Eager to insulate President Obama from controversy surrounding past anti-American comments by Korean pop star Psy, who performed at the annual Christmas in Washington charity concert attended by the First Family, on Tuesday's NBC Today, White House correspondent Peter Alexander proclaimed: "And of course, the President had no say over who the private charity chose to invite." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Ignoring the fact that Obama could have refused to attend the event as long as Psy performed, Alexander explained: "...petitioners demanded President Obama...block the appearance of the rap sensation Psy, under fire for anti-American performances. But that petition was removed [from the White House website] because the rules say the petitions only apply to federal actions."
Despite detailing a number of absurd petitions on the White House website – from building a real-life Death Star to saving the Twinkie – Alexander never questioned why the web page would be scrubbed of the anti-Psy petition.
On Monday's Today, co-host Savannah Guthrie noted that Psy "added a bit of controversy to this annual event" as the headline on screen read: "Psy Plays White House Concert Amid Controversy."
In the report that followed, Alexander described Psy's offensive comments: "In 2004, lashing out against the Iraq war: 'Kill those [f***ing] Yankees,' Psy rapped, according to one translation, 'kill them all slowly and painfully.'"
Later on the Tuesday broadcast, co-host Matt Lauer brought up the issue during the Today's Professionals panel segment. Attorney Star Jones remarked: "If I had been the charity's coordinator....I probably would have asked him [Psy] not to come this year." Advertising executive Donny Deutsch observed: "If you're President of the United States, you don't need this."
Here is a full transcript of Alexander's December 10 report on the controversy:
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: The First Family attended a holiday charity concert last night. It featured performances by Diana Ross and Demi Lavato, but it was another performer's presence that added a bit of controversy to this annual event. NBC's White House correspondent Peter Alexander has more on this story. Peter, good morning to you.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Christmas Rapping; Psy Plays White House Concert Amid Controversy]
PETER ALEXANDER: Savannah, good morning to you. That performer is the global rap star Psy. And, no, don't worry, you're not going to see the President doing the Gangnam Style dance, he didn't do it last night. But with the First Family as honored guests in the front row, Psy took to the stage for this performance just decades – just less than a decade, we should say, after apologizing for some anti-American performances.
BARACK OBAMA: Ho, ho, ho.
ALEXANDER: In the nation's capital, it's a holiday tradition, Christmas in Washington.
OBAMA: We're also grateful to all the outstanding performers, the choirs, the glee clubs, who are sharing their tremendous talents with us.
ALEXANDER: Among those in Sunday night's charity concert to be aired on TNT later this month, the international rap sensation Psy, riding his now famous invisible horse amid new controversy. The 34-year-old South Korean's Gangnam Style dance craze is most watched YouTube video of all time, nearly 1 billion views. But Psy has come under fire for other performances that only recently went viral.
Long before he shot to fame, making $8 million this last year, there he was, in at least a pair of anti-American performances. In 2002, on stage smashing a miniature U.S. tank after American soldiers were acquitted of killing two South Korean girls in a traffic accident. And in 2004, lashing out against the Iraq war: "Kill those [f***ing] Yankees," Psy rapped, according to one translation, "kill them all slowly and painfully."
In the wake of the video's release, outrage online. One furiously tweeted, "As far as I'm concerned, Psy should take his one-hit wonder back to Korea. He can hate U.S. soldiers from there just fine." A petition was even posted on the White House's web page, demanding Psy be removed from the concert's lineup. That petition was quickly pulled for violating the site's rules.
And almost immediately, this mea culpa from Psy himself, apologizing for what he called his inflammatory and inappropriate language. "While I'm grateful for the freedom to express one's self, I've learned there are limits to what language is appropriate and I'm deeply sorry for how these lyrics could be interpreted," he said in a statement to NBC News. "I will forever be sorry for any pain I've caused by those words."
And Psy declined our requests for an on-camera interview, but Savannah, over the weekend he told the Washington Post that he deeply regrets those words, saying that he now has new perspective, that he has changed since then, becoming a husband, a father of twin girls, and also having served in the South Korean military.
GUTHRIE: Alright, Peter Alexander at the White House. Thank you so much.
MATT LAUER: It's going to change a lot of people's opinion of him, no question about it.
GUTHRIE: I have to say for the people sitting at this table, we love that song...
NATALIE MORALES: Yeah, we love the horsey dance.
GUTHRIE: ...but I gotta tell you, there's no excuse for what he said.
LAUER: And when he said, "I wasn't sure how those words could be interpreted," they're pretty black and white there. I mean, you know, it's hard to miss the meaning of those.
AL ROKER: There's no wiggle room there.
GUTHRIE: Not at all.