At the top of Monday's NBC Today, co-host Savannah Guthrie kept up the drum beat for Mitt Romney to release more tax returns as she proclaimed: "Mounting pressure. Mitt Romney facing new calls to release more of his tax returns. And this time they're coming from prominent conservatives."
In the report that followed, correspondent Peter Alexander failed to back up Guthrie's headline until the very end of the segment: "...there is growing pressure, this morning, for Romney to share more of those tax returns. You'll remember his own father released 12 years' worth during his 1968 presidential bid. And now, Savannah, some prominent conservatives are urging Romney to put more returns out. They say get it over with. One even calling Romney's refusal to do so, quote, 'crazy.'" Alexander did not mention the name of a single "prominent conservative" in the report.
Alexander was apparently referring to Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol on Fox News Sunday, who was actually giving Romney strategic campaign advice on how to move past the issue:
He should release the tax returns tomorrow, It's crazy. You've got to release six, eight, ten years back tax returns. Take the hit for a day or two. He has to give a big speech in defense of capitalism, and that will elevate, I think, this race above this tactical back in forth, which I do think he's on the margin of losing.
Introducing Alexander's report, Guthrie noted how "the President is refusing to back down" from false charges against Romney regarding his time at Bain Capital. Alexander touted: "...the President rejected Romney's call for an apology over the Obama campaign's attacks....In fact, the Obama campaign is doubling down, with a new ad using Romney's rendition of 'America the Beautiful' to go after his jobs record."
Despite playing a sound bite of former Bain partner Edward Conard disproving such attacks, Alexander later added that Romney: "...is still fending off questions about the timing of his departure from Bain Capital."
Here is a full transcript of Alexander's July 16 report:
7:00AM ET TEASE:
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Mounting pressure. Mitt Romney facing new calls to release more of his tax returns. And this time they're coming from prominent conservatives.
7:03AM ET SEGMENT:
GUTHRIE: And the temperature's rising on the presidential campaign trail as well, as President Obama and Mitt Romney trade jabs over Romney's days with the company Bain Capital. And the President is refusing to back down. NBC's Peter Alexander is in Washington this morning with more. Peter, good morning to you.
PETER ALEXANDER: Savannah, good Monday morning to you. This furious back and forth has only gotten more intense in recent days, with charges and counter-charges. And as the President heads to Ohio to campaign today, a leading Democrat says Mitt Romney is running from his business record at Bain Capital, "like a scalded cat." Those are his words. And a Romney advisor is accusing the Obama campaign of lies.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: "We Won't Be Apologizing"; Obama Doubles Down On Bain Attack as Romney Fights Back]
In what's become an increasingly bitter slugfest, both President Obama and Mitt Romney are fighting to control this summer's political debate. In an interview with NBC's Norfolk, Virginia affiliate this weekend, the President rejected Romney's call for an apology over the Obama campaign's attacks.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN [REPORTER]: First of all, you're not going to apologize?
BARACK OBAMA: No, we won't be apologizing.
ALEXANDER: In fact, the Obama campaign is doubling down, with a new ad using Romney's rendition of "America the Beautiful" to go after his jobs record. For his part, Romney is slamming President Obama for what he has called an outrageous and reckless campaign.
BOB SCHIEFFER [CLIP IN ROMNEY AD]: Whatever happened to hope and change?
MITT ROMNEY: I'm Mitt Romney and I approved this message.
ALEXANDER: In an interview with CBS News, the President admitted Washington feels as broken as it did four years ago and he conceded that his handling of the economy, the basis for Romney's attacks, is fair game.
OBAMA: And you don't hear me complaining about him making that argument. Because if I was in his shoes, I'd be making the same argument.
ALEXANDER: Romney, who spent the weekend relaxing at his summer home in New Hampshire, attending Church Sunday morning, is still fending off questions about the timing of his departure from Bain Capital. One of Romney's former partners at Bain told MSNBC Sunday that even though Romney is listed on SEC documents as the CEO of Bain after 1999, he was no longer running the firm then, when companies Bain managed began outsourcing jobs.
EDWARD CONARD [FORMER BAIN CAPITAL PARTNER]: During that time, a management committee ran the firm and we could hardly even get Mitt to come back to negotiate the terms of his departure because he was working so hard on the Olympics.
ALEXANDER: Still, the Democrats continued their offensive against Romney.
RAHM EMANUEL [MAYOR, D-CHICAGO]: Stop whining. I give him his own advice. Stop whining.
ALEXANDER: And during our interview Friday, Romney challenged the Obama campaign, once again insisting he would only release two years of tax returns.
ROMNEY: Their strategy is to, quote, "Kill Romney," end of quote. And the American people want instead a discussion about the direction of the country.
ALEXANDER: But there is growing pressure, this morning, for Romney to share more of those tax returns. You'll remember his own father released 12 years' worth during his 1968 presidential bid. And now, Savannah, some prominent conservatives are urging Romney to put more returns out. They say get it over with. One even calling Romney's refusal to do so, quote, "crazy." Savannah.
GUTHRIE: Peter Alexander, thank you.