During a panel discussion on Tuesday's NBC Today about the White House releasing a photo of President Obama skeet shooting to dispel doubt about his claim of doing it "all the time," co-host Matt Lauer worried about the precedent that had been set: "So like releasing the birth certificate a year or so ago, this is the next step, that now the President always has to back up his words with proof?" [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Lauer's concern seemed to follow administration talking points perfectly. On Sunday's Today, correspondent Peter Alexander reported: "This weekend, the White House tried to shut down the doubters. The President's former senior advisor [David Plouffe] even referred to those who still question where Mr. Obama was born. [Image of Plouffe Tweet] 'Attention, skeet birthers. Make our day – let the photoshop conspiracies begin!'"
Following Alexander's report, chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd explained the strategy: "...it first started back when they [in the Obama campaign] were running for office, when the first time the birth certificate questions started. So this has always been they're MO as sort of something catches fire on Twitter and social media in particular, and then makes its way in the mainstream, they feel as if, well, they've got to do something, they've got to quote, unquote, 'feed the beast.'"
Todd then dismissed the controversy: "I have to say, I'm sort of amused by the supposed kerfuffle over all of this." On Saturday's Nightly News, anchor Lester Holt forwarded the idea that the release of the photo had become an "unnecessary distraction" to Obama's push for gun restrictions.
During the Tuesday panel discussion, advertising executive Donny Deutsch admitted that the image of a gun-toting Obama was a "contrived photo," but defended it for its propaganda value: "I don't have a problem with it. Whether he skeet shooted once or a thousand times, to basically come out and say, 'I'm not trying to take anybody's guns away'....he wants to send out a signal, 'No, no, I'm not anti-gun guy. I'm an anti-assault weapons guy.'"
Chief medical editor Nancy Snyderman actually mocked the photo: "Looks like a manly man....I mean, look at the picture. I mean, just look at the rifle, how it's being shot. It is the most contrived thing."
Attorney Star Jones chimed in with her own interpretation of the meaning of the image: "I think it's more, 'I'm not a liar.' Because the public has said character matters when it comes to Obama. And for the President to show you, 'No, I don't lie.'"
Here is a full transcript of the Tuesday panel discussion:
MATT LAUER: Recently the President the of the United States, Obama was asked, "Have you ever fired a gun?" He said, "Yes, in fact at Camp David we do skeet shooting all the time." Some people didn't believe him. They thought he was making it up. So on the eve of this trip to Minnesota, where he was going to talk about gun control, Jay Carney at the White House tweeted this photo, let's see if we can put it up right now, of the President doing just that, skeet shooting up at Camp David. Donny, image guy, was this a smart photo to release? What's it all about?
DONNY DEUTSCH: Actually, yes. By the way, we could probably line up a thousand, what I'll call, "contrived photos," whether it's drinking beer and he doesn't drink beer. I don't have a problem with it. Whether he skeet shooted once or a thousand times, to basically come out and say, "I'm not trying to take anybody's guns away," it's a very different kind of discussion. This is what we do in business.
NANCY SNYDERMAN: Looks like a manly man.
DEUTSCH: That is just – he wants to send out a signal, "No, no, I'm not anti-gun guy. I'm an anti-assault weapons guy."
SNYDERMAN: It's just, I mean, look at the picture. I mean, just look at the rifle, how it's being shot. It is the most contrived thing. I could care less.
DEUTSCH: So is every other presidential photo.
SNYDERMAN: No, no, I understand. I – I could care less.
STAR JONES: He's still wearing the mom jeans, I just can't over that, with the
President in mom jeans.
LAUER: But is that photo about saying, "I told the truth and the President doesn't lie" or is that photo about what Donny said, looking out to the people who are worried about Second Amendment issues, saying, "I'm not a guy who wants to take the guns away"?
SNYDERMAN: Yes, yes, yes. It was very much a, "I'm more you than you think I am and I'm not going to take your guns way."
JONES: I think it's more – I think it's more, "I'm not a liar." Because the public has said character matters when it comes to Obama. And for the President to show you, "No, I don't lie."
LAUER: So like releasing the birth certificate a year or so ago, this is the next step, that now the President always has to back up his words with proof?
SNYDERMAN: Yes, yes.
JONES: And that's why I said he shouldn't have released any damn thing.
DEUTSCH: It was a bigger issue, it was about, "I'm not taking your guns away."