On a special Saturday edition of MSNBC's Hardball, while previewing that night's presidential candidates forum hosted by evangelical leader Rick Warren, NBC News Political Director Chuck Todd seemed to suggest that it is not out of the ordinary for evangelical Christians to feel "personal hatred" toward a Democratic presidential candidate. Todd, who is normally relatively balanced in his coverage of politics, once even admitting to being a "fan" of the MRC despite a history of working for liberal Democratic Senator Tom Harkin, made the uncharacteristic remarks as he contended that the forum would give Barack Obama an opportunity to keep evangelicals from feeling "personal hatred" toward him. Todd: "It's a huge opportunity for Obama tonight to at least not be hated by the evange-, look, these folks are not going to ever support him. They know what kind of judges he's going to appoint. It's going to be judges that evangelicals aren't going to be happy with. But they're not going to, if they don't have a personal hatred of him, then that's a good thing for Obama."
Update: NewsBuster Mark Finkelstein reports that Todd has since apologized for his comments.
Below is a transcript of Todd's comments from the Saturday, August 16, Hardball on MSNBC, substitute hosted by Andrea Mitchell:
ANDREA MITCHELL: Let's talk about the subject of tonight's forum and the evangelicals, which could be a game changer in a close race. Certainly in Ohio in 2004, Karl Rove felt that the turnout, the enthusiasm of white evangelicals for George W. Bush made the difference in Ohio, which was the difference in the election. You've got the latest Pew poll finding, which is that 68 percent favor John McCain, 24 percent favor Barack Obama. Obama has the ability to talk about faith and social values, but you still have 12 percent of the people in the Pew poll thinking that he is Muslim. And he wants to counteract that. And he also has a certain number, you know, concerns still about Reverend Wright.
CHUCK TODD: Look, this is, though, a huge opportunity for Obama. McCain's playing defense tonight. He's going to this thing because it would have been terrible if he didn't. Obama's going, and it looks like, "Oh, wow, look at him reaching out to evangelicals." As you mentioned, there is that one in eight people still think he might be Muslim and that he isn't a Christian.
MITCHELL: How many times tonight are we going to hear him talk about his Christian faith.
TODD: He will probably say the word "Jesus" many more times than McCain will. McCain really is an old school western conservative Republican-
MITCHELL: Ronald Reagan.
TODD: -like Reagan, Alan Simpson, Barry Goldwater, these guys didn't talk, Richard Nixon, these guys didn't talk about their faith in public. It's just not what they did. It's very much a southern Republican thing to do, not a western Republican thing. Obama being, you know, sort of, almost a born again Christian in some ways, not born again in the way George W. Bush is, but he sort of chose his Christianity, and so he's very comfortable with it. You'll see him tonight almost look more at home with this crowd, probably bond a little bit more personally with Rick Warren than John McCain would. It's just not, it's just not his comfort zone. So it's a huge opportunity for Obama tonight to at least not be hated by the evange-, look, these folks are not going to ever support him. They know what kind of judges he's going to appoint. It's going to be judges that evangelicals aren't going to be happy with. But they're not going to, if they don't have a personal hatred of him, then that's a good thing for Obama.