Chuck Todd Claims Giuliani 'Led' 'This Week's Race to the Bottom'

On Sunday, Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd did his best to continue the media’s obsession surrounding former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani questioning President Obama’s love of America.

Despite Todd’s insistence that he has “hated this story in so many ways,” he made sure to declare “[t]his week’s week's race to the bottom, led by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, is proving why Americans are learning to hate politics and the media.”

Todd opened his show with the Giuliani controversy and wondered “[s]hould Giuliani’s opinion even matter, though?” before he played up the liberal media frenzy surrounding the story:

It’s cable catnip and eventually network and front page catnip too. Exhibit a of what happens when a former official desperate to stay relevant is given a megaphone. Television turns up the volume and politicians, afraid of their own base, refuse to take it away. 

The Meet the Press moderator then detailed how “[o]ver the next 48 hours, Giuliani attempted to explain himself and either doubled down or dug deeper, depending on your point of view” before contrasting how different Republicans have responded to his comments:

Florida Senator Marco Rubio demonstrated that it is possible to criticize the president but stay rational…But given the opportunity to take the high road, other Republicans whiffed. 

Todd then brought on Haley Barbour, former Mississippi Governor and former chairman of the Republican National Committee, to discuss the Giuliani issue as well as the non-story surrounding an interview Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker gave to the Washington Post and whether or not he believed President Obama was a Christian.

After the Meet the Press moderator briefly asked Barbour whether or not Americans should even care about Giuliani’s comments, he then brought up Walker’s comments and wondered if he made a mistake by not answering the Post’s “gotcha” question.

For his part, Barbour shot back and explained why Walker avoided the question:

How you can pass up the opportunity to remember Jeremiah Wright who is very unpopular among the people who will be voting in the Republican primary. If someone were asking me about that question, that’s the way if I wanted to be political, I would take the question. I think Scott Walker was probably just being truthful. 

As the segment progressed, Todd put on his partisan liberal hat and suggested that to many, any question about the depth of Obama’s faith had racial implications:

This is how it comes across to some folks. When suddenly there's a debate about this. Which is, why is it Barack Obama the first African-American president has had questions about his religion pop up in the political conversation and it didn't happen to Bill Clinton or George W. Bush. That's, a lot of his supporters share that and think this has racial overtones. 

Barbour responded by arguing that “I don't know how race has anything to do with it. I would bet a higher percentage of African-Americans in the United States are Christians than of whites."

Todd’s lefty questioning of Barbour concluded with him claiming that the GOP has a “larger issue” that they have to deal with surrounding how they talk about the president:

I'm just telling you how other people hear it. I guess what I’m going to is, how does the Republican Party deal with that larger issue here? How the vast middle, this 20% extra of the 60 that you want to get. What do they hear when they hear Republican candidates questioning things like this? President's patriotism or his religion. 

See relevant transcript below.

NBC’s Meet the Press

February 22, 2015

CHUCK TODD: This week's race to the bottom, led by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, is proving why Americans are learning to hate politics and the media. On Wednesday, Giuliani told a group of donors at a fundraiser for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker “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 wasn't brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.” Over the next 48 hours, Giuliani attempted to explain himself and either doubled down or dug deeper, depending on your point of view.

--

TODD: I'm joined by Haley Barbour, he’s of course the former governor of Mississippi but also the former chairman of the Republican National Committee. And so he's had to give advice or two every now and then to Republicans running. Governor Barbour welcome back to Meet the Press

--

TODD: Well, they did respond. I should, full disclosure here that after this story appeared and there was a little dust-up last night. His office put out a response that said this. “Of course the governor thinks the president is a Christian. He thinks these kinds of gotcha questions distract from what he's doing as governor of Wisconsin and make sure the state’s better, make life better for the people in the state.” But I guess it’s sort of, you got to be nimble if you're running for president. Do you not?

BARBOUR: Listen, and how you can pass up the opportunity to remember Jeremiah Wright who is very unpopular among the people who will be voting in the Republican primary. If someone were asking me about that question, that’s the way if I wanted to be political, I would take the question. I think Scott Walker was probably just being truthful. You know, he is a son of a preacher, he is a Christian and he may have taken that question the way I did the first time I heard about it. Do you believe he’s really a Christian or do you believe he just professes to be a Christian? I don't know the answer to that either. 

TODD: Well, what does that mean? 

BARBOUR: A lot of people say I'm a Christian but deep down inside they're not. That's what I thought the question was. Do you think he really is. I don’t know your heart Chuck. You don’t know my heart.

TODD: I understand that but this is how it comes across. This is how it comes across to some folks. When suddenly there's a debate about this. Which is, why is it Barack Obama the first African-American president has had questions about his religion pop up in the political conversation and it didn't happen to Bill Clinton or George W. Bush. That's, a lot of his supporters share that and think this has racial overtones. What do you say to that? 

BARBOUR: I don't know how race has anything to do with it. I would bet a higher percentage of African-Americans in the United States are Christians than of whites. I mean, of course, I come from a place where I'm very familiar with that. Very religious leaders, very powerful leaders in the black community in my state. And they're good Christians. I don't get the race question about Christianity. 

TODD: I understand. I'm just telling you how other people hear it. I guess what I’m going to is, how does the Republican Party deal with that larger issue here? How the vast middle, this 20% extra of the 60 that you want to get. What do they hear when they hear Republican candidates questioning things like this? President's patriotism or his religion. 

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