On Tuesday's NBC Nightly News, anchor Brian Williams noted President Obama and the four former living presidents reciting the Gettysburg Address to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's historic speech, but ignored the fact that Obama omitted the phrase "under God" from his reading and refused to attend the event marking the anniversary. [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Williams made a point of declaring that project orchestrated by documentary filmmaker Ken Burns was "urging Americans to memorize and celebrate the Gettysburg Address," and emphasized: "Considering it's one of the most important speeches in American history, think about this, it was only about two minutes long, 272 words in all." Making Obama's gaffe of skipping two of those words all the more noticeable and embarrassing.
The White House has claimed that President Obama simply read a copy of the speech provided by Burns – a written draft preserved by White House staffer John Nicolay that did not include "under God," something Lincoln added extemporaneously.
The obvious question that arises from that explanation is why would you have people recite different versions of a speech you're encouraging people to memorize word for word? In addition, it's the anniversary of the speech Lincoln actually uttered on November 19, 1863, not the anniversary of when a draft of the speech was written.
Here is a transcript of the November 19 report from Williams:
BARACK OBAMA: Four score and seven years ago.
JIMMY CARTER: Our fathers brought forth on this continent.
GEORGE W. BUSH: A new nation.
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Our living former presidents who are part of a project by the filmmaker Ken Burns, urging Americans to memorize and celebrate the Gettysburg Address. It was delivered by President Lincoln 150 years ago today and today they gathered in that very same spot.
Considering it's one of the most important speeches in American history, think about this, it was only about two minutes long, 272 words in all. And since it was only heard by those who were there in a field in Pennsylvania that day, it was mostly read about in newspapers, in some cases, weeks and months later.