: "I think the ad and the President have an important point on this. You know, Mitt Romney took to the debate and said, 'I'm going to get tough by ending Downton Abbey and going to war with Sesame Street.'"
At the end of an interview with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Monday's NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer turned to the subject of climate change and fretted: "We've had a crazy week in this – year in this country of extreme weather. Are you seeing around the world the kind of motivation and will that's necessary to, A, admit there's a problem, and then address the problem?" [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Blair replied in part: "This climate issue is real, and we are very irresponsible for future generations if we don't deal with it and we should recover, I think, a sense of urgency about it." Tossing all objectivity aside, Lauer joined in the advocacy: "I hope we will."
During the Today's Professionals segment on Tuesday's NBC Today, chief medical editor Nancy Snyderman applauded New York City schools handing out morning-after contraception pills to teenage girls without parental consent: "Parents aren't going to like to hear this, but teenagers are having sex....People want to be anti-abortion. If you're anti-abortion you should be anti-pregnancy....the reality is it's smart public health." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Co-host Matt Lauer teed up Snyderman: "Let's remember that schools have been offering condoms for years now. Is this the next logical step, Nancy?" Moments after Snyderman praised the "smart" policy, advertising executive Donny Deutsch chimed in: "To me, if this stops unwanted pregnancies, this is a no-brainer, it's a fantastic idea."
On Monday, ABC's Good Morning America and NBC's Today failed to air any full reports on the continuing inquiry into the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and mentioned the issue only in passing. CBS This Morning did devote a full segment to the dispute between the State Department and CNN over their use of a Ambassador Chris Stevens' personal journal, but didn't mention President Obama or Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by name.
Matt Lauer vaguely referenced the "new wave of anti-Americanism" in the Islamic world during an interview of Tony Blair, but it took the former British prime minister to specifically point out the "tragic death of your ambassador" in Libya. During a report on the presidential race, ABC's Jake Tapper did briefly note how the President "described some of the events as bumps in the road. The Romney campaign saying that the death of four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador in Libya, is far worse than a bump in the road."
NBC's Matt Lauer pronounced the previous week a "bad week" for the Romney campaign and cited squishy Republicans to help make his point on Thursday's Today show. Lauer wouldn't even let Romney adviser Ed Gillespie say President Obama had a bad week.
Lauer posed to Gillespie, "by just about every estimate this was a bad week for his [Romney's] campaign. Would you agree?" When Gillespie cited polls showing President Obama's numbers slipping, Lauer tried to flip the negative spotlight back on Romney. [Video below the break. Audio here.]
Early in the 8 a.m. et hour on Tuesday's NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer led a panel discussion on whether the September 11th attacks were staring to be forgotten: "...some people are saying that the attention for this event, these anniversaries, is waning, and that people have moved on. 20 years from now, are our children going to grow up – be in a world where the significance of this event, those attacks, is lost?" [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
A little over thirty minutes later, NBC fulfilled that fear by skipping the moment of silence at 8:46 a.m. et commemorating the first plane hitting the first tower of the World Trade Center, instead airing an interview with Keeping Up With the Kardashians star Kris Jenner. ABC's Good Morning America and CBS This Morning both observed the moment of silence.
If journalists were interested in fairness, there's nothing more basic than giving a similar amount of airtime to each major party convention. An MRC analysis finds that's exactly what CBS and ABC did, giving virtually identical airtime to the Republican and Democratic conventions on their morning and evening news shows.
But NBC skewed in favor of the Democrats, donating 25 percent more coverage to the Democratic National Convention (121 minutes) than they did the previous week's Republican convention (97 minutes). Most of the disparity is accounted for by the Today show, which gave 30 percent more coverage to the Democrats (87 minutes vs. 67 minutes), although the NBC Nightly News also favored the Democrats, albeit by a slighter margin (34 to 30 minutes).
Promoting his fawning profile of President Obama for the October issue of Vanity Fair on Tuesday's NBC Today, contributing editor Michael Lewis described a game of basketball he played with the commander in chief: "...it was actually very revealing...he doesn't let anybody treat him like the president. If you're watching the game, you'd have no idea who – which one is the president...he likes a really challenging environment...it's a relationship among equals." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
The gushing from Lewis was prompted by co-host Matt Lauer wondering: "What did you see about the way he [Obama] handles himself on the court that sheds some light on his personality and how he might handle himself in the job?" Lewis observed: "...he's effective on the court, he's a good basketball player – but he plays a game that seems very risk averse....But then all of a sudden, when there's a risk to take, it's boom. He's got the personality of a sniper."
On Friday's NBC Today, less than two hours before another poor jobs report, co-host Matt Lauer touted a bold economic prediction: "Some of the analysts I've been reading have said that no matter who is president over the next four years, the economy will add about 12 million jobs just because of the cycle it's in." CNBC Mad Money host Jim Cramer agreed with the rosy scenario: "...a lot of pent-up demand in autos and pent-up demand in exports. It's not such a bad moment."
Earlier in the discussion, Cramer predicted that the upcoming jobs numbers would be "a little better than expected" from the projection of 135,000 jobs created in August, with "Maybe 10,000 jobs more than that." At the top of the 9 a.m. hour, fill-in news anchor Tamron Hall delivered the much more disappointing reality: "[The unemployment rate] now stands at 8.1% for the month of August, down .2% from July, but only because more people gave up looking for work. The economy added 96,000 jobs last month."
At the top of Tuesday's NBC Today, co-host Savannah Guthrie teased an upcoming interview with Paul Ryan by slamming the Republican vice presidential candidate: "Paul Ryan joins us to talk about where he thinks the presidential race is headed and criticism that he's played fast and loose with the truth." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Beginning the interview with Ryan minutes later, fellow co-host Matt Lauer parroted Guthrie's attack: "There are some people who are claiming that you played a little fast and loose with the truth on certain key elements. And I'm not just talking about Democratic analysts, I'm talking about some independent fact checkers. Would you concede that while many of the things you said were effective, some were not completely accurate?"
In an interview with Fox News host Bill O'Reilly on Thursday's NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer worried that the Republican National Convention was not appealing to a broad audience: "When you talk about the conservatives and we talk about the gender gap and how important women are...do you think this convention is reaching out to the people who are going to decide this election, independents, moderates and women?" [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Earlier in the show, Lauer hyped the same concern while talking to former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, wondering if Paul Ryan's "staunchly conservative views on topics like abortion" created a "fear" among Republicans that female voters would be turned off.
In an interview with former Florida Governor Jeb Bush on Thursday's NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer used attack lines from deputy Obama campaign manager Stephanie Cutter to question the honesty of Paul Ryan's vice presidential nomination acceptance speech: "[She] said, 'Forty minutes of vitriol and half a dozen previously debunked attacks.' Was it an honest speech or was it just a campaign convention speech?" [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
In a Tuesday 10 a.m. et NBC News special report on President Obama declaring a state of emergency for Gulf Coast states in the path of Hurricane Isaac, Today co-host Matt Lauer gushed: "Politics 101, you've got your opponents in Tampa and Mitt Romney's about to tell Americans why he should be elected president, if you're the president, you go out and act like the president." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Meet the Press host David Gregory agreed: "Yeah, you do your job." As they both anchored the coverage from the Republican National Convention, Gregory observed that Obama's statement "...happens as there's so much anxiety here among the campaign and the party organizers about how to approach this and the optics of a split-screen, storm coming and a big political party." After the President spoke about the impending storm, Gregory added: "Again, it only underscores how difficult it is for a Republican Party to move forward with this convention, with that potential threat."
In an interview with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on Tuesday's NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer was aghast at an off-the-cuff joke by Mitt Romney on Friday: "...he said, 'No one's ever asked to see my birth certificate,' an obvious reference to the birther debate. Is it – he says it was a joke. Is it funny to kind of pay attention to a fringe group and question the very legitimacy of the President of the United States's citizenship?" [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Christie replied: "Yeah, but he hasn't. I mean, he has been the clearest, the most affirmative of all the Republican candidates who are running for this nomination, in saying that he didn't think that was an issue." Lauer ignored the fact that President Obama himself has joked about his birth certificate on more than one occasion and that the Obama campaign actually raised money off the issue, selling mugs and t-shirts mocking the conspiracy theory.
In what co-host Matt Lauer billed as a campaign ad "reality check" on Tuesday's NBC Today, a Romney ad criticizing the Obama administration for gutting Welfare reform was dismissed as ineffective, "too complicated" and "Pants on Fire" false. Meanwhile, an Obama ad slamming Romney over taxes was praised for making Romney look like a cross between wealthy Simpson's villain "Mr. Burns" and an "evil" version of Mad Men's Don Draper. [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Much of the commentary came from ad critic and MediaPost.com editor-at-large Barbara Lippert. She quickly rejected the Romney ad: "I don't think it's effective because it's such a battle of images....It's too complicated. You have to turn it around in your mind." Then she enthusiastically gushed over the Obama ad and threw in her own nasty jabs at Romney:
Teeing up Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz to bash Paul Ryan on Wednesday's NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer lobbed this softball: "Do you think that Paul Ryan's addition to this ticket is the best thing that could happen to President Obama's chances for re-election?" [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Lauer used an article from The Washington Post's Dan Balz to set up the question and tout Democratic bravado on Ryan's selection as Mitt Romney's running mate: "He said quote, 'There was no one on Romney's short list of contenders that they,' meaning the Obama campaign, 'wanted to run against more than the chairman of the House Budget Committee Paul Ryan.' Do you agree with that assessment?"
In an interview with former House speaker Newt Gingrich on Tuesday's NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer worried about vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan's commitment to conservative principles: "I've heard Paul Ryan described as a true conservative....Do you honestly think he is someone who will work and reach across the aisle to Democrats or will he be an immovable object on key social issues and issues of ideology?"
On Monday's NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer actually used the President's own past statements about Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan to grill deputy Obama campaign manager Stephanie Cutter: "President Obama said this of Paul Ryan, that he was 'absolutely sincere about wanting to reduce the deficit'...gave him 'credit for at least being willing to put out there some very tough choices.' Does he still feel that way?" [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Cutter attempted to rely on the usual Democratic fearmongering, accusing Ryan of a plan "that balances the budget on the backs of the middle class." Lauer called her out for that tactic, again citing Obama's own words: "...he said this, quote, 'We're not going to be able to do anything about these entitlements if what we do characterize whatever proposal's are put out there as well, you know, that's the other party being irresponsible...the other party trying to hurt our senior citizens.' Which sounds exactly what – like what you just said."
Hoping to define vice presidential pick Paul Ryan early with liberal talking points, on Monday's NBC Today, correspondent Peter Alexander painted the Wisconsin congressman as "the architect of a politically polarizing budget plan to slash trillions in federal funding, including cuts to Medicare..." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Alexander began his report by offering this description of Ryan: "To Republicans, Ryan is viewed as a conservative, a courageous and visionary conservative. To Democrats, his views are seen as extreme." At the top of the show, co-host Matt Lauer only saw problems for Republicans and advantages for Democrats with the Ryan pick: "Will Ryan's budget plan hurt the ticket? And how is President Obama using the choice to his own advantage?"
In an unaired portion of an interview with British Prime Minister David Cameron meant to be featured on Friday's NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer pressed Cameron to compare the London Olympics with the winter games run by Mitt Romney: "Do you think that Mitt Romney, the challenges he faced in 2002 in Salt Lake City, compared at all to what you faced here in London?" [View video after the jump]
After pushing Cameron to criticize Romney, moments later, Lauer went after Britain's head of Parliament for daring to modestly cut back on the nation's massive government spending: "You put in place some very difficult austerity measures that were controversial, hard for a lot of people to swallow. And yet, in the last quarter, your economy shrunk. So, was austerity the right path to take at that particular time, facing this very stubborn recession?"
In an interview with actor Kevin Spacey on Wednesday's NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer quoted the liberal star's description of his new role in a political drama, playing "a wily murderous politician worming his way to the White House." Spacey quipped in response: "Kind of like this year, isn't it?" Immediately picking up on the reference to Mitt Romney, Lauer chuckled and replied: "No, no, no. Get yourself in trouble, not me." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Managing to squeeze politics into the opening ceremony of the Olympics on Friday, NBC hosts Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira cheered a tribute to Britain's government-run National Health Service, with Lauer declaring: "Back in the states...we're locked in this kind of partisan debate over the future of health care in our own country. Here, they feel so strongly about their health care system, they're actually celebrating it as part of the Olympic opening ceremony." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
In a live interview with Mitt and Ann Romney on Friday's NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer fretted over the "very negative" presidential race and wondered: "Are you proud of the campaign you're running so far? Is this the campaign you'd like to run?"
Romney responded: "I'm very proud of the fact that my campaign is focused on the economy. It's focused on my vision for what I do to get more jobs for America. And about the President's-" Lauer interrupted: "And what President Obama has done wrong with the economy." Lauer pressed: "Do you think your campaign has been less negative than the Obama campaign?"
In an interview with singer Elton John on Tuesday's NBC Today that focused on the performer's AIDS awareness activism, co-host Matt Lauer teed him up to rate recent presidents on combating the disease: "Elton champions those he feels made a positive impact on the AIDS epidemic, but he also takes to task those he believes caused harm. And he doesn't hold back." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Lauer declared: "Let's play a little game of political word association. Give me the brief answer to each of the names that I'm going to throw out, just your first reaction. Ronald Reagan." John sniffed: "Overrated." Lauer continued: "Bill Clinton." John gushed: "Fantastic. Made some big mistakes but, God, he's a fantastic man."
In an otherwise tough interview with Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter on Tuesday's NBC Today about the negative tone of the President's re-election bid, co-host Matt Lauer failed to challenge her on the nastiest attack hurled by Democrats so far, Cutter's own charge that Mitt Romney may have committed a felony.
Lauer repeatedly grilled Cutter on President Obama abandoning the rhetoric of hope and change from the 2008 campaign: "If you think about what your candidate is out there on the campaign trail saying and compare it to what he was saying as a candidate four years ago....are you proud of the message he's out there delivering?...would you say the President has run an exceedingly positive or exceedingly negative campaign?" However, the obvious question about Cutter leading that "exceedingly negative campaign" never came.
The very early returns are in for Savannah Guthrie's debut as the new co-anchor at NBC's Today show and so far they're not great. According to TV Newser's Chris Ariens, ABC's Good Morning America beat its morning show competitor in the ratings on Guthrie's first day in the co-anchor chair. Ariens reported that GMA won Monday morning's showdown among both total viewers and younger viewers:
On Friday's NBC Today co-host Matt Lauer didn't just lob a softball to Obama campaign advisor David Axelrod about Attorney General Eric Holder being held in contempt of Congress, he placed the ball on a tee and helped Axelrod swing the bat: "Paraphrasing here, Mr. Holder said the American people deserve better. What is the President's reaction to the actions in Congress?"
Axelrod happily spewed White House talking points on the Thursday vote that held Holder in contempt for failing to release documents regarding the Fast and Furious gun-walking scandal: "I think it was an embarrassment to the Congress....They're getting their questions answered, they wanted the confrontation, they wanted the political theater. They ought to be getting to work on the problems that are significant to the American people."
Trying to do some cheerleading for President Obama on Friday, NBC's Today touted the First Daughters as a major boon to his reelection, as co-host Matt Lauer proclaimed: "...with the election just about five months away, Malia and Sasha are stepping forward a little bit. So are they a good way to connect with voters?...are they his secret weapon in the upcoming campaign?"
Introducing the pro-Obama fluff as legitimate news, co-host Ann Curry talked about the President as if he were a summer action flick: "Like most parents, President Obama loves talking about his kids. But during an election year, those stories might also just help him out at the box office."
Appearing on Friday's NBC Today, Meet the Press host David Gregory advised the Obama campaign on how defeat Mitt Romney: "What the President's got to do is say, 'Hey, don't forget about George W. Bush. Things got really, really bad under him.'" [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Co-host Matt Lauer was skeptical: "I hear him saying that all the time....do you think that strategy works, the blame Bush strategy, or do people want you to take ownership of this economy at this stage?" Gregory was undeterred: "...they've got to prevail in providing context. Saying, 'Look, it's not about blaming the previous president, it's that the hill was so high to climb. And we're making some progress but the hole is still so deep.'"
ABC and NBC on Friday both excitedly touted Barack Obama's "star-studded" celebrity fund-raisers in New York City, gushing over the "Prez in the City." Neither network wondered if $40,000 per plate dinners with millionaire celebrities might make the President seem out of touch, a charge often leveled at Republican Mitt Romney.
On Good Morning America, reporter Jon Karl enthused, "Call it Prez in the City, a star-studded, big city Obama fund-raiser at the Manhattan home of Sex and the City star Sarah Jessica Parker." "The A-list evening didn't end there," Karl added, highlighting Obama's follow-up party with Mariah Carey at the Plaza hotel.