Updated [11:22 ET]: More analysis and full transcript added.
At the top of Thursday's NBC Today, co-host Ann Curry reported on Herman Cain's campaign blaming Rick Perry for dredging up sexual harassment allegations against the Republican front-runner and then wondered: "Will this intra-party fight hurt the Republican Party's chance of taking back the White House?" [Audio available here]
Later, in an interview with Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus Curry touted the back and forth among the GOP primary candidates as a "serious feud" and asked: "Do you think this scandal has affected your party's ability to unseat Barack Obama?" [View video after the jump]
Curry began the interview by worrying: "The question is how is the party and how is Herman Cain's candidacy? Let me ask you straight out. Can Herman Cain's candidacy for president survive the claims of sexual harassment from three women and now also this eyewitness?" Priebus began to explain that vigorous tough primary fight can help the party, but Curry stopped him: "But let me interrupt you, this – what's happening here though is – seems to be something else. There seems to be a intra-party conflict, a rivalry."
Curry went on to suggest that Priebus was somehow in charge of telling the GOP campaigns how to conduct themselves and what tactics to use: "Let me get your rules of the road as an RNC chair. If a rival campaign did leak this, does this cross the line in terms of the party and how things are done and not done?"
Here is a full transcript of the November 3 interview:
7:01AM ET TEASE:
MATT LAUER: The story involving Herman Cain has taken a dramatic new turn, another woman coming forward.
ANN CURRY: No kidding, that's right. As we just mentioned now, a third woman claims she made – that Cain made suggestive – sexually suggestive remarks and gestures to her back in the 1990s This as the Cain campaign blasts Rick Perry's camp, saying his operatives set off the whole firestorm. Will this intra-party fight hurt the Republican Party's chance of taking back the White House? We're going to talk with the Party's chairman straight ahead and ask that question.
7:05AM ET SEGMENT:
CURRY: Reince Priebus is the chairman of the Republican National Committee. Reince, good morning.
REINCE PRIEBUS: Hey, good morning, Ann. How are you?
CURRY: I'm okay.
CURRY: The question is how is the party and how is Herman Cain's candidacy? Let me ask you straight out. Can Herman Cain's candidacy for president survive the claims of sexual harassment from three women and now also this eyewitness?
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Cain Controversy; Third Woman Claims Candidate Was Sexually Inappropriate]
PRIEBUS: Well, I mean, it depends on the veracity of the claims. And you know, I'm not the referee, Ann, here. You know, primaries are tough and I just happen to believe that primaries are good for the party. I think that when you have the horsepower on your side of the aisle, like we have on the Republican side, they work.
You know, I come from Wisconsin and, you know, we have a new governor there that you know very well, by the name of Scott Walker. He came through a very tough primary. They work. And, by the way, you look at Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, they fought it out all the way through the end of June before a national convention. And guess what? It worked out pretty well for him. He took a super majority to congress, a 60-vote majority to the United States Senate-
CURRY: But let me interrupt you here and ask you-
PRIEBUS: So primaries work, Ann.
CURRY: But let me interrupt you, this – what's happening here though is – seems to be something else. There seems to be a intra-party conflict, a rivalry. Kind of almost a serious feud. You've got – which do you believe? Do you believe Cain is right in pointing the finger at the Perry campaign or do you think the Perry campaign is being honest in saying that it had nothing to do with this leak?
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: GOP vs. GOP; Party Chief on New Fight Between Cain and Perry]
PRIEBUS: Listen, I'm not going to get in the middle of it. You know, and it's not my job to be the referee. My job is to make sure the-
CURRY: You are the head of the RNC, however, in some ways you are.
PRIEBUS: Well, yeah, of course I'm the head of the RNC, but as part of the RNC is that we don't pick winners and losers in presidential elections. My job, Ann, is to make sure that we have a Republican National Committee that's ready to go and we have a nominee. My job is to make sure that we put a good nominee on the ballot and that we defeat Barack Obama and save this country from an economy that's just not on track. And that's really what Americans want. Now, whether – who that nominee is going to be, that's anybody's guess. But getting into-
CURRY: Does this scandal – interrupting you, I'm so sorry for that, I know that's bad behavior, but let me just sort of get these questions in – do you think this scandal has affected your party's ability to unseat Barack Obama?
RIENCE PRIEBUS: Absolutely not. I mean, if you look at the polling, and you look at where Americans are at in this, in this country, they, number one, believe by 80% that this country is on the wrong track. They believe that this president hasn't delivered on his promises, and guess what? The President came to America. The President came to us as the great uniter. And now he's out campaigning as the great divider, pitting everyone against everybody, Republicans versus Democrats, rich versus poor. The economy couldn't be in any worse shape than it is right now.
And, you know, I think Americans are ready for a change. I mean, that, we know, is a constant. This issue and other issues are going to come and go, but at the end of the day, Americans are not going to believe that this president delivered on his promises or that the economy is in any better shape today than it was four years ago. It's worse.
CURRY: Let's get back to the issue at hand. And specifically now, you know the Perry campaign is also pointing the finger at the Romney campaign. So let me just get your rules of the road here.
PRIEBUS: Yeah, and I didn't even – I didn't even know that. So you're telling me information. So, there you go.
CURRY: Well, there you are. Well, a lot of this broke over the last 24 hours. Let me get your rules of the road as an RNC chair. If a rival campaign did leak this, does this cross the line in terms of the party and how things are done and not done?
PRIEBUS: You know, I don't think so. I mean, I think – and first of all, I don't know what's true and what's not. And it's not our job to be the Sherlock-
CURRY: But does it cross the line, in your view, if, in fact, it happened?
PRIEBUS: We're not the Sherlock Holmes of the – we're not the Sherlock Holmes of the presidential primary field. We've got 21 candidates, Ann, that filed in New Hampshire. What we are, are people who are trying to put the party together to rebuild our Republican National Committee, to get prepared for a president who's campaigning nonstop, all the time, raising money every single night. And we're going to be prepared with a nominee that's intelligent, articulate, and can earn the trust of the American people, to save this economy from a president who hasn't delivered and who just continues to give speeches but doesn't follow through. I mean, that's really where we're at in this country.
CURRY: Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, I'm sorry we're out of time but we really appreciate your joining us this morning. Thank you.
PRIEBUS: You bet. Thank you, Ann.