Embarrassing: ‘NBC Nightly News’ Turns Itself into Infomercial for Iranian Regime

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Friday’s NBC Nightly News capped an ugly 24 hours for the liberal media after U.S. airstrikes killed Iranian terrorist Qasem Soleimani by doubling down on its bias, flashing outrageous chyrons, and fluffing pillows for the Iranians over the course of nearly 12 minutes of coverage. 

With help from anchor Lester Holt’s August visit to Tehran, this kowtow came at the expense of the President and supporters of the strike as that side only fetched about two minutes of either direct soundbites or attributions. 

The rest? Democrats, hyping security fears, recapping the timeline and touting the Iranians.

 

 

Holt started the nonsense seconds in during a tease: “Iran vowing revenge, angry protesters burning American flags. American citizens warn get out of Iraq now.”

Chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel led off by summarizing the previous week’s events, airing a clip from the President’s remarks, and then going full gush over Soleimani with only a nod to the bloodshed he caused (click “expand,” emphasis mine):

Qasem Soleimani was no ordinary general. The U.S. classified him as a terrorist but in Iran, he was a national hero. Specifically, Soleimani was in charge of spreading Iranian influence around the world, and he was extremely good at it. Smart, charismatic, ruthless and bold, Soleimani knit together a loyal network of armed groups from Iraq to Syria, Lebanon to Afghanistan. Any time Iran attacked oil tankers in the Persian Gulf and then denied it or attacked oil facilities in Saudi Arabia and denied that, too. U.S. officials saw Soleimani's handiwork. His power made Iranians proud. Today, Iranians in the thousands came out to show their love and their anger. Soleimani was arguably Iran's most popular leader. For years, Soleimani operated in the shadows and spilled a lot of American blood. He was the secret architect of a long campaign against U.S. troops in Iraq after the 2003 invasion killing hundreds[.]

(....)

There was talk in Iran Soleimani might be a future president or perhaps even a supreme leader. Today, the man who has that role, Iran's top Ayatollah, visited Soleimani's family and promised severe revenge. The most immediate concern is in Baghdad where Shiite militia leaders loyal to Soleimani, the same militias that, for days, attacked the U.S. Embassy will take to the streets tomorrow to mourn and show their rage. 

Chief White House correspondent Hallie Jackson was next, running two more Trump soundbites then pivoted to Democrats, along with the chyron: “Breaking News; Democrats Warn of Fallout from Strike on Iranian General.”

Jackson trumpeted “new fallout here at home” and included chief Iranian apologist and Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) stating that the U.S. was guilty of “equivalent of the Iranians assassinating the U.S. Secretary of Defense.”

After mentioning House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s gripe that congressional leaders weren’t tipped off ahead of time, Jackson played three clips of Republicans praising the strike and Soleimani’s death.

With the truly pathetic chyron “Republicans Say Deadly Strike Will Save American Lives,” Jackson reported that GOPers “prais[ed] the strike, arguing the world is less dangerous now after the death of the leader of an organization branded terrorist by the organization.”

Chief foreign affairs correspondent/MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell was third, eagerly playing clips of angry protesters “burning mock U.S. coffins” in Pakistan (along with some Syrians cheering the strike).

Along with fear-mongering from socialist New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, NBC News military analyst Barry McCaffrey, and Iran’s U.N. ambassador, Mitchell closed by parroting Iranian and Russian talking points (shared by Democrats like Murphy) that the strike was an “assassination” (click “expand”):

MCCAFFREY: The next step up would be to go directly after U.S. forces. They have a huge capacity to absorb punishment. There were a million dead during the Iran-Iraq eight-year war. 

MITCHELL: Those fears drove up crude oil prices by three percent with a still bigger strike expected if and Tehran retaliates. Iran’s U.N. Ambassador telling NBC News tonight retaliation is a certainty.

MAJID TAKHT-RAVANCHI: I'm not in a position to tell you the actions we follow but what I can tell you is there will be, you know, a retaliation, against the killing. 

MITCHELL: The ambassador also said the Trump administration sent a letter to Iran last night and Iran has responded but neither side will provide details about those letters. The administration says the assassination was legal because it was defensive. If so, was it the right strategy? Critics say former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama both had opportunities to kill Soleimani but did not, fearing it would lead to war with Iran. 

In the final Iran segment, Holt used the occasion to reminisce about his trip last summer to Iran, but not before more trumpeting of Iranian protesters:

In Tehran today, the American flag burned in the streets. Angry reaction to the American assassination of Iran's top military commander. Iran's national security council tonight issuing new threats saying “a very grave revenge is awaiting the criminals who bloodied their hands with the blood of Soleimani.” 

Holt’s piece included soundbites from two Iranian officials bashing America and then a warning from Hillary Clinton supporter and retired Admiral James Stavridis predicting one possible Iranian response could be the murder of a U.S. ambassador.

There was also a cameo from NBC News Tehran bureau chief Ali Arouzi, who stated: “Soleimani was a cult figure. There is a real sense of shock here. State TV is commemorating him on a loop and one general even wept after the news of his death.”

Holt also framed Thursday night in a way that could very well earn him another trip back to Iran, calling the airstrike “brazen” (even though he said Iran might have underestimated Trump) and has led to Iranians uniting to direct “its rage on America.”

All told, someone needs to send a tape of Friday’s show to Iran’s English-language Press TV. Perhaps they’d decide to run it on their airwaves.

To see the relevant transcript from January 3's NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, click “expand.”

NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt
January 3, 2020
7:00 p.m. Eastern [TEASE]

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Iran Vows “Forceful Revenge”]

LESTER HOLT: Breaking news tonight, the shock waves from the U.S. strike in Iraq that killed Iran's top commander. President Trump accusing Iran of planning imminent attacks on American diplomats and service members. 

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We took action last night to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war. 

HOLT: Tonight, thousands more U.S. troops being deployed to the Middle East. Iran vowing revenge, angry protesters burning American flags. American citizens warn get out of Iraq now. Security stepped up here at home and the top officials I interviewed inside Iraq. Their warnings to the U.S. Our team inside Iraq and Iran tonight. 

(....)

7:01 p.m. Eastern

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Breaking News; Top Iranian Commander Killed by U.S. Strike in Iraq]

HOLT: Nearly 3,000 additional American troops have been ordered to the Middle East tonight amid a dangerous escalation in the U.S. Showdown with Iran. Iran threatening hash retaliation for the killing of its top general by American forces. The U.S. says Qasem Soleimani, for years, stoked violence against Americans overseas for years. He was killed in an aerial ambush at Baghdad's airport and the State Department telling Americans to leave Iraq for their own safety. Richard Engel is there and has the latest. 

RICHARD ENGEL: The aftermath shows an attack that was deliberate and sustained with around a half dozen explosions, the Americans firing with drones clearly didn't want to miss their target. Iran's General Qasem Soleimani. He’d reportedly just got into Iraq from Beirut and was killed in a convoy of vehicles along with a top Iraqi militia leader. President Trump tonight.

TRUMP: Soleimani was plotting imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military personnel, but we caught him in the act, and terminated him. 

ENGEL: The imminent attacks targeted U.S. diplomats, U.S. military personnel and facilities that house Americans in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and the region of the Middle East, a senior State Department official told reporters today. Qasem Soleimani was no ordinary general. The U.S. classified him as a terrorist but in Iran, he was a national hero. Specifically, Soleimani was in charge of spreading Iranian influence around the world, and he was extremely good at it. Smart, charismatic, ruthless and bold, Soleimani knit together a loyal network of armed groups from Iraq to Syria, Lebanon to Afghanistan. Any time Iran attacked oil tankers in the Persian Gulf and then denied it or attacked oil facilities in Saudi Arabia and denied that, too. U.S. officials saw Soleimani's handiwork. His power made Iranians proud. Today, Iranians in the thousands came out to show their love and their anger. Soleimani was arguably Iran's most popular leader. For years, Soleimani operated in the shadows and spilled a lot of American blood. He was the secret architect of a long campaign against U.S. troops in Iraq after the 2003 invasion killing hundreds. Back then, his face was barely known. But over the last few years, Soleimani has gotten bolder showing photographs of himself on battlefields around the Middle East issuing statements, his pride and increasing profile may have made him easier to track down and kill. There was talk in Iran Soleimani might be a future president or perhaps even a supreme leader. Today, the man who has that role, Iran's top Ayatollah, visited Soleimani's family and promised severe revenge. The most immediate concern is in Baghdad where Shiite militia leaders loyal to Soleimani, the same militias that, for days, attacked the U.S. Embassy will take to the streets tomorrow to mourn and show their rage. 

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Breaking News; Iraqi Official: New U.S. Airstrike Targeting Iraqi Militia]

HOLT: And Richard joins us from Iraq where our team is hearing late word of another air strike. Richard, what do we know? 

ENGEL: An Iraqi security official said another convey has been targeted by an American air strike. This convoy carrying leaders from the Iraqi Shiite militia, the same protesters tomorrow, angry protests in Baghdad not far from the U.S. Embassy. So this could escalate, it could lead to a cycle of violence. It just got more dangerous tonight. 

HOLT: Richard Engel with that breaking news from Iraq. Thank you. And in his remarks, President Trump declared Soleimani's raid of terror is over and said the U.S. operation that killed him should have been done long ago. Hallie Jackson has more on the President's response and reaction from Congress. 

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Breaking News; Trump: U.S. Killed Top Iranian General ‘To Stop a War’

HALLIE JACKSON: President Trump tonight defending his order to target Qasem Soleimani. 

TRUMP: Soleimani made the death of innocent people his sick passion. [SCREEN WIPE] We took action last night to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war. 

JACKSON: And while the President says the U.S. does not want regime change, he's ready to retaliate if Iran seeks revenge. 

TRUMP: If Americans anywhere are threatened, we have all of those targets already fully identified and I am ready and prepared to take whatever action is necessary. 

JACKSON: Now, new fallout here at home. 

SENATOR CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): This is the equivalent of the Iranians assassinating the U.S. Secretary of Defense.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Breaking News; Democrats Warn of Fallout from Strike on Iranian General] 

JACKSON: Democrats demanding details about the strike slammed by some as reckless with concerns the President overstepping his authority despite the administration siting an imminent threat to Americans in the region. [TO MENENDEZ] A justification enough in your view for the strike to have been carried out? 

SENATOR BOB MENENDEZ (D-NJ): Well, Hallie, I want to see what is the intelligence behind that. 

JACKSON: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pointing out the President did not notify key congressional leaders in advance even though one of the President's GOP allies got ahead of it.

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I was briefed down in Florida. I appreciate being brought into the orbit. 

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Breaking News; Republicans Say Deadly Strike Will Save American Lives]

JACKSON: The President's party praising the strike, arguing the world is less dangerous now after the death of the leader of an organization branded terrorists by the administration. 

SENATE MAJORITY LEADER MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): This terrorist leadership has been ended. 

CONGRESSMAN MARK MEADOWS (R-NC): The President took decisive action, he took the right action and candidly it's one that will save American lives. 

JACKSON: And late tonight here in South Florida, the President said he believes that Soleimani had been planning what he described as a very major attack. I'm told by sources close to the President he is confident in his decision to carry out this strike and in his authority to do so. Lester? 

HOLT: Alright, Hallie Jackson, thank you. And as Iran vows revenge, Americans are on heightened alert overseas and here at home. The attack and threats having a far-reaching ripple effect. Let’s get more from Andrea Mitchell. 

[PAKISTANI PROTESTERS]

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Breaking News; Iran Vows ‘Forceful Revenge’ After U.S. Kills Top Commander]

ANDREA MITCHELL: Protests in Pakistan as crowds angry over Soleimani killing burn mock U.S. coffins. [SCREEN WIPE] Celebrations in Syria as President Assad critics express joy over their enemy's death. [SCREEN WIPE] An exodus of American oil workers from Basra in northern Iraq, obeying an emergency order from the State Department. to get out now. [SCREEN WIPE] And extreme caution in Israel, which deployed tanks of the Golan Heights bordering Syria while U.N. peacekeepers beefed up patrols between Israel and Lebanon. 3,500 more U.S. troops are being ordered to the region from Fort Bragg, the rest of the global response force continuing the buildup in Kuwait and Baghdad. Around the world, U.S. Embassies are on high alert, starting in Baghdad following the siege that helped triggered the targeted killing of the Iranian commander. Here at home in New York police are on heightened vigilance at what they call sensitive areas and critical structures.

NYC MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D): We are now potentially facing a threat that’s different and greater than anything we've faced previously. 

MITCHELL: There is increased protection in Washington at key foreign posts, like Israel's embassy with Iran vowing where and when they would retaliate. 

BARRY MCCAFFREY: The next step up would be to go directly after U.S. forces. They have a huge capacity to absorb punishment. There were a million dead during the Iran-Iraq eight-year war. 

MITCHELL: Those fears drove up crude oil prices by three percent with a still bigger strike expected if and Tehran retaliates. Iran’s U.N. Ambassador telling NBC News tonight retaliation is a certainty.

MAJID TAKHT-RAVANCHI: I'm not in a position to tell you the actions we follow but what I can tell you is there will be, you know, a retaliation, against the killing. 

MITCHELL: The ambassador also said the Trump administration sent a letter to Iran last night and Iran has responded but neither side will provide details about those letters. The administration says the assassination was legal because it was defensive. If so, was it the right strategy? Critics say former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama both had opportunities to kill Soleimani but did not, fearing it would lead to war with Iran. Lester? 

HOLT: Andrea Mitchell, thank you. And tensions with Iran have weathered several dangerous flare-ups since last spring, including major provocations in and near the Strait of Hormuz. I visited Tehran in August amid those tensions and I got insight into how Iran might approach conflict with the U.S. 

[SCREEN HEADLINE: Top Iranian Officials Warned U.S. in Interviews with Lester Holt]

[IRANIAN PROTESTERS]

HOLT: In Tehran today, the American flag burned in the streets. Angry reaction to the American assassination of Iran's top military commander. Iran's national security council tonight issuing new threats saying “a very grave revenge is awaiting the criminals who bloodied their hands with the blood of Soleimani.” Months ago, we traveled inside Iran, speaking to people on the street and in their homes and to government officials, including the head of Iran's national security council, a visit during another moment of inflamed tensions following suspected Iranian attacks on oil tankers and Iran’s shootdown of an American military drone. Back then, he shared with me this warning. 

ALI SHAMKHANI [voice of translator]: In the case of war, the U.S. will be in a very terrible situation. 

HOLT [TO SHAMKHANI]: Will Iran use asymmetric warfare? 

SHAMKHANI [voice of translator]: Iran has multiple instruments at hand including the proxy war. 

HOLT: A reference to Iranian-backed groups, from militias across the region to terror organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah, potentially raising the stakes for American military planners. [TO STAVRIDIS] Military to military, how would you expect the Iranians would fair against the U.S.? 

ADM. JAMES STAVRIDIS (Ret.): They would fare badly. They cannot match us in conventional forces, but they are masters of asymmetric warfare. The Iranians may turn around and attempt the same kind of activity against a U.S. Ambassador and then they would say this was a proportional retaliation. 

HOLT: Tonight, no indication inside Iran of what they’ll do next. NBC’s Ali Arouzi is there. 

ALI AROUZI: Soleimani was a cult figure. There is a real sense of shock here. State TV is commemorating him on a loop and one general even wept after the news of his death. 

HOLT: Meantime, last night's brazen U.S. air strike may represent a miscalculations of Iran's part. In a series of interviews during our time on the ground this summer, top officials questioned the Trump administration’s stomach for conflict. 

ALI LARIJANI [voice of translator]: I think a brief glimpse into the history of America's past behavior shows that they cannot simply make such mistakes. 

HOLT: A country that just weeks ago was embroiled in bloody unrest, a deadly government crackdown to end protests over soaring gas prices tonight is refocusing its rage on America. Admiral Stavridis telling us that another possible response by Iran could be a cyber attack against the U.S.

NB Daily Middle East Iran Iraq Military War on Terrorism NBC NBC Nightly News Video Lester Holt Richard Engel Hallie Jackson Andrea Mitchell Donald Trump Qasem Soleimani Ayatollah Khomeini
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