NBC Declares Scott Walker Made 'First Major Blunder' of 2016 Race at CPAC

Desperate to tear down 2016 Republican frontrunner Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, co-host Matt Lauer led off Friday's NBC Today by proclaiming: "Governor's gaffe?...Presidential hopeful Scott Walker under fire for saying his experience with union protesters has prepared him to take on ISIS. Is it the first major blunder of the presidential race?"

Minutes later, fellow co-host Savannah Guthrie repeated the accusation: "The fight against ISIS is one of the issues being addressed at a key gathering of conservatives this week and last night it became the focal point of what some are saying was the first real gaffe of the 2016 presidential race."

In the report that followed, correspondent Kelly O'Donnell piled on: "So one unexpected comment by a rising GOP star stirred up attention and controversy....Walker claimed his own long battle with public employees unions prepared him to face ISIS." A headline on-screen read: "Walker Under Fire; Criticized for ISIS-Unions Comment."

A sound bite played of Walker speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday: "If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world."

O'Donnell waited until the end of the report to mention Walker's response: "Aides to Governor Scott Walker tell me he was, quote, 'In no way comparing any American citizen to ISIS,' with his union protesters comments. Walker's aide says the Governor was making a point about facing adversity with strength and leadership."

At the top of the 8 a.m. ET hour, news anchor Natalie Morales touted the faux controversy one more time: "Wisconsin Governor Scott walker is raising eyebrows over comments he made Thursday at the Conservative Political Action Conference. He suggested his battle with labor unions in his state prepared him to face ISIS."

In stark contrast to NBC bashing Walker, CBS didn't deem the comments newsworthy. In a report for Thursday's CBS Evening News about the conference, correspondent Nancy Cordes even highlighted Walker's strong performance at the event: "Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who has surged in recent polls, got the biggest reception today."

Another full report on CBS This Morning similarly skipped the Walker remarks in favor of actually covering the conference and talking to conservative activists in attendance.

ABC failed to cover CPAC at all on Thursday's World News Tonight or Friday's Good Morning America.

Here is a full transcript of the February 27 report on Today:

7:00 AM ET TEASE:

MATT LAUER: Governor's gaffe?

SCOTT WALKER: If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world.

LAUER: Presidential hopeful Scott Walker under fire for saying his experience with union protesters has prepared him to take on ISIS. Is it the first major blunder of the presidential race? Why the Wisconsin governor says he was just misunderstood.

7:07 AM ET SEGMENT:

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: The fight against ISIS is one of the issues being addressed at a key gathering of conservatives this week and last night it became the focal point of what some are saying was the first real gaffe of the 2016 presidential race. NBC's Kelly O'Donnell's in Washington with that story. Kelly, good morning.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Walker Under Fire; Criticized for ISIS-Unions Comment]

KELLY O'DONNELL: Good morning, Savannah. There's almost no bigger stage for conservatives than this annual gathering known as CPAC. Think of it as a test kitchen for campaign themes and messages. So one unexpected comment by a rising GOP star stirred up attention and controversy. Sleeves rolled up and no jacket required, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker quickly got to work on President Obama's foreign policy.

SCOTT WALKER: Radical Islamic terrorism is a threat to our way of life.

O'DONNELL: Walker claimed his own long battle with public employees unions prepared him to face ISIS.

WALKER: If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world.

O'DONNELL: Late Thursday, former Texas Governor Rick Perry said Walker's comparison was a mistake.

RICK PERRY: This is a face of evil, and to try to make the relationship between them and the unions is inappropriate.

O'DONNELL: With all the fire of a Texas barbecue...

SEN. TED CRUZ [R-TX]: We could have had Hillary here, but we couldn't find a foreign nation to foot the bill.

O'DONNELL: ...Ted Cruz turned up the heat on Hillary Clinton.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Conservatives vs. Clinton; GOP Hopefuls Attack Hillary at Conference]

CRUZ: Hillary Clinton embodies the corruption of Washington.

O'DONNELL: Conservatives seized on The Washington Post report that seven foreign governments donated millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary Clinton served as secretary of state, violating an ethics agreement made with the Obama administration. Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina called out Clinton several times.

CARLY FIORINA: She tweets about women's rights in this country and takes money from governments that deny women the most basic human rights.

O'DONNELL: Vying for the support of these active conservatives is a huge Republican field, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, trailing in early fundraising, took a jab at Jeb Bush.

CHRIS CHRISTIE: If what happens is the elites in Washington who make back room deals decide who the president's going to be, then he's definitely the front-runner.

O'DONNELL: Today CPAC continues with Jeb Bush getting his say, along with Rick Perry, Marco Rubio, and Rand Paul.

Aides to Governor Scott Walker tell me he was, quote, "In no way comparing any American citizen to ISIS," with his union protesters comments. Walker's aide says the Governor was making a point about facing adversity with strength and leadership. Savannah, Matt.

GUTHRIE: Kelly O'Donnell in Washington, thank you.

NBDaily Campaigns & Elections 2016 Presidential CPAC Conservatives & Republicans NBC Today Video Gaffes Scott Walker Matt Lauer Savannah Guthrie Kelly O'Donnell