On Saturday and Sunday, ABC’s Good Morning America and NBC’s Today continued to play up the ongoing controversy surrounding comments made by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani in which he questioned President Obama’s love of America.
The two networks repeatedly hit the Republican for creating a “firestorm” over his comments and eagerly touted White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest for scolding Giuliani. Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd went so far as to suggest that some Republicans fear the New York City mayor had caused the “issue of race” to pop up.
During an appearance on Saturday, NBC’s Kristen Welker hyped how “[f]ormer Mayor Rudy Giuliani remains defiant this weekend” before she noted that he has been “criticized himself by a number of Democrats and even some Republicans who say his comments are really hitting below the belt and are disrespectful to the president.”
After the NBC reporter played a clip of Giuliani attempting to clarify his remarks, Welker then eagerly promoted the White House response:
Now Earnest also said he feels sorry for Giuliani. The White House stressed Friday that the president has often expressed his love of country in public comments, including during remarks he made to the DNC on Friday. The White House denies those comments were in response to Giuliani. Although worth noting the hashtag #obamalovesamerica was started by the White House and tweeted out more than 54,000 times in a 24-hour period.
In a news brief on Saturday’s Good Morning America, ABC’s Ron Claiborne promoted how “the White House is firing back at former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, under fire now for saying that President Obama doesn’t love America.”
The ABC anchor then played a clip of ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl asking White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest if “Rudy Giuliani has lost it?” ABC is known for repeatedly ignoring Karl when he goes head-to-head with Earnest was more than happy to play a clip of him goading the press secretary to scold the Republican mayor.
On Sunday, Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd appeared on Today to continue the network’s obsession with the Giuliani story. Co-host Erica Hill introduced Todd by pushing the line that “former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s comments that President Obama doesn't love America continue to dominate headlines this weekend.”
Todd falsely claimed that Giuliani had injected “the issue of race” into the conversation as the GOP was “sort of split” about how to handle the situation:
I think you have the Republican Party is sort of split about this in this respect -- there are some that are just like, why -- you know, why is Giuliani doing this? Why is he forcing the party to have to get, suddenly get involved in a semantics debate looking like they’re attacking the president personally or somehow the issue of race popping in.
Over on Good Morning America, ABC’s Dan Harris used the Giuliani comments as opportunity to pivot into promoting a non-controversy surrounding Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Speaking to This Week moderator George Stephanopoulos, Harris suggested that because the Republican refused to answer a gotcha question from the Washington Post about Obama's faith, it meant “he’s not sure whether Mr. Obama is a Christian.”
Walker’s spokesperson later told the Post that there was no doubt in the governor’s mind that Obama was a Christian but that didn’t stop Harris from suggesting that Walker’s comments were reflective of how “there are some on the right who have raised questions about whether the president maybe a Muslim. So it isn’t a completely irrelevant question.”
For his part, Stephanopoulos did mention that Republican Senator Marco Rubio called out the media for expecting Republicans to answer for their colleagues but Democrats are never held to the same standard:
Probably the most artful response came from Senator Marco Rubio, who’s also looking at the race, Republican from Florida, who said that, you know, I don't know why I have to answer these questions. You know, Democrats aren’t asked every time Joe Biden makes a gaffe.
On Thursday and Friday nights, the “big three” (ABC, CBS, and NBC) began the network obsession with Giuliani by touting his “war of words” and playing up how the New York mayor was “doubling down” in his criticism of President Obama.
See relevant transcripts below.
February 21, 2015
ERICA HILL: Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani is not backing down after he created a bit of a firestorm after saying he didn’t believe President Obama loves America. On Friday, he told some newspapers he believed the president has been influenced by communists. Then last night Giuliani speaking out again, this time on Fox, after the White House took him to task for those comments. NBC's Kristen Welker has more now on what Giuliani is saying at this point. Kristen good morning.
KRISTEN WELKER: Erica, good morning to you. That’s right. Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani remains defiant this weekend. Last night he again accused the president of criticizing the country instead of touting its greatness. Now Giuliani has been criticized himself by a number of Democrats and even some Republicans who say his comments are really hitting below the belt and are disrespectful to the president. But Giuliani says he has no reason to apologize. Now just for a little bit of context Erica, Giuliani said on Wednesday, “I do not believe that the president loves America.” Those comments created a firestorm with some calling on him to apologize. On Fox News last night, Giuliani didn’t back down. He did try to clarify his comments amid this mounting backlash. Take a listen.
RUDY GIULIANI: He may love America. I don't know. In his own way. When I listen to his language, I hear language of a man who is never talking about the greatness of America. So, he's not a cheerleader for America. He's a critic. It's as if he were a movie critic as opposed to the guy acting in the movie.
WELKER: Now earlier Friday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest lobbed a sharp attack against the man once known as America's mayor.
JOSH EARNEST: I can tell you it is sad to see when somebody who has attained a certain level of public stature and even admiration tarnishes that legacy so thoroughly.
WELKER: Now Earnest also said he feels sorry for Giuliani. The White House stressed Friday that the president has often expressed his love of country in public comments, including during remarks he made to the DNC on Friday. The White House denies those comments were in response to Giuliani. Although worth noting the hashtag #obamalovesamerica was started by the White House and tweeted out more than 54,000 times in a 24-hour period. Those on the right and left weighing in. Erica back to you.
HILL: Kristen Welker for us this morning. Kristen thank you.
February 22, 2015
ERICA HILL: In political news, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s comments that President Obama doesn't love America continue to dominate headlines this weekend. While many politicians are distancing themselves, not everyone is so quick to dismiss the idea. Chuck Todd is moderator of Meet the Press and joins us this morning. Chuck good morning.
CHUCK TODD: Good morning Erica.
HILL: So this has been, governors from across the country are meeting in Washington this weekend. Giuliani's comments though in some way seem to be really dominating the conversation there. Does this story and do these comments have legs moving forward? I mean, what's the lasting impact especially in the Republican Party?
TODD: Well, you know, it is interesting. I think you have the Republican Party is sort of split about this in this respect -- there are some that are just like, why -- you know, why is Giuliani doing this? Why is he forcing the party to have to get, suddenly get involved in a semantics debate looking like they’re attacking the president personally or somehow the issue of race popping in.
But then there’s another part of the Republican Party that is so angry at the media, views this as a media-created firestorm and in some ways it actually fires them up a little bit, and say, you know what, this is just the media out to get Republicans, looking for any way to get Republicans and playing gotcha with them. And I think that’s why you’ve seen some of these candidates, some of them are thinking about, what does it sound like to the vast middle of the country and they want to denounce Giuliani.
And then some of these guys sit there and say, well what does this sound like to the base of the party who sit there and say, you know what, fight the media on this, don't take the media's bait. So I think that's why you've seen the mixed reaction that you've seen among Republicans.
ABC’s Good Morning America
February 22, 2015
DAN HARRIS: Let's talk politics now. Two prominent Republicans taking heat this morning for comments about President Obama. First, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said he does not believe the president loves America. Then the Governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, who’s considered a leading presidential contender, says he's not sure whether Mr. Obama is a Christian. So let's bring in ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos. George, Governor Walker called that question irrelevant and gotcha journalism but is he going to take some heat for this?
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, that’s the point he was trying to make. He said on principle, he didn't want to answer the question. The fact that his spokesperson then called The Washington Post back, that’s who did the initial interview, and said, well of course, the governor believes that President Obama is a Christian. But he doesn't believe that all of the Republican candidates should have to answer all of these questions about the motivations of the president. So yeah, he's gotten in a little bit of hot water trying to clean it up this morning.
HARRIS: Of course, there are some on the right who have raised questions about whether the president maybe a Muslim. So it isn’t a completely irrelevant question.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Some people say it's a dog whistle to those believers.