NBC Skips ‘Communist’ Label for Vietnam; Touts Hiroshima as ‘Painful Chapter of American History’

On Monday morning, NBC’s Today and correspondent Ron Allen omitted any mention to viewers that Vietnam remains a authoritarian, communist regime as it welcomed President Barack Obama on the first stop of his week-long Asia tour. 

In addition, Allen teased the President’s visit to Japan and specifically Hiroshima as one that will remind us all of “[a]nother painful chapter of American history” as the U.S. dropped a nuclear bomb on the city in an effort to end World War II in 1945.

Co-host Savannah Guthrie trumpeted the visit leading into Allen’s report as Obama “making history” by “announcing the end of a decades-old arms embargo on Vietnam.”

Reporting from Hanoi, Allen explained that the President’s lifting of the arms embargo was on “lethal military sales” and proclaimed it as “of the last steps toward completing normalization of the the relationship between the United States and Vietnam, now a very important ally because of China. President.”

“Obama, the third U.S. President to visit here, a relationship that’s come a long way since the end of the war. President Obama arrived in Vietnam to a typical diplomatic welcome. Crowds lining the motorcade route. The President taking part in local traditions, a far cry from the emotional visit by President Clinton in 2000, the first by a U.S. President after the end of the war,” he added. 

Looking ahead to the President’s trip to Hiroshima, Allen opined that it’ll be a chance to reflect on “[a]nother painful chapter of American history” with Obama being “the first sitting U.S. President to visit one of only places on Earth devastated by a nuclear weapon.”

ABC’s Good Morning America offered only a slightly more nuanced piece from correspondent Bob Woodruff, who revealed that the lifting of the arms embargo comes with conditions due to the communist state’s horrid reputation on human rights: 

Now, the types of weapons that will eventually that will be sold will be reviewed on a case by case bias because of lingering concerns about Vietnam’s human rights record. So, why now? The President says it's the natural course for improving ties, but the U.S. and Vietnam are also increasingly drawn together because of China[.]

After Woodruff concluded that “President Obama was warmly welcomed by the people here on the streets” and how “[most] I met here in Hanoi said Americans are widely liked in this country,” co-host and former Clinton aide George Stepanopoulos oozed that such a sight “gives you a bit of a jolt to see that.”

CBS This Morning provided by far the most balanced and detailed coverage (as usual) with State Department correspondent Margaret Brennan making the only network mentions of Vietnam as a communist country.

Co-host Charlie Rose gave a rosy lead-in, but Brennan made clear that the arms embargo was not because of the country’s change in government but due to China’s repeated provocations in the region:

President Obama is here to build stronger economic and security ties with Vietnam. That decision to lift the arms embargo is aimed at sending a message to China that the U.S. will not let it militarily dominate Asia. With a warm welcome from Vietnam's communist government, President Obama tried to put to rest the ghost of the brutal war with the U.S. that killed tens of thousands of people from both countries. 

Brennan also emphasized that the ability for Vietnam to be sold weapons from the United States is anything but a slam dunk: 

In an effort to stop that land grab, President Obama made the decision to sell Vietnam American-made weapons, removing a ban that's been in place for over four decades. A controversial decision since Vietnam is controlled by an authoritarian regime.

The relevant portion of the transcript from NBC’s Today on May 23 can be found below.

NBC’s Today
May 23, 2016
7:15 a.m. Eastern

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Breaking Overnight; President Lifts U.S. Arms Ban on Vietnam; Obama Arrives in Hanoi for Historic Visit]

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: In the meantime, President Obama is making history today, announcing the end of a decades-old arms embargo on Vietnam. This is the first stop on a week-long Asia tour. NBC’s Ron Allen is in Hanoi this morning. Ron, good morning to you.

RON ALLEN: Good morning Savannah. President Obama said that lifting the ban on lethal military sales, in place 50 years, is one of the last steps toward completing normalization of the the relationship between the United States and Vietnam, now a very important ally because of China. President Obama, the third U.S. President to visit here, a relationship that’s come a long way since the end of the war. President Obama arrived in Vietnam to a typical diplomatic welcome. Crowds lining the motorcade route. The President taking part in local traditions, a far cry from the emotional visit by President Clinton in 2000, the first by a U.S. President after the end of the war. Now, America and Vietnam are all about business. Today, signing multi-million dollar deals with companies like Boeing to buy 100 new airplanes. Lifting the ban on military sales, the President says, another sign of how far the two nations have come. 

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Just a generation ago, we were adversaries, and now we are friends, should give us hope, should be a reminder of the ability for us to transform relationships. 

ALLEN: From here, Mr. Obama traveled to Japan. Another painful chapter of American history. Hiroshima. He will be the first sitting U.S. President to visit one of only places on Earth devastated by a nuclear weapon. There not to offer an apology....

The relevant portion of the transcript from ABC’s Good Morning America on May 23 can be found below.

ABC’s Good Morning America
May 23, 2016
7:08 a.m. Eastern

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: New This Morning; President Obama in Vietnam; Lifting Arms Embargo After 50 Years]

ROBIN ROBERTS: Alright, George, we’re going to move on now to breaking news overnight, President Obama in Vietnam, announcing the U.S. will lift an arms embargo that's been placed for more than 40 years. ABC's Bob Woodruff is Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital, with the latest. Good morning, Bob.

BOB WOODRUFF: Well, good morning Robin. Yes, very big news today. No one was sure that President Obama would do this, but he did, announcing that U.S. is ending the decades-long arms embargo, which until now, made it illegal to sell lethal weapons to Vietnam. Now, the types of weapons that will eventually that will be sold will be reviewed on a case by case bias because of lingering concerns about Vietnam’s human rights record. So, why now? The President says it's the natural course for improving ties, but the U.S. and Vietnam are also increasingly drawn together because of China and its growing aggressive actions in and over the South China Sea. Now, China has been building artificial islands not far from the Vietnamese coast so President Obama was warmly welcomed by the people here on the streets. Most I met here in Hanoi said Americans are widely liked in this country. Here, you can see the relationship between these former enemies is certainly improving. Robin. 

ROBERTS: It does appear that way. Alright, thank you. 

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: It gives you a bit of a jolt to see that.

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