NBC Falsely Claims DeSantis, Haley Spent GOP Debate ‘Barely Criticizing’ Trump

January 11th, 2024 4:38 PM

On Thursday morning amid the network recaps of Wednesday night’s GOP presidential debate between Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL) and Nikki Haley, NBC’s Today and senior Capitol Hill correspondent Garrett Haake offered a pants-on-fire lie that the two “launch[ed]” repeated attacks on each other’s records and honesty and “barely criticiz[ed]” frontrunner Donald Trump “[d]espite trailing Trump in Iowa and nationally”.

If that’s the case, then why is it that, using CNN’s official transcript of the debate (see here and here), a NewsBusters review and copy/paste of all the times DeSantis and Haley mentioned Trump (without set-up questions from CNN moderators Dana Bash and Jake Tapper), it came out to over 2,600 words and five full pages as a PDF?



Haake made the claim then played two extremely brief soundbites from DeSantis and Haley. In the second hour, Haake only inched back: “What neither of those two candidates did was spend very much time going after the race’s dominant frontrunner, Donald Trump”.

CBS Mornings was only another step back with senior White House and campaign correspondent Ed O’Keefe saying DeSantis and Haley “didn’t hold back in their final debate before Monday’s caucus,” but “more interested in focusing on” being “the top alternative.”

“Haley and DeSantis spent more time calling each other liars and losers than attacking the frontrunner,” he added.

ABC’s Good Morning America had three-time anti-Trump author Jonathan Karl do his shtick of bashing Trump’s opponents since his grifter books won’t write themselves, bashing DeSantis and Haley for attacking “each other with such viciousness, calling each other liars, fighting over the most minute differences.”

“Nikki Haley repeated over and over again a website she has created called DeSantisLies.com...It made you wonder whether or not the URL TrumpLies.com was available because there was, like, no mention. She hasn’t taken that case to Donald Trump with anywhere near the vigor that she went after Ron DeSantis last night,” Karl added.

Co-host and former Clinton official George Stephanopoulos agreed that “has just not happened” even though, in a tease, he noted both took “aim at...Trump.”

At least ABC’s senior congressional correspondent Rachel Scott was factually correct, relaying they both attacked Trump, but “spent far more time going after each other” (click “expand”):

SCOTT: Haley and DeSantis are fighting to prove they are the best alternative to Donald Trump, now battling for second place with the Iowa caucuses just four days away.

DESANTIS: If Trump is the nominee, it’s going to be about January 6, legal issue, criminal trials.

HALEY: His way is not my way. I don’t have vengeance, I don’t have vendettas.

SCOTT: Haley calling January 6 a terrible day and ripping into Trump’s argument in court that presidents should have total immunity from prosecution.

HALEY: That’s ridiculous. That’s absolutely ridiculous. I mean, we need to use some common sense here.

SCOTT: But the candidates spent far more time going after each other.

DESANTIS: She’s got this problem with ballistic podiatry, shooting herself in the foot every other day, saying things that now she doesn’t even take questions from people.

In the second hour, she backed off by saying the two only went “after Trump, but carefully.”

How about the facts? In just over an hour, the two brought up Trump in their opening statements, China, the border, fitness for office, and Mexico. Here’s some examples (click “expand”):

DESANTIS: Donald Trump’s running to pursue his issues. Nikki Haley’s running to pursue her donors’ issues. I’m running to pursue your issues and your family’s issues and to turn this country around.


HALEY: Well, I think the next President needs to have moral clarity. I think you need to have moral clarity to understand that it’s taxpayer money, not your own money. I think you need to have moral clarity to understand that when you’re dealing with dictators in the world, that we always have to fight for democracies and human rights and protecting Americans and preventing war And so, when you look at Donald Trump, I have said, I think he was the right President at the right time. I agree with a lot of his policies, but his way is not my way. I don’t have vengeance. I don’t have vendettas. I don’t take things personally. For me, it’s very much about no drama, no whining and getting results and getting them done. So, I don’t think that President Trump is the right President to go forward. I think it’s time for a new generational leader that’s going to go and make America proud again. That’s what I’m going to try and do.


DESANTIS: Well, I’m running because I’m the guy that’s going to be able to engineer a comeback for this country. I appreciated what President Trump did. But, let’s just be honest. He said he was going to build a wall and have Mexico pay for it. He did not deliver that. He said he was going to drain the swamp. He did not deliver that. He said he was going to hold Hillary accountable and he let her off the hook. He said he was going to eliminate the debt and he added $7.8 trillion to the debt. So, we need to deliver and get this stuff done.


HALEY: I wish Donald Trump was up here on this stage. He’s the one that I’m running against. He’s the one that I wish would be here. He needs to be defending his record. Right now he’s not defending the fact that he allowed us to have $8 trillion in debt over four years that our kids are never going to forgive us for. The fact that he didn’t deal with China when it came to stealing intellectual property. The fact that they gave us COVID. The fact that they have gone and continued to put up Chinese police stations and continue to threaten our military. He didn’t do enough to make sure that we were really standing with our friends and doing some other things. What we need is a leader that’s not looking at four years and eight years. We need a president that’s looking at 20 and 30 years. Because I want my kids to have a good future. I want them to have one without debt, one where they can read, one with secure borders, one where we have law and order, and one where America is strong.


DESANTIS: We will build a wall. We will actually have Mexico pay for it, in the way that I thought Donald Trump was. We’re going to charge fees on remittances that workers send to foreign countries, billions of dollars. We’ll build the wall. He also promised record deportations. Donald Trump deported fewer people than Barack Obama did when he was president. Biden’s let in 8 million people just in four years. They all have to go back. We have to enforce the rule of law in this country.


HALEY: Well, that’s why Trump should be here on this debate stage. He should have to defend it. So, first of all, I’ve said China is our number one national security threat. I fought them every single day at the United Nations. I know what they’re capable of. The first thing we have to do is we have to make sure we stop selling them any land and we take back the land they already purchased. We need to go to our universities and we say, you either take Chinese money or you take American money but the days of taking both are over. We need to stop all of the technologies that are going to China. Biden approved 70 percent of them. Trump approved even more than that.

The other 54 minutes had even more Trump mentions, such as abortion, the constitution, January 6, the national debt, the new FBI building, and rioting. Here’s some excerpts with the rest available at the link below (click “expand”):

DESANTIS: Donald Trump should be on this stage. He owes it to you here in Iowa to explain this change he’s had in his positioning, to explain why he has a tough time saying whether a man can become a woman or not, to explain why he wants to build a billion dollar-plus big, beautiful, new FBI building right in the heart of the swamp in Washington, D.C. He needs to explain why he didn’t build the wall and why he added $7.8 trillion to the debt. Every candidate needs to earn your vote. Nobody is entitled to your vote. And he comes in here every now and then, he does his spiel, and then he leaves. I’ve shown up to all 99 counties because it’s important. You’re a servant of the people. You are not a ruler over the people. And that’s the type of president that I will be for you.


HALEY: I mean, look, you take an oath to the Constitution, and I think what you’re seeing is Donald Trump basically said that the election was stolen. He went on and on talking about the election being stolen. He said that January 6 was a beautiful day. I think January 6 was a terrible day and we should never want to see that happen again. And I think we have to always be strong on the fact that, look, we want fair elections and we saw some discrepancies in those elections in 2020 that should be concerning. That’s why I passed voter I.D. in South Carolina. That’s why I think when absentee ballots go out, you should be able to verify signatures. That’s why I think ballots need to be counted on Election Day and you should get results on Election Day. But that election, Trump lost it. Biden won that election. And the idea that he’s gone and carried this out forever to the point that he’s going to continue to say these things to scare the American people are wrong. We’ve seen a lot of states come together and do more election integrity bills. We need to do more than that. We still have three or four states that I’m worried about that don’t have that. But at the end of the day, I will always defend and fight for the Constitution. That’s what we should do as Americans. I think what happened on January 6th was a terrible day and I think President Trump will have to answer for it.


DESANTIS: I remember when I took an oath to be an officer in the U.S. Navy. You raise that hand, you put that left hand on the Bible. And it’s interesting, the oath doesn’t say that you’re going to defend the shores of the United States or engage in military conflict. The oath simply says that you will support and defend the Constitution of the United States. As President of the United States, you will preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. You can’t just terminate the Constitution. I mean, I know he does word vomit from time to time on social media, but, obviously, I will uphold the Constitution. And I think it’s fine to criticize Donald Trump, and I know the media brings it up a lot.


DESANTIS: I think the D.C. Circuit is going to rule against Donald Trump on that issue. I’m not exactly sure what the outer limits are. I don’t think it’s necessarily been litigated. It’s not going to be an issue with me, because I’m always going to follow the Constitution. And we’re going to uphold the best traditions of the office. And I’m going to be a president you can be proud of. I think it’s important that people would be able to look to the president and say, hey, that’s somebody that’s worthy of emulating. And so my wife and I, we just view ourselves to try to do well for our kids and to make sure they’re proud of us. And we set a good example. So, that’s what we would do in that situation. But I think there’s a larger issue Republicans have got to think of. Donald Trump is going to lose that appeal. He’s going to end up going to trial in front of a stacked left-wing D.C. jury of all Democrats. What are the odds that he’s going to get through that? And that’s even talking about the validity of the charges. I don’t think he gets through that. And so what are we going to do as Republicans in terms of who we nominate for president? If Trump is the nominee, it’s going to be about January 6th, legal issues, criminal trials. The Democrats and the media would love to run with that. I’m not running for my issues. I’m running for your issues. We need to make this election a referendum on the failures of Joe Biden, the failures of the Democratic Party, and how we have the formula to engineer a great comeback for this country. That’s what I would do.


HALEY: But what I do think we need to look at is what is what has President Trump done? You look at the last few years and our country is completely divided. It’s divided over extremes. It’s divided over hatred, it’s divided over the fact that people think that if someone doesn’t agree with you that they’re bad. And now we have leaders in our country that decide who’s good and who’s bad, who’s right and who’s wrong. That’s not what a leader does. What a leader does is they bring out the best in people and get them to see the way forward. That’s what we need in our country. We don’t need this chaos anymore. We need someone who’s going to be a new generational leader that brings sanity back to America.


DESANTIS: I just think, I mean, that quote from the President, former President Trump is a little bit rich because he was President during the worst rioting in the modern history of this country, the BLM riots in the summer of 2020. When I saw that happening in Minneapolis, in Florida, I called out the National Guard. We had state law enforcement deployed. We said, you’re not burning down our cities in this state. And you know what? It didn’t happen. He sat in the White House and tweeted law and order, but he did nothing to ensure law and order. As your President, I will never let our cities burn. You have every right to stop this runaway rioting as President. In fact, you have a duty.

This is how the liberal media work. They define their terms and, until you capitulate to their side, they’ll use whatever characterizations they see fit to define your behavior and political tactics.

To see the relevant transcript from the January 10 CNN GOP debate, click here.