NBC's 'Today' Finally Notices 'ObamaCare Political Firestorm' Over Gruber Comments

After 2013 comments from ObamaCare architect Jonathan Gruber crediting passage of the law on "the stupidity of the American voter" went viral over a week ago, NBC's Today finally covered the major controversy on Monday. Co-host Savannah Guthrie made it sound like a breaking news headline: "...big story out of Washington this morning." News anchor Natalie Morales followed: "A new controversy now is brewing over comments made by MIT professor Jonathan Gruber, the self-described architect of ObamaCare."

Correspondent Peter Alexander began a full report on the topic by declaring: "This is certainly not the kind of headline the President was looking for as his administration once again kicks off enrollment in the Affordable Care Act, that happened this past weekend. Just in time, these year-old comments are getting new scrutiny and causing another round of ObamaCare political fallout." The headline on screen read: "ObamaCare Political Firestorm; Top Advisor Says Law Lacks Transparency."

Alexander noted that "President Obama dismissed accusations his administration tried to pull a fast one with ObamaCare." A soundbite was featured of the President trying to distance himself from Gruber: "The fact that some adviser who never worked on our staff expressed an opinion that I completely disagree with, in terms of the voters, is no reflection on the actual process that was run."

Alexander didn't bother to fact-check Obama's remark. However, on Friday's CBS This Morning, during that network's first report on the scandal, correspondent Jan Crawford pointed out:

Gruber was a key player in developing the law. The New York Times, in a glowing 2012 profile, said he not only "put together the basic principles of the proposal," but helped Congress "draft the specifics of the legislation." As a consultant, the government paid Gruber, an MIT economics professor, nearly $400,000 for that work.

On Monday, Alexander concluded: "The comments, made more than a year ago, have added to critics' distrust of the law and the administration....Gruber has since backpedaled, apologizing last week on MSNBC....Still, to many Republicans, Gruber's comments only confirm what they've suspected all along."

NBC and ABC first mentioned Gruber on air during their respective Sunday talk shows, This Week and Meet the Press.

ABC has yet to cover the controversy on Good Morning America or World News.

NBC Nightly News has not touched the story.

Here is a full transcript of Alexander's November 17 report on Today:

7:11 AM ET

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Turn to Natalie now, big story out of Washington this morning.

NATALIE MORALES: That's right. And the latest from the Obama administration says 100,000 people signed up for ObamaCare on Saturday, the very first day of the latest open enrollment. But a new controversy now is brewing over comments made by MIT professor Jonathan Gruber, the self-described architect of ObamaCare. NBC's national correspondent Peter Alexander is at the White House with more. Peter, good morning.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: ObamaCare Political Firestorm; Top Advisor Says Law Lacks Transparency]

PETER ALEXANDER: Natalie, good morning to you. This is certainly not the kind of headline the President was looking for as his administration once again kicks off enrollment in the Affordable Care Act, that happened this past weekend. Just in time, these year-old comments are getting new scrutiny and causing another round of ObamaCare political fallout.

Just as the White House relaunched its healthcare.gov website to millions of potential enrollees, President Obama dismissed accusations his administration tried to pull a fast one with ObamaCare.

BARACK OBAMA: The fact that some adviser who never worked on our staff expressed an opinion that I completely disagree with, in terms of the voters, is no reflection on the actual process that was run.

ALEXANDER: The President's remarks come in the wake of a new ObamaCare controversy, this one fueled by comments that recently surfaced online from one of the law's top advisers.

JONATHAN GRUBER [OCTOBER 17, 2013]: Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage and basically, you know, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical to getting the thing to pass.

ALEXANDER: It wasn't the first time MIT economics professor Jonathan Gruber suggested the administration wasn't entirely forthcoming about the law.

GRUBER [OCTOBER 3, 2013]: They proposed it and that passed because the voters are too stupid to understand the difference.

ALEXANDER: The comments, made more than a year ago, have added to critics' distrust of the law and the administration.

RUSH LIMBAUGH: They had to flat-out lie. They're giving themselves pats on the back.

ALEXANDER: Gruber has since backpedaled, apologizing last week on MSNBC.

GRUBER: I was speaking off the cuff and I basically spoke inappropriately and I regret having made those comments.

ALEXANDER: Still, to many Republicans, Gruber's comments only confirm what they've suspected all along.

JAMES LANKFORD [SEN.-ELECT, R-OK]: This administration really believes they're smarter than everyone else and they need to just create the policy and impose the policy.

ALEXANDER: Even the President's allies have not been impressed. Former adviser David Axelrod tweeted, "As one who worked hard to make the law and its benefits clear, let me say: If you looked up 'stupid' in the dictionary, you'd find Gruber's picture." Natalie.

MORALES: Alright, fighting words. Peter Alexander in Washington, thanks so much.

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