Touting chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd's exclusive interview with President Obama on Thursday, Nightly News anchor Brian Williams proclaimed: "We are all about to hear the President of the United States apologize, and not just for the troubled rollout of this new health care website, but for the fact that his promise to the American people that 'If they like their current health insurance, they can keep it,' has not held true for all." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
In the report that followed, Todd sympathetically observed: "...the President's apparent broken promise about folks keeping the plans they like has been weighing heavily on the entire White House. So it was a chastened commander-in-chief that I spoke with earlier today."
The depiction of a contrite Obama continued on Friday's Today, when co-host Matt Lauer announced: "A rare apology from President Obama to Americans over the health insurance rollout debacle." Introducing Todd's report, Lauer went further, claiming the President "issued a direct apology for a big promise when it comes to the new health care law."
The problem with all those pronouncements was that President Obama didn't actually apologize for lying about ObamaCare. Here's what he told Todd: "Even though it's a small percentage of folks who may be disadvantaged, you know, it means a lot to them and it's scary to them. And I am sorry that they are finding themselves in this situation based on assurances they got from me."
As CBS chief White House correspondent Major Garrett put it on Friday's CBS This Morning, "Some in the White House urged the President to apologize. In an interview yesterday, the President did – at least partially. He did not apologize for what he said, but for what's been happening."
Even Lauer's fellow Today co-hosts criticized the President's non-apology apology at the top of the show's 9 a.m. ET hour. After playing a clip of the interview, news reader Natalie Morales remarked: "So hard to say, 'I'm sorry.' Just straight, 'I'm sorry.' Right?...'I'm sorry that they find themselves in this position.'"
Co-host Willie Geist added: "Well, 'the small percentage of Americans,' he [Obama] points out....And by the way, that 'small percentage' adds up to a lot of Americans."
Geist then did something that Todd failed to do in his one-on-one with Obama, Geist actually cited NBC's own reporting: "The President's comments were made 10 days after NBC News' Lisa Myers, her investigative unit, reported the administration has known since the summer of 2010 that millions of Americans could lose their insurance under the new law."
It only took until the third hour of Today for the network to provide actual hard-hitting analysis of what the President said.
Here is a full transcript of the coverage earlier on the November 8 morning show:
7:00AM ET TEASE:
MATT LAUER: "I'm sorry." A rare apology from President Obama to Americans over the health insurance rollout debacle.
BARACK OBAMA: I am sorry that they, you know, are finding themselves in this situation.
LAUER: More from the President in an NBC News exclusive.
7:05AM ET SEGMENT:
LAUER: Now also ahead, our exclusive interview with President Obama. He sat down with NBC's Chuck Todd and he issued a direct apology for a big promise when it comes to the new health care law. Chuck is at the White House this morning. Chuck, good morning to you.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: President Obama: "I Am Sorry"; Apologizes for Americans Losing Health Coverage]
CHUCK TODD: Good morning, Matt. It's been a rough 40 days since the October 1st health care rollout that dominated much of the discussion I had with the President. But we also heard from him for the first time after the authors of the book Double Down revealed that his campaign team had researched the idea of switching Joe Biden for Hillary Clinton.
TODD [TO OBAMA]: I will start with health care. It's probably the most quoted thing or re-quoted thing you have said in your presidency.
BARACK OBAMA [RECORDED SOUND BITES]: If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan, period....If you like your current plan, you will be able to keep it.
TODD: Do you feel like you owe these folks an apology for misleading them? Even if you didn't intentionally do it, but at this point, they feel mislead. And you've seen the anger that's out there.
OBAMA: Even though it's a small percentage of folks who may be disadvantaged, you know, it means a lot to them and it's scary to them. And I am sorry that they are finding themselves in this situation based on assurances they got from me. We've got to work hard to make sure that they know we hear them and that we're gonna do everything we can to deal with folks who find themselves in a tough position as a consequence of this.
TODD: Do you understand if people are gonna be skeptical of the next promise you make? Of the next – or are you concerned that people are gonna be wondering, "Jeez, what's the fine print that he's not telling me?"
OBAMA: I think for the most part people know that I speak my mind and I tell folks what I think and I've been very clear about what I'm trying to do. I hope that people will look at the end product and they're gonna be able to look back and say, "You know what? We now have protections that we didn't have before. We've got more choice and competition. I didn't have health insurance, I now have it. I had bad health insurance, I now have good health insurance. The website's actually working. I'm getting, you know, my kid on my insurance plan even though he's got asthma or some other pre-existing condition."
TODD: Did you really not know that your campaign was researching this idea of swapping Joe Biden for Hillary Clinton?
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: President Obama One-on-One; Addresses Biden-Clinton VP Swap Story]
OBAMA: I am in charge of 2 million people in the federal government and that was true, by the way, even when I was running for president. So people do all kinds of stuff. Here's the one thing I can say for certain, that if they had asked me I would have said, "There is no way that I'm not running again with Joe Biden, because I genuinely believe that he has been one of the best vice presidents in our history."
TODD: Did you and the Vice President talk?
OBAMA: Absolutely. And what I told him – and he knows and he believes me – is that I would not be here if it weren't for the support that I've had from Joe Biden. He is a personal friend and advisor.
TODD: That's probably the most he has said publicly about Joe Biden ever, Matt.
But going back to health care, he promised that he's going to come up with some sort of administrative fix – not go to Congress – but an administrative fix that he says should be able to allow some of these people who like their health care plan to keep it.
LAUER: Alright, Chuck Todd at the White House. Chuck, thank you very much.