On February 1, 2003, seven astronauts on board Space Shuttle Columbia died during re-entry as they returned to Earth from the STS-107 mission. Friday was the 10th anniversary of the disaster, but none of the Big Three networks morning newscasts marked this somber occasion.
ABC's Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, and NBC's Today understandably devoted considerable broadcast time to the upcoming Super Bowl on Sunday. However, this coverage contained segments to frivolous, celebrity-driven stories that could have been whittled down to air even a mere brief on the anniversary of the tragedy. Here are examples from each morning show:
After initially hitting Al Gore from the left for global warming "hypocrisy" during an interview on Tuesday's NBC Today, in the second part of that interview later on the broadcast, co-host Matt Lauer praised the former Vice President for having "never shied away from the very tough issues" and wondered: "After years of calling people's attention to this issue, and now we've seen Superstorm Sandy and tornadoes and drought and extreme temperatures, do you feel vindicated?" [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Gore somberly replied: "Well, I wish that I had been wrong. And I wish that the scientists whose message I was carrying had been wrong. It's not about me. It's about us and what we do to safeguard our future." In the first part of the interview, Gore eagerly used such disasters to promote the cause: "Today is the three-month anniversary of Superstorm Sandy....These storms, it's like a nature hike through the Book of Revelation on the news every day now."
In an interview with former Vice President Al Gore on Tuesday's Today, co-host Matt Lauer fretted over the "hypocrisy" of the global warming crusader selling his news channel Current TV to the oil-funded Al Jazeera network. However, Lauer completely ignored the Arab news organization's history of anti-Americanism and promotion of Islamic fundamentalism. [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
When Lauer questioned Gore about selling Current to Al Jazeera for $500 million, Gore declared: "I'm very pleased that Al Jazeera has established itself as a really respected news-gathering network." Rather than challenge that assertion, the only criticism of the network Lauer could think of was this: "But if they get funding from a country that has – that bases its wealth on fossil fuels, and fossil fuels are the enemy you target in climate change, isn't there a bit of hypocrisy in that?"
At the top of Wednesday's NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer hyperventilated over a newly released ad from the National Rifle Association pointing out the hypocrisy of President Obama on gun control: "Getting personal. The National Rifle Association out with a powerful new ad this morning, bringing the President's family into the gun debate." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
The ad in question simply noted that Obama's daughters were protected in school by armed guards while the President was pushing for gun restrictions. Introducing a report on the ad, co-host Savannah Guthrie proclaimed that it "gets very personal." Chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd followed: "...the NRA is signaling it intends to fight the President, and it's using this new web video that hits close to home, targeting his daughters."
On Tuesday's NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer eagerly touted special correspondent Chelsea Clinton being a part of the festivities leading up to President Obama's inauguration: "She's going to talk about an important role that she is playing in President Obama's second inaugural, something I know she would like you to get involved in." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Before talking to Clinton about the upcoming event, Lauer explained: "President Obama will kick off his inauguration weekend on Saturday with a National Day of Service....the Obamas and Bidens will attend a service fair on the National Mall....NBC's special correspondent Chelsea Clinton is the honorary chair of that event."
On Friday's CBS This Morning, Bill Plante refreshingly spotlighted how firearms are used to protect the lives of ordinary Americans. Plante noted how the National Rifle Association "Tweeted a story...about Melinda Herman, a Georgia woman who shot an intruder in self-defense as she waited with her two children in a closet....She fired at the man multiple times with a .38 caliber handgun."
The two other Big Three morning shows failed to mention this story during their coverage of the current gun control debate. ABC's GMA actually minimized the air time they devoted to the issue. News anchor Dan Harris gave just one news brief to the next meeting of Vice President Joe Biden's gun violence task force:
In an interview with National Rifle Association president David Keene on Friday's NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer wondered: "Do you have the support in Congress to block any federal ban on assault weapons in the coming year?...How close do you think Congress can get on that?" He then speculated: "People talk about the power of the NRA. They look at it almost, you know, in monumental terms. Do you think in the wake of these shootings that power has been eroded at all, Mr. Keene?" [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Keene rejected the framing of Lauer's question and explained: "Americans who believe strongly in the Second Amendment, and their right to own privately and use firearms for legitimate purposes, is a huge number of people who really care about these issues....it's not the power of the NRA, Matt. What it is, is the strength of belief among millions of Americans in their right under the Constitution to privately own firearms."
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie appeared on all three network morning shows on Wednesday and was greeted in each interview by the host seizing on his harsh words for congressional Republicans over a delayed vote on Hurricane Sandy relief. [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
On NBC's Today, co-host Matt Lauer proclaimed: "You're not happy, it seems, with the course of the Republican Party right now. You blasted some Republicans in Congress last week after their inaction over Hurricane Sandy. You said they showed 'callous indifference, selfishness, duplicity,' they were, 'practicing toxic politics.' Strong letter to follow. Those aren't the words of a guy who's happy with his party."
During a panel discussion on Tuesday's NBC Today, chief medical editor Nancy Snyderman voiced her support for a New York newspaper, The Journal News, publishing a list of addresses of local gun owners: "You have these sort of blind assumptions that when your child goes over to play with another kid, he or she is going to be safe. And I think that has been now negated. So I have no problem....we're not outing child molesters, this is a legal transaction, it's a public transaction." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Snyderman's declaration was prompted by fellow panelist, advertising executive Donny Deutsch, also standing by the paper's controversial action: "I think it's a great idea, I'll tell you why. I've got two little girls at home and I would like to know if they're going on a play date in a house where there's a gun....when you have a gun, you are setting yourself up as somebody different. It's your choice..."
In an interview with retired General Stanley McChrystal on Monday's NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer grilled the former Afghanistan commander on his resignation following criticism of President Obama in a 2010 Rolling Stone article: "There were several demeaning quotes attributed to your staff members, even to you, about the President and about key members of his staff....Was he [Obama] furious about what had come out in that Rolling Stone magazine? Did he express displeasure with you?"
While McChrystal was supposedly on to promote his memoir, My Share of the Task, Lauer spent nearly the entire exchange harping on the two-year-old personal drama between the General and Obama: "Did you distrust the people at the White House? Did you distrust key members of the Obama administration when it came to their policy in dealing with Afghanistan?...Did you distrust the President and key members of the administration in terms of their handling of the war in Afghanistan?"
At the top of Thursday's NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer teased an upcoming interview with New York Congressman Peter King by seizing on House GOP disagreement over when to schedule a vote on a Hurricane Sandy relief bill: "...fresh off the fiscal cliff fight, the Republican Party appears in the throes of a civil war. This morning, we'll talk to an outspoken GOP congressman who urged voters in his district not contribute to Republican campaigns." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
In the exchange that followed, Lauer eagerly quoted King: "You said that Speaker Boehner had a, quote, 'Dismissive and cavalier attitude toward New York and New Jersey.' And you went further, you said, 'Republicans have no trouble finding New York when it comes to raising money. And I would just say to anyone from New York or New Jersey who contributes one penny to Congressional Republicans after this should have their head examined.'"
After worrying on Tuesday's NBC Nightly News about possible House GOP "shenanigans" preventing a fiscal cliff deal, on Monday's Today, chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd breathed a sign of relief: "...this 112th Congress does leave us today, and some people say finally leaves us today....it began with a threat of a government shutdown just two months into this congress. And then, of course, we had the debt ceiling showdown. Then it culminated with this fiscal cliff..." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Picking up on Todd's rant against Congress, co-host Matt Lauer eagerly quoted New York Times columnist David Brooks: "If Congress couldn't make a single tough decision under these circumstances, why should we think it'll make any further down the road? More likely, there will just be more squabbling and brinkmanship, more posturing and punting, which could not only poison future budget talks, but also prospects for immigration reform, tax reform, gun control and many other projects."
Neither Todd nor Lauer laid any blame on President Obama for the contentious atmosphere in Washington.
If today's gun control debate seems a bit stale to you, you're not wrong. Twelve years ago, MRC's Geoffrey Dickens wrote a Special Report on network coverage of gun controversies over a two-year period from July 1997 to June 1999.
ABC, CBS, and NBC harped on several major themes in their coverage of gun policy stories. The arguments most commonly advanced by the network stars had one thought in common: guns are the problem. Check out just how similar yesterday's complaints were to today's:
Following a report on Thursday's NBC Today in which political director Chuck Todd touted a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, co-host Matt Lauer tried to spin one finding: "...only 53% say they're optimistic about a second term for Obama and 47% say they are pessimistic. Is this really more pessimism about Washington in general?"
Todd accepted the characterization: "It is. You know, you see it in the poll....this is a much less naive public, maybe let's put it that way, after they've watched all of this in Washington. And a full 70% now think that the next year is going to be acrimonious." Todd then portrayed Republicans as embracing such acrimony: "...this is really dangerous in the talks, actually...I talked to one Republican who said, 'How low can we go? We don't have a lot to lose.' And I pointed out, 'But you would have a lot to gain, because the par's pretty low from the public's point of view.'"
During a segment on Thursday's NBC Today on the upcoming film about the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, Zero Dark Thirty, co-host Matt Lauer wondered if scenes depicting "brutal interrogations" of terror suspects would make movie-goers feel guilty: "It's inevitable people are going to sit in the movie theater...and when they see the scenes of torture, they're going to ask themselves if they think it was justified, if the ends justified the means." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Turning to director Kathryn Bigelow, Lauer pressed: "Do you want to make a political statement with this movie?" Bigelow replied: "Well, I think the film doesn't have an agenda. I think it just shows the story as – you know, the story of the greatest man hunt in history. And that's part of that history." Lauer urged: "But do you want people to discuss that topic more? Whether these kind of enhanced interrogation techniques are justified?"
Actor Matt Damon made a crude sexual joke about "tossing salad" on NBC's Today show Tuesday.
Although the topic was food, co-hosts Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie both clearly understood the reference and laughed along with Damon and others on the set (video follows with transcribed highlights and commentary):
In an interview with Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett on Tuesday's NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer was puzzled by GOP opposition to the billionaire investor's call for higher taxes: "One of the ideas being pushed out there by the Right is that if you raise taxes on the wealthy it will have a chilling effect on hiring and investment in this country....Why do you think Republicans are clinging so tightly to that idea?" Buffett replied: "Well, I think they're worried about primaries next time, but I think you're seeing people peel away from that." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Earlier in the discussion, Lauer wondered: "...you favor a minimum tax rate for the wealthy....Do you see the political will in Washington right now to accomplish that and come up with a compromise?" Buffett replied: "I think there's a general feeling among the American public certainly, and even among many in Congress, that the rich like me have been getting away with low tax rates, and that it's time to make the tax rates more progressive."
At the end of an interview with Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos on Friday's NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer wondered: "I think it was 1999, you were named Time magazine's Person of the Year, alright? So I was just actually on a panel the other day where they're trying to figure out 2012's Person of the Year. Who should it be?... it could be Barack Obama, it can be – I mean, there are a lot of candidates. Who do you think it should be?" [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
At first, Bezos dodged the question: "You have put me on the spot. I don't know." But he then agreed with Lauer's suggestion: "In an election year, you know, Obama would be a pretty good choice."
After NBC News spent a week hyping President Obama's response to Hurricane Sandy as a major boon for his re-election campaign, on Thursday's Today, political director Chuck Todd completely dismissed Republicans citing the event as one reason for Mitt Romney's defeat: "Believe it or not, that Sandy finger-pointing is something that is being pushed around...when you look at the entire scope of this election and the demographics...it's a pretty absurd idea."
Moments later, co-host Matt Lauer grilled former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour on some in the GOP being critical of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie praising Obama's handling of the storm. Barbour explained: "Hurricane Sandy saved Barack Obama's presidency....But that's not Chris Christie's fault. Now, I do think the news media made a much bigger deal out of it, that made it sound like Christie was almost endorsing Obama. All Christie said was, is the President's trying to be a good partner."
During a panel discussion on Tuesday's NBC Today, former McCain campaign advisor Steve Schmidt and PBS host Tavis Smiley began writing the Republican Party's obituary before any votes had been counted, after co-host Matt Lauer wondered: "Which party stands to suffer the most long-term damage if they lose today?" [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Schmidt proclaimed: "Well, if the Republicans lose, there's gonna be a civil war that breaks out in the Republican Party." Smiley followed by ranting that the GOP would be on the decline no matter what the outcome of the election: "I think we agree on this, though, Steve, the GOP is toast in the most multicultural, multiracial, multiethnic America ever if they can't expand their base. They may win tomorrow, but they're not going to win long term." Schmidt replied: "No doubt."
In an interview with senior Romney advisor Ed Gillespie on Tuesday's NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer ripped into an ads run by the Governor's campaign in Ohio about the auto industry: "The reaction was swift and unanimous, Ed. They were painted as misleading by independent fact-checkers. Ohio newspapers said they were an exercise in deception, a masterpiece of misdirection, and Chrysler and GM called them inaccurate and campaign politics at its cynical worst." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Lauer jabbed: "How could this happen to the guy who is the son of a car-maker and the guy who is supposed to have the business resume?" Gillespie defended the ad regarding Chrysler expanding Jeep production in China: "...the ad is accurate. The head of Fiat came out and said that they were going to open production in China for Jeep. That's what the ad says, and that's accurate."
Appearing on Friday's NBC Today, special correspondent Tom Brokaw strained to explain why New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg endorsing President Obama would be helpful: "[It] may not move the needle, for example, in Colorado, but in Ohio and in places where they're trying to get white men, they can say, 'Look, this guy has got the endorsement of the Mayor of New York.'" Why would someone in Ohio care?
Co-host Matt Lauer noted that the endorsement "wasn't a very warm hug," prompting Brokaw to argue: "It wasn't a warm hug, but it was tough on Romney about not being the guy that he was when he was Governor of Massachusetts."
At the end of an interview with vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan on Tuesday's NBC Today, co-host Savannah Guthrie parroted Democratic attacks on Mitt Romney's foreign policy credentials: "John Kerry said, 'this is the most inexperienced foreign policy ticket to run in decades,' talking about you and Governor Romney. What specific national security experience qualifies Governor Romney to be commander in chief?"
At the top of an interview with Joe Biden only seconds later, fellow co-host Matt Lauer teed up the Vice President to slam Romney on the same issue: "[I] started by asking him if he thought Governor Romney is a qualified candidate when it comes to his vision and understanding of foreign policy." Not surprisingly, Biden declared: "No, he's not."
With Friday's Gallup tracking poll showing Mitt Romney with a 51-45 lead over Barack Obama, the crew at NBC's Today decided to focus on a much more reliable method of predicting the next President of the United States: Halloween mask sales. Co-host Matt Lauer announced: "...there's some science behind this when it comes to the election. For example, according to the Huffington Post, this year Obama masks are out-selling Romney masks by more than 30%." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Lauer detailed how the candidate with stronger mask sales has won the past several presidential contests. Co-host Savannah Guthrie declared: "That's a perfect record....the polls are all over the place, so you know what? Maybe it's as good a predictor as any."
On Wednesday's NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer played the part of Obama campaign stooge when he promoted the President deflecting Libya criticism by slamming Mitt Romney: "...[He] firmly and pointedly chastised Governor Romney for politicizing a tragedy like this, a national tragedy. The father of Ambassador Stevens said, quote, 'It would be really abhorrent to make this into a campaign issue.'" [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Lauer then turned to Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan and sanctimoniously demanded: "So I want your response, not to the President, but to the father of Ambassador Stevens." Ryan responded: "What we owe Chris Stevens, what we owe these Americans who gave their lives, are to make sure that we get to the bottom of this so we can prevent something like this from happening again."
Displaying a stunning double standard on Wednesday's NBC Today, co-host Savannah Guthrie gave Vice President Joe Biden plenty of room to applaud President Obama's debate performance, while fellow co-host Matt Lauer hammered Congressman Paul Ryan on issue after issue.
In her first question to Biden, Guthrie wondered if the President had "repaired the damage from his lackluster performance in the first debate," then followed up with: "Is the President's strategy here to beat Romney by disqualifying him in the minds of voters?" Meanwhile, Lauer began his interview with Ryan by asking essentially the same question: "A lot of the reporting this morning says that the President was the aggressor and may have won back some of the momentum lost after the first debate. Would you agree with that?"
On Tuesday's NBC Today, during a panel discussion previewing the second presidential debate, co-host Matt Lauer mandated that Mitt Romney answer charges that he's moderated his positions: "How does Mitt Romney answer that question tonight of, 'Why have you moved to the middle, have become more moderate in these closing weeks?'"
Former McCain campaign advisor Steve Schmidt rejected Lauer's assertion: "I don't think he has to answer that question." Lauer immediately interrupted: "What if he's asked that question?" Former Democratic governor of Michigan Jennifer Granholm joined Lauer in ganging up on Schmidt: "Oh, I think he does. He absolutely does."
In a pathetic attempt to smear Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan ahead of Tuesday's second presidential debate, NBC's Today seized on a story in Monday's Washington Post accusing Ryan and his family of washing already clean pots and pans at a soup kitchen in Ohio for a photo-op. Co-host Matt Lauer wondered: "Would a campaign do that? We're gonna talk about it." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Following a report on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton taking responsibility for security failures in the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya, political director and chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd actually treated the supposed dishwashing incident as if it were a scandal: "Paul Ryan is dealing with some fallout from that weekend photo-op....something that – that the campaign is a little nervous about because they're trying to get through this idea of whether they're in touch or out of touch."