NBC Goes Left, ABC Soft on Kirby Over Iran While CBS Actually Brings Heat

April 15th, 2024 5:48 PM

Following Iran’s failed attempt over the weekend to fire hundreds of missiles and drones at Israel with the goal of leaving it in ruins, the Biden White House sent John Kirby out to face the “big three” networks of ABC, CBS, and NBC on their respective flagship Monday morning news shows. All three took different approaches with ABC’s Good Morning America being supportive, NBC’s Today hitting him from the left, and CBS Mornings actually challenged him.



ABC had co-host and former Clinton flack George Stephanopoulos talk to Kirby and it was akin to watching paint try. Not only were they pedestrian and open-ended, but they were short and zero interruptions (click “expand”):

We know the Israeli war cabinet met this morning. What do you know about what they decided?


Do you think he’s persuaded the prime minister not to strike back?


And the United States is not going to be parted of any — any retaliation, we know that. Is there any other limit to support for Israel if they do escalate this conflict?


You heard Martha’s report Iran’s missiles did not get through. Are they a paper tiger?


Aid needs for Israel, aid needs for Ukraine. Are you confident the House is going to pass it?

Where ABC’s Stephanopoulos felt like he barely gave any thought to his short, boilerplate questions, NBC’s Today went its usual route with political interviews by having co-host Savannah Guthrie take the lead.

After a lead-off on what Kirby thinks the Israeli war cabinet will do next, Guthrie went left by wondering if the Biden administration will continue to demand Israel “take the win, not to retaliate.”

Guthrie upped the ante in her next question by blaming Israel itself for facing an onslaught from the radical Islamists in Tehran and then wondered if Israel is the party who must cease their aggressions for there to be peace (as opposed to Iran and its proxies) (click “expand”):

GUTHRIE: Well, as we all know, this strike from Iran was in retaliation for a strike that Israel took against Iranian forces in Syria that killed seven IRGC officers. The Israelis gave no heads up to its ally, the U.S., was that needlessly provocative? Do you think that Israel bears some responsibility for escalating this, and getting us to this point?

KIRBY: Well, look, let’s be — let’s clear here, Iran has been funding, resourcing groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, the Houthis down in Yemen, also of which, also, with the exception of Hamas, at least proxy groups, including those in Iraq and Syria, also participated in these strikes against Israel on Israeli soil. Iran is the one who was providing the means and the resources through which these groups and their own military was able to conduct this unprecedented attack on Israel.

GUTHRIE: So, I mean, given that, and given what the White House is signaling about its messaging to the Israelis, I mean, I just want to go back to the point here, is the White House saying, in — in, you know, between the lines, essentially to Israel, don’t retaliate now? I mean, the Iranians have claimed that they have concluded their response to the Syria attack, so is it the U.S. position that if Israel sits tight, this can end right now?

KIRBY: Well, we want to see deescalation, clearly, in the region, and everything the President has done since October 7 has been designed to keep this from becoming a wider war, Savannah, and that’s why we’re going to keep latched up with Israeli counterparts. That’s why we’re going to make it clear again to the Israelis we’ll do what we have to do to defend them, help them in their self-defense, but we don’t want to see a wider war. We don’t want to see this escalate. We certainly are not looking for a war with Iran.

Between questions pointing out the bipartisan support for Israel and the hostage negotiations, Guthrie had the gall to question whether Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is the leader whose “actions in the in the region make the U.S. nervous.”

CBS Mornings co-host Tony Dokoupil eschewed both approaches and did his job of asking tough, adversarial questions. 

He immediately cut to the chase with a question similar to a track Fox’s Peter Doocy would go down during the briefing:

Let’s talk about deterrence because, after decades of war via proxies between Iran and Israel, we now have the first direct attack by Iran on Israel. And it follows the U.S. saying to Iran don’t. Well, they did. What is the state of U.S. influence in the region this morning?

When Kirby meandered and argued it all worked out for the best, Kirby both pushed back and took aim at those (including in the White House) arguing Israel should just take drones and missiles ad nauseam without being allowed to hit back:

Nobody wants a war in that region, not at all, but let’s take up this question of what a win is. You’ve described the Middle East there, Israel’s neighborhood, as a tough one. Deterrence matters, hitting back does. If a bully takes 350 odd swings at you and you duck, how is that a win?

Kirby replied he wouldn’t “get into what the future portends here and — and what the Israelis might or might not do”, but doubled down on not wanting “a wider war” while also this laughable and vague claim of “continu[ing] to hold Iran accountable”.

With time for only one more question, Kirby asked for a ceasefire and hostage talks update, to which Kirby correctly noted that, once again, it’s not only “up to Hamas”, but “[i]t’s way past time for them to agree to” a deal.

To see the relevant transcripts from April 15, click here (for ABC), here (for CBS), and here (for NBC).