An evening after the NBC Nightly News showcased Michelle Obama's plea to move on from focusing on Jeremiah Wright because talking about him “doesn't help kids out there,” on Thursday night the newscast again provided a platform for Barack and Michelle Obama to advance their efforts to show humility and paint media coverage as unfair. Setting up a second night of excerpts from the interview the couple conducted with Meredith Vieira for the Today show, anchor Brian Williams explained how “both went out of their way to say they understand that a lot of Americans are right now trying to figure out just who Barack Obama is.”
The excerpt began with Barack Obama maintaining “it's understandable” to “raise questions” about him because he's an African-American named Barack, “so if I don't wear a flag pin, that becomes a cause for concern,” but “if John McCain doesn't wear a flag pin, look, he's a war hero.”
That prompted Vieira to empathize: “So you're treated differently, then, you think?” And to wonder to Michelle Obama: “So you never sit there and get upset about these?” Barack Obama interjected that “she stops reading the newspapers during certain spans of time” before she quipped, during loving back-and-forth joshing: “I take the paper and I ball it up and I throw it in a corner!”
Most of the portion of the interview Nightly News excerpted Thursday evening had not aired on Thursday's Today show.
(The MRC's Tim Graham provided this summary of the interview segment run Thursday morning:
Barack and Michelle Obama granted a joint interview to NBC's Today, but like CNN, NBC interviewer Meredith Vieira didn't ask about anything Wright said, only about their feelings of pain, or whether their timing was off. She asked Mrs. Obama: "Do you feel that the Reverend, Reverend Wright, betrayed your husband?" Vieira also asked the Obamas about attacks on their elitism or sense of patriotism: "So when you hear somebody call your husband an elitist or they called you unpatriotic at one point, when you hear them say about you, well he doesn't have fire in his belly, he has arugula in his belly, how do you respond to that?"
She walked Barack Obama back through how he wished he'd used different words in San Francisco, such as people "rely" on their religion rather than "cling" to it, and that he said people were "angry and frustrated" instead of "bitter.")
My April 30 NewsBusters item, “NBC Highlights Michelle Obama's Spin: Talking About Wright 'Doesn't Help Kids,'” recounted:
The Obama campaign has chosen NBC's Today show as the venue to try to move beyond the Jeremiah Wright controversy and a preview aired on Wednesday's Nightly News, of the session to air Thursday morning, showcased Barack and Michelle Obama making their case. While Meredith Vieira apparently did ask Barack Obama why he had not denounced Wright sooner, Nightly News viewers heard Barack Obama boast in response that he had resisted doing the “politically expedient” and Michelle Obama resorting to a plea reminiscent of the Clinton era:
We got to move forward. You know, this conversation doesn't help my kids, you know. It doesn't help kids out there who are looking for us to make decisions and choices about how we're going to better fund education.
The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video to provide this transcript of the segment on the Thursday, May 1 NBC Nightly News:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: We have more tonight from my colleague Meredith Vieira's interview with Barack and Michelle Obama. As part of the interview, which debuted today on NBC, both went out of their way to say they understand that a lot of Americans are right now trying to figure out just who Barack Obama is.
BARACK OBAMA: Let's be honest. You know, here I am, a African-American named Barack Obama, right, who's running for President. I mean, that's a leap for folks. And I think it's understandable that my political opponents would say, you know, he's different, he's odd, he's sort of unfamiliar, and what do we know about him? And to raise questions. So if I don't wear a flag pin, that becomes a cause for concern. If John McCain doesn't wear a flag pin, look, he's a war hero. And I understand why I don't think anybody is going to question about McCain's-
MEREDITH VIEIRA: So you're treated differently, then, you think?
BARACK OBAMA: Well, I don't-
MICHELLE OBAMA: I think what Barack is saying is that, you know, part of what we've been doing is we have to introduce ourselves to people. People have to know all sides of us.
VIEIRA: So you never sit there and get upset about these?
MICHELLE OBAMA: Never. I never get upset, Meredith. Not, do I get upset?
BARACK OBAMA: She gets a little upset.
MICHELLE OBAMA: No, I don't get upset. Do I look upset?
VIEIRA: I just want, I'm trying to know you as you two. Take off the political hats, as two people-
BARACK OBAMA: She, she just, she stops, she stops, she stops-
MICHELLE OBAMA: I'm cool and calm.
BARACK OBAMA: -she stops reading the newspapers during certain spans of time.
MICHELLE OBAMA: I take the paper and I ball it up and I throw it in a corner! Nah, you know, of course there are frustrations. You know, this is, it's-
BARACK OBAMA: She's, she's pretty, she, she gets protective of me. Which is, which, okay. And the-
MICHELLE OBAMA: I, I do. I, I love my husband. I don't, you know, you don't, you don't want anybody talking poorly about the people that you love.
BARACK OBAMA: Right.
MICHELLE OBAMA: But also-
BARACK OBAMA: She's handled it better than I expected, though, because I think she's actually come to believe in what we're doing.
MICHELLE OBAMA: I do, and we've traveled around the country now. And people are decent. And folks might not vote for Barack, but they do want a change. I respect the fact that folks are trying to figure it out.