Moments before President Obama’s Sunday night address to the nation about the San Bernardino terrorist attack, NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt hoped the speech might be “a defining moment for his presidency.” By Monday morning, reaction from hosts and analysts on the Today show made it clear the presidential remarks were not impressive.
Kyle Drennen is the Media Research Center's Senior News Analyst and a Contributing Editor to NewsBusters. He is the co-author of the 2014 Media Reality Check study, TV News Blacks Out This Year’s Bad Election News for Democrats. His media analysis has been routinely cited by nationally syndicated radio hosts Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin, as well as on Fox News and The Wall Street Journal’s WSJ.com website. He joined the MRC in 2007 after graduating from Providence College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and political science.
Touting her softball Wednesday sit-down with President Obama that aired on Friday’s CBS This Morning, co-host Norah O’Donnell gushed over the commander-in-chief’s “effort to take historic action” on climate change and how that “could affect his legacy.”
In a contentious exchange with House Speaker Paul Ryan on Thursday’s CBS This Morning, co-hosts Charlie Rose and Gayle King repeatedly pressed the Republican leader to take up gun control legislation in the wake of the San Bernardino shooting. Rose began: “But why don't you...call the President and say, ‘I'm going to come down Pennsylvania Avenue, let's you and I start off and do something about this right now’?”
At the top of Thursday’s NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer seized on a BBC World News correspondent dismissing the San Bernardino shooting as “just another day” in America: “I don't often start coverage of an event like this by talking about how other people are covering it, but a commentator for the BBC said overnight, ‘Just another day in the United States – another day of guns, chaos, and panic. This time in the city of San Bernardino.’”
On Thursday, both CBS This Morning and NBC’s Today eagerly promoted the New York Daily News attacking Republicans for sending “thoughts and prayers” to victims of the San Bernardino shooting but not signing on to liberal gun control measures. This Morning co-host Gayle King declared: “I think this headline’s very powerful.”
During NBC’s live breaking news coverage of the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California on Wednesday, correspondent Ron Allen reported from the White House on President Obama’s push for gun control: “We well know that the President is very concerned about this issue of gun violence in the United States....And we have heard from him and his staff that they are still trying to find ways that the President can use his executive authority to try and make changes to the gun control legislation in this country.”
On Tuesday, only NBC’s Today covered Oklahoma Wesleyan University president Everett Piper slamming political correctness on college campuses. Co-host Matt Lauer informed viewers: “...a university president is getting a lot of attention for a surprising blog post that he aimed at students. His message to today's youth, ‘Grow up and stop being so self-absorbed and narcissistic.’”
Interviewing Ben Carson for the first time on NBC’s Today on Tuesday, co-host Matt Lauer condescended to the Republican presidential candidate while citing the latest polling: “In the last four to six weeks you have gone from number one in Iowa to number three, and your decline seems to coincide with some very troubling world events....Is it a coincidence that your numbers are going down as Americans are coming to terms with moments like that?”
While promoting his new movie, Chi-raq, about gun violence in Chicago, during the 9 a.m. ET hour on Tuesday’s NBC Today, director Spike Lee claimed: “...it's easier for an African-American, a black person, to be President of the United States than to be president of a Hollywood studio or TV network cable.”
In an interview with Hillary Clinton aired on Tuesday’s CBS This Morning, co-host Charlie Rose wondered why the Democratic frontrunner was running: “Why do you want to be president? I mean, you’ve had a remarkable life....You’ve been in the White House. There it is over there....Is it about history?...Is it about the first woman?”
Introducing a report on Monday’s CBS This Morning about the climate change conference being held in Paris, co-host Norah O’Donnell worried that “security concerns threaten to overshadow the talks.” Correspondent Margaret Brennan followed: “The world's two biggest polluters, China and the U.S., kicked off the climate change summit....The goal in Paris is to limit global warming to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit from pre-industrial levels, but the terror threat is diverting attention.”
Talking to Bloomberg Politics managing editor Mark Halperin on Monday’s NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer wondered if the shooting outside a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado would hurt the GOP politically: “...does the attack take the issue of Planned Parenthood off the table for Republican candidates who don't want to be seen or don't want to risk taking advantage of a tragedy or being on the wrong side of a tragedy?”
At the top of NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday, host Chuck Todd dismissed security concerns over terrorism as nothing more that bigotry: “How will the ISIS threat and the politics of fear impact the 2016 campaign? Also, Syrian refugees and America, are there legitimate reasons to slow the process or is this just Islamaphobia?” Teasing the upcoming segment later in the show, Todd proclaimed: “...the Republican presidential candidates have been playing on the politics of fear in an extraordinary way.”
Appearing on Fox News Sunday, conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh blasted President Obama for treating Republicans as a greater enemy than ISIS terrorists: “Barack Obama's number one enemy is the Republican Party and the conservative movement. You see he gets animated, he doesn't need cue cards, he doesn’t need Teleprompter when he starts ripping into them.”
On Friday, NBC’s Today lambasted Republicans for daring to oppose President Obama on the process of accepting Syrian refugees into the U.S. Co-host Savannah Guthrie proclaimed: “Defying the President, the House on Thursday voted overwhelmingly to impose stringent new screening rules.”
Teasing an upcoming report that amounted to Obama administration propaganda on Thursday’s NBC Today, co-host Savannah Guthrie proclaimed: “Fighting for family leave....How one mom's courageous battle for more time at home made it all the way to the White House.”
On Thursday, nearly 48 hours after Secretary of State John Kerry suggested that there was a “legitimacy” or a “rationale” behind the January terrorist attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, NBC’s Today finally noticed the highly controversial remarks. ABC and CBS continued to ignore Kerry’s offensive comments.
Appearing on Wednesday’s NBC Today, former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge repeatedly ripped President Obama’s failing foreign policy against ISIS as co-hosts Savannah Guthrie and Matt Lauer sat back without comment.
In a tirade on Monday, Fox News anchor Shepard Smith dismissed legitimate security concerns in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks as a “collective freak-out” that was potentially “dangerous.” He then proceeded to condemn anyone opposed to bringing thousands of Syrian refugees to the United States as “extreme forces within our own political system” that lead us “towards self-destruction.”
Following a press conference in which President Obama stubbornly refused to admit any failures in his strategy to fight ISIS, reporters on NBC and ABC were stunned by the commander-in-chief’s dismissive attitude toward the legitimate tough questioning he received.