Matt Lauer and Carl Paladino Duke It Out on the Today Show

With Election Day just a month away NBC's Matt Lauer, on Tuesday's Today show, attacked New York GOP gubernatorial nominee Carl Paladino repeatedly with such pejoratives as "angry" "nasty" and "dark" and accused him of practicing "gutter politics." Lauer even told the Tea Party backed candidate that if elected he wouldn't be able to get anything done because political leaders "need not to crack heads, they need to build bridges" and added when "I look at you, I'm not sure you're a bridge builder." This is a far cry from when Lauer interviewed President Barack Obama back on the September 27 Today show and hit him with criticism from the left that he had not been "rigorous enough in pushing back against" GOP attacks. 

Lauer's colleague, Meredith Vieira, teased the Paladino interview by alerting viewers "He is at the heart of one of the nastiest races in New York's history and he promises it's gonna get nastier" and Lauer didn't waste any time trying to prove that point, as he opened up with the following first question: "You have seemed to embrace the mantle of the angry candidate. Is that what you think voters want right now?" Paladino punched back, something he had to do throughout all of Lauer's interview as he countered: "I don't think it's anger...it's people that are very frustrated and I'm just a reflection of that frustration." [audio available here]

The following is a full transcript of the intense back and forth between Lauer and Paladino as it was aired on the October 5 Today show:

MATT LAUER: Carl Paladino is the Tea Party backed Republican candidate for governor of New York. Mr. Paladino, good morning. Nice to have you here.

CARL PALADINO: Good morning, Matt. Thank you.

LAUER: That's a different guy in those ads, than I've seen over the last month or so. You have seemed to embrace the mantle of the angry candidate. Is that what you think voters want right now? 

PALADINO: I don't think it's anger. I think it's, it's people that are very frustrated and I'm just a reflection of that frustration.

LAUER: But they're frustrated at the status quo-

PALADINO: Right.

LAUER: What they have seen in Washington and in state houses across this country for years and years. Isn't part of that status quo anger and rage? Isn't it nasty campaigning between candidates that gets people nowhere once an official is elected? 

PALADINO: Well we've, we've left that gutter politics. We're interested in talking about the issues.

LAUER: How can you turn a corner like that, how can you practice that gutter politics for a long period of time and then all of a sudden say "That's not me any more?"

PALADINO: Well that was reaction, okay? The gutter politics came from Cuomo and his surrogates. They came out relentlessly after primary day and attacked, attacked and attacked.

LAUER: But you said, even in your own words, you said, this campaign will get nastier, that was a promise.

PALADINO: Yeah.

LAUER: So, I mean, if it's going to get nastier, are you gonna participate in it or have you turned a corner? 

PALADINO: If, if, if that's, if that's the direction that he wanted to go in. Now we don't, we, we've decided that we're gonna speak issues. We've challenged him to a debate a number of times. We're willing to debate every day from now until Election Day. We want to get those issues out to the people. We want him to answer for Obamacare. We want him to answer for the reckless mandates that are out there right now.

LAUER: You are brash, there's no question about it. You speak in blunt terms. One of the things you've said Mr. Paladino is that you're gonna take a baseball bat to Albany. That is our state capital here. A lot of politicians have said that kind of thing in the past, "I mean I'm gonna crack heads, I'm gonna change things." And you know what happens? Those candidates get elected, if they're lucky enough, and they go to state houses or the White House and they run into the system and all of a sudden they realize they need not to crack heads, they need to build bridges. For some reason, I look at you, I'm not sure you're a bridge builder. Tell me I'm wrong.

PALADINO: No, I bring my own sandbox. You see we've been conditioned over the years to think that government in Albany is the way government should be, three men in a room. That's not the, the representative republic that, that the Constitution outlined. We, we have legislators that sit there and wait for Sheldon Silver to do what, what he, you know to, to listen for, for, to him for the word on what they're to do today. That's not, that's not proper. That's not government.

LAUER: But, but in more, in more general terms. Obviously there are a lot of Democrats out there who don't like you, it's a Democratically dominated state. There are some Republicans who don't like you. The state chairman of the Conservative Party said something, and I'm paraphrasing here, that if you won the primary it would be a dark period for the Republican Party. The - Rick, Rick Lazio, who you ran against in the primary won't endorse you. He apparently has a low opinion of you-

PALADINO: And I'm not looking for it.

LAUER: Okay? But, but who are, who's your base that's gonna help you get things done when you actually, if you win and go, go to Albany?

PALADINO: My baseball bat is the people. The people. I've been speaking to the people for the last few months. That's why we had that huge plurality in the Republican primary and that's why we're gonna have this, this mandate coming to us from the, from the entire electorate. It's the people and nobody wants to listen to the people. These rulers, these rulers in Albany that have been feeding at the public trough for so long, they just don't want to change.

LAUER: On a more personal note, you have admitted to sending a series of emails that many people found highly offensive. There was language, there were words, in some of those emails, that were very offensive. There were characterizations, even of President Obama and Michelle Obama that many found highly offensive. You said it showed bad judgment. But you're saying that now, that you're running for governor, you didn't think that, when you pushed the send button on those emails.

PALADINO: People want to hear about the high crimes and misdemeanors in Albany. They want, they want an answer as to why Andrew Cuomo get-

LAUER: People want judgment.

PALADINO: -took a bribe from [Andrew] Farkas.

LAUER: People, people want to know if the person they put in Albany as the governor has proper judgment. Can you tell, do you have that proper judgment?

PALADINO: I have it. I've illustrated it time and again. I've illustrated it for my entire career. But where's Andrew Cuomo on the Farkas deal? We've, we've asked him to explain his, his actions in taking a bribe of $1.2 million from Andrew Farkas when, when he put his thumb on the prosecution of Andrew Farkas at HUD.

LAUER: People think that this midterm election is going to be, in many ways, a referendum on Barack Obama and the first two years of his presidency. Is that the way you see it or is it something else?

PALADINO: No I think this is the people in, in New York state, the people are concerned with a government that's recklessly spending their money. That's overtaxing them, that is burdening them with all kinds of rules and regulation and for sure is not paying attention to the creation of good, fulfilling jobs. I will do that.

LAUER: Carl Paladino who is running for governor of New York. Mr. Paladino thanks for your time this morning.

PALADINO: Thank you.

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.