On Thursday's NBC Today, White House correspondent Peter Alexander promoted the first public comments from Scott Prouty, the bartender who secretly recorded Mitt Romney's 47% comments during the 2012 presidential race: "Even today some political observers insist without that 47% tape, we might actually be talking about President Mitt Romney these days. Instead, the infamous comments marked what was really a campaign game-changer. And now months later, the man behind that tape has finally come forward." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
In the report that followed, Alexander highlighted portions of a Prouty's interview with MSNBC host Ed Schultz on Wednesday's The Ed Show and whitewashed the bartender's obvious left-wing ideology made apparent in the exchange: "Speaking publicly for the first time Wednesday, Prouty, who says he's a registered independent...[said] he arrived at the dinner that night with an open mind."
A clip played of Prouty claiming: "I was interested to hear what he had to say. I didn't go there with a grudge, you know, against Romney." Alexander explained: "Prouty insisted he brought his camera initially thinking Romney might pose for pictures....For two weeks, Prouty says he struggled over whether to go public with the tape before he says he finally decided he had no choice."
In reality, Prouty happily told Schultz how pleased he was that the video damaged Romney's campaign: "I thought it could be a game changer. I thought it could take him out. I thought maybe he would leave the campaign at that point....it all worked out well. In a way, it worked out exactly the way I would have hoped it would."
Prouty confessed, "I watch MSNBC religiously," and eagerly bashed Romney through the interview: "I don't think he has any clue what a regular American goes through on a daily basis. I don't think he has any idea what a single mom, you know, taking a bus to work, dropping her kid off at day care that she can barely afford, hopping on another bus – you know, the day in, day out struggles of every day Americans. That guy has no idea, no idea. I don't think he'll ever have an idea."
Prouty concluded that the video, "defines him [Romney] at a point when he needed to be defined for the American public and that it defined him in a real negative light, but in an honest light."
Back in September of 2012, shortly after the video became public, NBC investigative correspondent Michael Isikoff appeared on Today to assure viewers that there was no political motivation behind the tape: "The source who made the secret video insisted to NBC News that the original motivation was not political but simple curiosity, to see what Romney would say in this unscripted setting."
If a bartender had secretly taped Barack Obama saying something that would harm his campaign, would he be celebrated with an hour on MSNBC and a profile on the Today show?
Here is a full transcript of Alexander's March 14 report on Today:
7:39AM ET TEASE:
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Up next, the man behind a major game-changer in the presidential race. The video of Mitt Romney's 47% comment. Well, he breaks his silence about why he taped those comments right after this.
7:43AM ET SEGMENT:
MATT LAUER: Back now at 7:43. And four months after the presidential election, a man who may have actually changed the course of the race is finally speaking out. That bartender who secretly recorded Governor Romney's now infamous 47% comments. NBC's White House correspondent Peter Alexander has that story. Peter, good morning.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: "I Felt An Obligation"; Man Who Recorded Romney's 47% Comments Speaks Out]
PETER ALEXANDER: Matt, good morning to you. Even today some political observers insist without that 47% tape, we might actually be talking about President Mitt Romney these days. Instead, the infamous comments marked what was really a campaign game-changer. And now months later, the man behind that tape has finally come forward.
MITT ROMNEY: There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the President no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims.
ALEXANDER: The man behind that secret Romney recording is Scott Prouty, a bartender at that private Florida fundraiser last May.
SCOTT PROUTY: I was behind this whole thing.
ALEXANDER: Speaking publicly for the first time Wednesday, Prouty, who says he's a registered independent, told MSNBC's Ed Schultz he arrived at the dinner that night with an open mind.
PROUTY: I was interested to hear what he had to say. I didn't go there with a grudge, you know, against Romney.
ALEXANDER: Prouty insisted he brought his camera initially thinking Romney might pose for pictures.
PROUTY: I had a Secret Service agent behind me. And, you know, number one, we were never told that this was a secret meeting or a private meeting or don't bring cameras. There was plenty of people in the room with cameras. You know, at the this point, I realized that this was not your typical speech.
ALEXANDER: For two weeks, Prouty says he struggled over whether to go public with the tape before he says he finally decided he had no choice.
PROUTY: I felt an obligation for all the people that can't afford to be there. You shouldn't have to be able to afford $50,000 to hear what the candidate actually thinks.
ALEXANDER: Earlier this month, Romney reiterated his commitment to all Americans, but conceded the 47% comments did real damage to his campaign.
MITT ROMNEY: That was a very unfortunate statement that I made, it's not what I meant. I didn't express myself as I wished I would have. You know, when you speak in private, you don't spend as much time thinking about how something could be twisted and distorted and could come out wrong and be used. But you know, I did, and it was very harmful.
ALEXANDER: Only after hearing that interview did Prouty, who says he voted for Obama, decide to come forward and reveal his role in a dramatic twist to an historic campaign.
PROUTY: I had no idea it was going to be this big thing that it turned out to be.
ALEXANDER: Certainly turned out to be a big thing. We reached out to the Romneys last night for comment and were directed to that recent interview that we just showed you. But even last night, Matt, one of the Governor's top campaign advisers told me that the release of that tape last summer stunned the staff. That the Governor, I was told, even apologized to them for the mess that he had caused. And even now I still remember exactly what another frustrated adviser told me at the time. He said, 'When you're running for president, you've got to know that the camera is always on.'
LAUER: Alright, Peter Alexander in Washington. Peter, thanks very much.