NBC's Matt Lauer First Worries With Hillary, Then Attacks Bush Over Interrogation

While NBC's Matt Lauer baited Sen. Hillary Clinton to admonish the administration to say we're not safer, he attacked the President for, in fact, trying to make the nation safer. Lauer prompted Clinton: "Are you comfortable that the United States did not break the law in conducting that kind of interrogations in those secret sites?" Then later in the program, as first noted by MRC's Brent Baker, Lauer repeatedly attacked Bush over interrogation methods worrying: "Are you at all concerned that at some point, even if you get results, there is a blurring the lines of, between ourselves and the people we're trying to protect us against?"

Video clip of Lauer's combative exchange with Bush over treatment of terrorists (3:20): Real (5.6 MB) or Windows Media (6.5 MB), plus MP3 audio (1.1 MB)

The following are all of Lauer’s questions to Bush, in the interview taped on Friday, aired in the 8am EDT of the September 11 Today:

Matt Lauer: "Now more of my interview with President Bush. I spoke to him on Friday in the Oval Office at the White House and President Bush has said nothing is more important to him than keeping the American people safe. On Sunday, on Meet the Press, Vice President Cheney added it's no accident there hasn't been an attack on U.S. soil since 9/11. Well in a spirited exchange I asked the President to respond to those who say his administration may have gone too far, for example, in interrogating terror suspects?"

[George W. Bush]

Lauer: "Well That's an interesting point and you said, 'within the law.' And yet you admitted that there were these CIA secret facilities."

[Bush]

Lauer: "The head of Amnesty International says secret sites are against international law."

[Bush]

Lauer: "Were, were you made personal..."

[Bush]

Lauer: "These, these alternative methods you talked about in terms of extracting information from these suspected terrorists. Were you made personally aware of all of the techniques that were used, for example, against a Khalid Shaikh Mohammed? And did you approve all of those techniques?"

[Bush]

Lauer: "It, it's been reported that with Khalid Shaikh Mohammed he was what they called, water-boarded."

[Bush]

Lauer: "I, I don't want to let this 'within the law,' issue slip though. I mean if, if in fact there was water-boarding used with Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and for the viewers that's basically you strap someone to a board and you make 'em feel as if they're gonna drown, you put 'em underwater. If, if that was legal and within the law why couldn't you do it at Guantanamo? Why did you have to go to a secret location around the world?"

[Bush]

Lauer: "At some point, Mr. President, if, if techniques, these alternate, alternative techniques are used..."

[Bush]

Lauer: "I'm not gonna ask you to specifically say anything about say about them. But if they are used, are you at all concerned that at some point, even if you get results, there is a blurring the lines of, between ourselves and the people we're trying to protect us against?"

[Bush]

Lauer: "President George W. Bush speaking to me Friday in the Oval Office at the White House."

Lauer's treatment of Bush contrasted sharply with these softball questions he threw to Clinton:

Lauer: "New York's junior senator Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton will be here at Ground Zero all morning long to help commemorate those lost on 9/11. Senator Clinton good to have you here. Good morning."

[Sen. Hillary Clinton]

Lauer: "Let me ask you the question that so many Americans are gonna ask each other and their leaders this morning and that is are we safer today, five years after these attacks of 9/11?"

[Clinton]

Lauer: "We, we conducted a poll and we asked people are they safer, do they at least feel safer? 74 percent said, 'Yes I feel safer today than I did prior to, or you know right after 9/11.' How much credit does the Bush administration deserve for that number?"

[Clinton]

Lauer: "Is in some ways, some have called it a numbers game. And, and I'm curious how you feel about this? Do you think that there are more or less people today? More or fewer people today who want to bring harm to the United States than there were in the days prior to 9/11 and the actions we've taken post-9/11?"

[Clinton]

Lauer: "But our, our response to 9/11, in particular Senator, has it created more enemies in your opinion?"

[Clinton]

Lauer: "The President announced and confirmed last week something most of us have, have thought for quite a while that the CIA had secret sites around the world where they interrogated and detained terror suspects, people like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and used alternative question, questioning methods. Are you comfortable that the United States did not break the law in conducting that kind of interrogations in those secret sites?"

[Clinton]

Lauer: "Do the ends justify the means?"

[Clinton]

Lauer: "Senator Clinton, good to have you here."

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