At the top of the 9 a.m. ET hour on Wednesday's NBC Today, weatherman Al Roker suggested in jest that his colleague David Gregory deserved to be punched in the face by former President Bill Clinton after the Meet the Press moderator asked Clinton in a recent interview about wife Hillary being "out of touch." Roker joked: "You know, I'd give anything if after David finished the question, Bill just kind of hauled off and popped him. Just see what happens." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Moments later, co-host Hoda Kotb rushed to the defense of the Clintons: "There are certain people who when you look at them you think that money is their issue and that's – they're entitled or whatever. You don't really think that when you think of the Clintons. It's not the first thing, I don't think, that pops into people's heads." Roker lamented: "I think we were all probably raised that you don't talk about money and how much people make. And it's unfortunate."
Gregory actually appeared earlier on the morning show to preview his sit-down with the former President at the annual Clinton Global Initiative summit. Referring to Hillary Clinton's claim that the former first couple was "dead broke" after leaving the White House, co-host Savannah Guthrie wondered if Bill Clinton's comments would end the controversy: "David, I assume the Clintons would like to dispense with this issue once and for all. Do you think they've done that?"
I think the tension has come from the fact that Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton in many ways see themselves as the couple from Arkansas who came into Washington. The President saying, "Look, I had the lowest net worth of any president who's come into office." They probably still see themselves that way.
But in all those intervening years, they have made a lot of money. And perhaps she just chose her words wrong in not offering the context that the President said should be offered even in the question. So the reality is that people can accept this wealth and not make a judgment about whether she is out of touch.
On Tuesday's NBC Nightly News, chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd sympathetically observed that Hillary Clinton's elitism was the result of her having been stuck in a security bubble for over two decades, declaring: "It's not a bubble she chose."
Here is a full transcript of the June 25 Today segment with Roker and Kotb:
9:02 AM ET
AL ROKER: Let's start off, first of all, our pal David Gregory from Meet the Press got an exclusive interview with President Clinton. And you know, there's been a lot in the news about Hillary Clinton saying they left the White House, they were "dead broke," they were in debt. And folks saying, "Well, you know, you're not in touch if you think you're dead broke." So here's what the President had to say.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Out of Touch?; Bill Clinton Defends Hillary's Comments]
DAVID GREGORY: But when you say you pay ordinary taxes, as Secretary Clinton did, unlike other people who are really well off, who pay taxes maybe just off capital gains. Can you understand, as a political matter, that that could strike people as being out of touch?
CLINTON: Yeah, but she's not out of touch. And she's advocated and worked as a senator for things that were good for ordinary people. And before that, all her life – and the people asking her questions should put this into some sort of context.
I think I had the lowest net worth of any American president in the 20th Century when I took office. And, you know, now I don't and we've got a good life and I'm grateful for it. But I feel we go to our local grocery store on the weekend. We talk to people in our town. We know what's going on.
ROKER: You know, I'd give anything if after David finished the question, Bill just kind of hauled off and popped him. Just see what happens.
HODA KOTB: I bet you, if she could do it all over again and un-ring that bell...
ROKER: She would not have said that.
KOTB: ...the words "dead broke" would not have come out of her mouth.
KOTB: I did think it's interesting because usually President Clinton is very like direct about things and it seemed like he was going around the mulberry bush on this one a little bit.
ROKER: Well, look, because it's a hot-button issue. People saying, "Look, I mean you were, but now you're not." So-
JENNA BUSH HAGER: Well, and I mean, they're a close, close family. You know? Obviously President Clinton and Mrs. Clinton have stood up for each other throughout time and for their daughter. And so, you know, I mean she's – they both have been in public service for a long time. They've served our country. I think the fact that it's – we're talking about somebody's money is a little bit unfortunate. You know? And – but at the same time, she's done a lot. And so hopefully-
KOTB: I think it was just the wrong choice of words. Because I don't – there are certain people who when you look at them you think that money is their issue and that's – they're entitled or whatever. You don't really think that when you think of the Clintons. It's not the first thing, I don't think, that pops into people's heads.
ROKER: Well, you know, I think we were all probably raised that you don't talk about money and how much people make. And it's unfortunate.
KOTB: So how much do you make?
KOTB: Yeah, you know, I think it's worth exploring.
ROKER: Oh, that was nice. Very nice. Hey, don't forget, you can see more of David Gregory's interview with President Bill Clinton this Sunday on Meet the Press. Check your local listings.