In covering President Obama’s refusal to refer to terrorism as Islamic extremism, CBS and NBC devoted portions of their reports on Thursday night to comments Rudy Giuliani made the day before with NBC reserving a majority of their airtime to attacking the former New York City Mayor for having “set off a war of words” and taking presidential criticism “to another level.”
NBC Nightly News interim anchor Lester Holt scolded Giuliani before correspondent Andrea Mitchell’s report by declaring that he set off “a firestorm” over telling an audience that “I do not believe that the President loves America” and suggested that Giuliani went too far.
Holt opined how:
Politics can be a rough business, and everyone's fair game even the leader of the free world, but when Rudy Giuliani went before a room of donors and told them that the President of the United States doesn't love his country, his own country, it set off a war of words.
Mitchell picked up on Holt’s point and continued piling on Guiliani by remarking that “Republicans and some tabloids pounced, but former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani took it to another level.” She added that he “sort of” “backed down” after “sharp responses” to what he told GOP donors at a New York City event.
At the end of her piece, the NBC News correspondent and MSNBC host gushed that “[t]he White House Twitter machine went into overdrive” by starting “the hashtag, #ObamaLovesAmerica” that ended up trending, but fretted: “[I]t was also used sarcastically by the President's critics.”
Over on the CBS Evening News, anchor Scott Pelley told viewers that Obama was “taking some heat from critics” for his refusal to label al-Qaeda and ISIS cases of Islamic extremism while senior White House correspondent Bill Plante characterized Obama’s refusal as “tak[ing] pains to separate Islam from terrorism.”
Before briefly mentioning Giuliani’s comments, Plante ruled that “critics fault[ed] the President for not labeling the terrorists Islamic” with Giuliani going “even further.”
While CBS and NBC brought up Giuliani’s comments in context of Obama and Islamic extremism, ABC’s World News Tonight with David Muir offered up a segment in stark contrast to their counterparts by miraculously sticking to the President and what he has (and has not) said.
ABC News chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl even dared to turn the tables and bucked the Obama administration’s line by calling the terrorism being carried out by al-Qaeda and ISIS what it is: “There is no question that the terrorists who make up ISIS and al-Qaeda are Islamic extremists.”
Karl added that the President, however, believes that “the United States is not at war with Islam” so the American people should not “look for the President to change the way he is talking about this terrorist threat.”
On Thursday morning, only CBS This Morning presented any sort of an opposing argument to the President’s word choice.
The relevant portions of the transcript from the CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley on February 19 can be found below.
CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley
February 19, 2015
6:39 p.m. Eastern
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE CAPTION: Fighting Terror]
SCOTT PELLEY: Today, President Obama said Muslim leaders have a responsibility to push back against twisted interpretations of Islam. This is day two of a White House conference on extremism. The President declined to label al-Qaeda and ISIS Islamic terrorists, and he's taking some heat from critics.
BILL PLANTE: At a White House conference on violent extremism, Mr. Obama appeared to take pains to separate Islam from terrorism. Critics fault the President for not labeling the terrorists Islamic, and at a private Republican gathering in New York last night, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani went even further. “I do not believe that the President loves America.” “What's wrong with this man,” asked Giuliani, “That he can't stand up and say there's a part of Islam that's sick?” But the President has called on Muslims to actively reject extremism.
PLANTE: White House aides say the reason Mr. Obama won't refer to violence by Muslims as Islamic terrorism is that he wants to deny them the ability to call the clash a religious war.
A partial transcript of the segment from NBC Nightly News on February 19 is transcribed below.
NBC Nightly News
February 19, 2015
7:09 p.m. Eastern
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE CAPTION: War of Words]
LESTER HOLT: Now to another story that a lot of folks are talking about. A firestorm over what the former mayor of New York City said about President Obama. Politics can be a rough business, and everyone's fair game even the leader of the free world, but when Rudy Giuliani went before a room of donors and told them that the President of the United States doesn't love his country, his own country, it set off a war of words.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: No religion is responsible for terrorism. People are responsible for violence and terrorism.
MITCHELL: Republicans and some tabloids pounced, but former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani took it to another level. At a dinner with wealthy Republican donors last night saying, “I do not believe and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the President loves America. He doesn't love you and he doesn't love me. He wasn't brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.”
MITCHELL: And other Republicans, potential presidential candidates, like Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal agreed with Rudy Giuliani. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, also at the dinner, didn't disagree.
MITCHELL: Democrats have sailed to comment.
DNC CHAIRWOMAN DEBBIE WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ: If the Republican Party really wants to be taken seriously – now is the time for its leaders to stop this kind of nonsense. Enough.
MITCHELL: The White House Twitter machine went into overdrive. Soon, the hashtag, #ObamaLovesAmerica, was trending, but it was also used sarcastically by the President's critics.
The relevant parts of the segment from ABC’s World News Tonight with David Muir on February 19 is below.
ABC’s World News Tonight with David Muir
February 19, 2015
6:41 p.m Eastern
DAVID MUIR: President Obama making headlines tonight for his choice of words when it comes to describing ISIS. The President will not call this Islamic terror.
MUIR: So, let's get right to our chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl tonight and Jon, the President's being careful with his words, but causing some controversy in doing so.
JONATHAN KARL: Yes, he is, David. There is no question that the terrorists who make up ISIS and al-Qaeda are Islamic extremists. They claim to be waging a war in the name of the Koran, but the President wants to make it clear to the world that the United States is not at war with Islam....So, the bottom line, David, don't look for the President to change the way he is talking about this terrorist threat.