In an exchange with former Secretary of State and prominent Obama supporter Colin Powell during NBC's live inauguration coverage on Monday, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams urged Powell to go after Republicans: "General, there's just flat-out hatred out there, too. There's nastiness out there in the land. There's nastiness between these two parties....Let's especially go to the Republican Party....What do they do to widen, if it is in their interest, widen their doorway to membership, to entry?" [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Powell seized the opportunity to double down on his recent smear of the GOP having a "dark vein of intolerance": "I've been saying and said with David Gregory the other day, the party is not where the American people have been in recent years....Society is changing and the Republican Party has not been keeping up with it. And if you dare to say that, then you're violating the orthodoxy of the party and you find yourself attacked....If doesn't want to change, it can stay where it is, and I think it will continue to lose elections."
Williams allowed Powell to portray himself as a victim of GOP attacks but failed to press him on his assertion in that Meet the Press interview that Republicans "look down on minorities."
Here is a transcript of the January 21 exchange:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: We're joined by a friend of ours out here, another friend of ours, General Colin Powell is with us. What do you make of today's pomp and ceremony and what I always say this nation does very well?
COLIN POWELL: I love it. I love it. I mean, it's one of those days, as all inauguration days are, where for a moment we come together, celebrate the magic of our Democratic system, the magic of the people deciding who the next leader is going to be. As Peggy [Noonan] just said, he won, and he won rather decisively this time.
But now the challenges are before him. Tomorrow we'll be right back at it. And you mentioned the vitriol within our system. We've always had, you know, strong views opposing one another. Our Founding Fathers did. And I think that's good. That's what democracy is all about. But ultimately, those strong views have to result in compromise or else we don't get anywhere. And so I hope beginning tomorrow we'll see a new level of civility within our discussion, within our political discussion, and a willingness to compromise. I noticed just in the last few days, the Republicans have made some offers with respect to the debt ceiling and I've seen some Republicans talking about immigration reform. So maybe we are on a roll. But I wouldn't bet on it yet.
WILLIAMS: I, too, noticed those offers on things like the debt ceiling. But, General, what you've
– there's the real first couple of New York and Washington, D.C., Beyonce and Jay-Z entering. That will get a lot of attention. We just missed James Taylor coming down the stairs – General, there's just flat-out hatred out there, too. There's nastiness out there in the land. There's nastiness between these two parties – there's the President and Mrs. Carter – And how do we fix that? Let's especially go to the Republican Party. They've got – they've been – they've been caucusing. They've been quite literally in retreat these past few days, House Republicans. What do they do to widen, if it is in their interest, widen their doorway to membership, to entry?
POWELL: Well, as I've been saying and said with David Gregory the other day, the party is not where the American people have been in recent years. When you lose an election and you only have 26% favorability rating and 46 or 47% negative, you better start thinking about what's wrong.
So for the last week, a number of folks of have been attacking me for speaking like this. And my question has been to them, "Well, why should anyone who voted for Mitt Romney, why didn't they? Why didn't he win?" And the answer is the party has not kept track with the demographic changes that are taking place in this country. 74% of Hispanics, 74% or 73, one of those numbers, of Asian Americans, and 94% of African Americans, did not vote for the Republican ticket. I would worry about that because we're becoming a minority-majority nation.
And so I think the party has to take a look at itself and see if it's keeping up with the demographic changes in our society as well as the societal changes. Society is changing and the Republican Party has not been keeping up with it. And if you dare to say that, then you're violating the orthodoxy of the party and you find yourself attacked. A lot of Republicans have come up to me in the last week and said, "We agree with you," but they're not going to say anything because they don't want to give a sound bite that will be used against them in 2014 or 2016. But I sense that the American people understand this and most of the Republicans that I know understand that the party has to take a look at itself. If doesn't want to change, it can stay where it is, and I think it will continue to lose elections.