Chuck Todd Dismisses Criticism of Obama as 'Bizarre' 'Cable News Fight'

Appearing on Friday's NBC Today, Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd brushed aside criticism of President Obama's refusal to accurately label terrorism as "Islamic extremism": "...we're having what has turned into sort of a cable news fight and a cable news-type debate. All of this, they're not dealing with the two bigger issues here....So we're having this bizarre fight on the sidelines and we're actually not confronting the two reasons why, you could argue, ISIS has risen."

Todd's "two reasons" behind the rise of ISIS: "...some of these allies who aren't very much into freedoms who have actually over the years quietly had people feed and fund some of these terrorist groups....Or the fact that western Europe has ghettoized Muslims..." Obama's complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and his foreign policy failures in the broader Middle East did not make Todd's short list.

Prior to the segment with Todd, correspondent Andrea Mitchell provided a full report condemning Rudy Giuliani for "lashing out" at the President with "unrelenting and personal" attacks "challenging the President on both his approach and his patriotism."

On Thursday's NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt proclaimed: "A firestorm over what the former mayor of New York City said about President Obama....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."

In the report that followed, Mitchell touted Democrats using the situation to slam the GOP: "Democrats assailed the comment....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."

On Friday, Mitchell highlighted accusations of racism against Giuliani:

In an interview with The New York Times, Giuliani rejects suggestions that his criticism of the President is racist, saying that "The President was brought up," his words, "by a white mother and grandfather and went to white schools and learned most of this from white people." Adding, "This isn't racism, it's socialism or anti-colonialism."

In the exchange with Todd that followed, co-host Savannah Guthrie attempted to turn the focus back on Obama:

I mean, let's get to the substance of this issue, aside from the back and forth that we just heard about. This goes to the President's somewhat controversial stance not to use the words "Islamic terrorism" or "Islamic extremism." What's his argument for that and what are opponents saying? Because there's a real substantive issue here.

After Todd outlined the debate from both sides, he proceeded to dismiss it as a "cable news fight."

In contrast to NBC's full coverage of the Giuliani comments, CBS and ABC only briefly noted the controversy. On Thursday's CBS Evening News, correspondent Bill Plante simply quoted the former mayor in a single sentence. Friday's Good Morning America gave the back and forth twenty-four seconds.

Here is a full transcript of Todd's February 20 remarks on Today:

7:15 AM ET

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Let's turn to Chuck Todd, he's moderator of Meet the Press, NBC's political director as well. Chuck, good morning. I mean, let's get to the substance of this issue, aside from the back and forth that we just heard about. This goes to the President's somewhat controversial stance not to use the words "Islamic terrorism" or "Islamic extremism." What's his argument for that and what are opponents saying? Because there's a real substantive issue here.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: President And "Violent Extremism"; Growing Criticism Over Terror Phrasing]   

CHUCK TODD: There is. Look, the President believes – and he said it a couple of times this week at this summit on violent extremism – he believes if you call it Islamic extremism that it plays into ISIS's plans, that what ISIS wants to do is say that the west and America have declared war on Islam and that this help them recruit, this will help them create sort of a holy war, which is what ISIS wants.

Now, the President's critics are saying – not as inelegantly as Rudy Giuliani – but they're essentially saying that, "Hey, you gotta call this what it is. This is a radical strain of Islam and if you don't call it that, then you're not putting the pressure on supposed moderate leaders, Muslim leaders, to essentially weed out this extremism on their end."

Of course all of this, you know, we're having what has turned into sort of a cable news fight and a cable news-type debate. All of this, they're not dealing with the two bigger issues here, right? Which is what are some of these allies who aren't very much into freedoms who have actually over the years quietly had people feed and fund some of these terrorist groups – think about those Gulf states. Or the fact that western Europe has ghettoized Muslims in a way that the United States hasn't.

So we're having this bizarre fight on the sidelines and we're actually not confronting the two reasons why, you could argue, ISIS has risen.

GUTHRIE: Yeah, there's a lot here, a lot to unpack. Chuck Todd, I know you'll do that on Sunday on Meet the Press. Thank you so much, appreciate it.

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