In Softball NBC Interview, Chelsea Clinton Dodges Hillary’s ‘Liar’ Label

In what was an otherwise softball interview with Chelsea Clinton on Tuesday’s NBC Today, co-host Savannah Guthrie did briefly press the former first daughter (and former NBC correspondent) on Hillary Clinton’s struggling presidential campaign: “You are one of her most trusted advisers as well as her daughter....And there was a recent poll that was really striking because it asked voters what is a word you associate with Hillary Clinton... ‘dishonest,’ ‘untrustworthy,’ ‘liar.’ Why do you think that is? What's not getting through, in your mind?”

Clinton completely sidestepped the issue and changed the subject: “Well, Savannah, I'm not a pundit, I'm a daughter, and as I just said, I love and admire my mom. I know that she's talking about issues that are important to families across our country....I believe as more and more Americans hear from her they’ll come to know why I'm so proud to be my mother's daughter...”

Guthrie sympathetically followed up: “You know, you grew up around this but you're a real person, you're human. Does it hurt to see those things?”

Clinton proclaimed: “Well, it is always surprising to me because my mom is my hero and one of the people that I admire and love the most in the world, but I just continue to believe as more people see more of her will come to know why I believe so strongly that she would make a great president and they’ll reach the same conclusions.”

Moments later, Guthrie gave up asking about politics and instead teed up Clinton to gush over her mother becoming a grandmother: “Charlotte gets mentioned on the campaign trail more than her husband, your dad, does, more than President Clinton....What’s she like as a grandmother? I mean, paint us a picture of Hillary Clinton at home, hanging out, talking baby talk.”

Clinton declared: “Oh, it's the best. I mean, I didn't know it would be such a joy of parenting to see my parents as grandparents, but it really has been. I love watching my mom read to Charlotte, sing to her...”

Guthrie wondered: “You say she sings. Does she have a good voice?” Clinton replied: “Not at all. Not at all. But ‘Wheels on the Bus’ is very popular in my house...”

NBC has provided fawning coverage of Chelsea Clinton following her brief stint as an NBC special correspondent in 2011, for which she was paid $600,000 a year.

A piece in the latest issue of Vanity Fair featured NBC insiders referring to Chelsea Clinton as the “highest-paid ghost” at the network and her hiring being one of its worst decisions.

Here is a full transcript of the September 15 interview:

7:41 AM ET

GUTHRIE: It is shaping up to be a busy fall for former daughter Chelsea Clinton. She has written a new book, It's Your World, it’s a guide to help younger generations make a difference. She’s also a new mom to a baby girl, Charlotte, she’s vice chair of the Clinton Foundation, and you may have heard, her mother is running for president so you can definitely expect to see Chelsea out on the campaign trail. It’s great to have you here, good morning to you.

CHELSEA CLINTON Thank you, Savannah. Thank you.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Chelsea Clinton Speaks Out; On Life, Motherhood, Mom’s Campaign & New Book]

GUTHRIE: This book is so interesting because you could have written any kind of book. This is for a certain age group, probably what, 10 to 14 years old?

CLINTON: Ten to 14-year-olds.

GUTHRIE: And it's serious stuff.

CLINTON: Yeah.

GUTHRIE: You're trying to get kids interested in the world around them.

CLINTON: Well, when I was a kid, I read this book, 50 Simple Things Kids Can Do to Save the Earth, and it had a big impact on me because it treated me seriously, it informed me about things like climate change and pollution and empowered me with practical suggestions of what I could do to make a difference. And when I talk to kids today, they’re curious about the world around us, I think they’re more engaged than adults often think they are, and they want to know what they can do. And so I hope that It's Your World impacts even one kid in the same way that 50 Simple Things impacted me.

GUTHRIE: I was wondering if you felt like, “Okay, I need to fill a need here because kids these days aren't interested in these kinds of issues or they’re not being well fed, they’re not being given this kind of substance”?

CLINTON: Absolutely the latter. In my book I talk about issues like climate change but also access to education, the reality that so many girls don't have the same opportunities that their brothers do around the world, poverty, inequality. But also I talk about kids who are already making a difference in these areas, and some adults, too, but mainly kids, because I believe that with a little bit of information kids can make a difference, and the stories I share in my book are a real testament to that. Kids are engaged, and I think it's up to adults to not only help inform them, but empower them and give them opportunities to make our world better.

GUTHRIE: You even share some personal stories. We see a letter that a 5-year-old Chelsea Clinton wrote President Reagan. You know, I was probably like doodling on my notepad at 5, you’re writing presidents. You talk about a time when you were a little girl and were you bullied because you were a little girl and I was thinking, you know, for a governor's daughter to have to go through that, what are you hoping people draw from hearing your own personal experiences?

CLINTON: Well, I hope it gives kids and parents opportunities to talk about these issues. You know, often people ask me, “Well, what do you think kids should care about?” And I say, “Well, we should ask kids what they care about.” And the issues that I highlight and address in my book are the ones that I've heard that kids care about, questions like why doesn't every kid around the world have the chance to go to school? Why do we still have bullying? How do we help every kid get healthy? So I hope that we as adults will really listen to kids. Certainly that's what my parents always did with me, and I'm so grateful. It’s one of the greatest gifts my parents gave me is to ask me what I care about, to expect me to have an opinion, and also expect me to be able to make an argument to support whatever I thought the right answer was to whatever question we were talking about around the breakfast table or the dinner table.

GUTHRIE: You talk about gender equality. You talk about the lack of female leadership around the world. You don't name names, but you make a pretty good case for a female president.

CLINTON: Well, I'm very biased towards my mom and I certainly hope that my daughter Charlotte feels as much love and admiration for me some day that I feel for my mom today.

GUTHRIE: You are one of her most trusted advisers as well as her daughter, and I know you know that the campaign recently has hit a bit of a rough patch. She's down in some of the polls. And there was a recent poll that was really striking because it asked voters what is a word you associate with Hillary Clinton, and, you know, they weren't complimentary words that were at the top of the list, “dishonest,” “untrustworthy,” “liar.” Why do you think that is? What's not getting through, in your mind?

CLINTON: Well, Savannah, I'm not a pundit, I'm a daughter, and as I just said, I love and admire my mom. I know that she's talking about issues that are important to families across our country. I believe that is starting to resonate. I believe as more and more Americans hear from her they’ll come to know why I'm so proud to be my mother's daughter, and even more, why I'm so proud that my mother is my daughter's grandmother.

GUTHRIE: You know, you grew up around this but you're a real person, you're human. Does it hurt to see those things?

CLINTON: Well, it is always surprising to me because my mom is my hero and one of the people that I admire and love the most in the world, but I just continue to believe as more people see more of her will come to know why I believe so strongly that she would make a great president and they’ll reach the same conclusions.

GUTHRIE: She has said that she's looking forward or thinks it would be – she’d get a kick out of debating Trump in a general election. Is that a debate you’d like to see?

CLINTON: I thought you were going to say she wants more grandchildren.

GUTHRIE: No, no, that we know, right?  

CLINTON: She was very public about wanting a grandchild, and it's been such a joy to see her as a grandmother and I thought maybe we'd have a little bit more time, but she already talks about wanting more grandchildren.

GUTHRIE: You know, it's funny you say that, and by the way, Charlotte gets mentioned on the campaign trail more than her husband, your dad, does, more than President Clinton.

CLINTON: Well, I think that makes sense. I mean, campaigns are about the future, are about, you know, what we want to see our country become for our children, for our grandchildren. So I understand why Charlotte is really her north star in this race.

GUTHRIE: What’s she like as a grandmother? I mean, paint us a picture of Hillary Clinton at home, hanging out, talking baby talk.

CLINTON: Oh, it's the best. I mean, I didn't know it would be such a joy of parenting to see my parents as grandparents, but it really has been. I love watching my mom read to Charlotte, sing to her, support her, quite literally, because as we were talking earlier, Savannah, Charlotte’s starting to stand and she’s trying to figure out how to walk, so there's a lot of actual support, just not sort of figurative support, and nurturing. I love seeing my mom as a grandmother.

GUTHRIE: You say she sings. Does she have a good voice?

CLINTON: Not at all. Not at all. But "Wheels on the Bus" is very popular in my house so anyone who is around Charlotte at some point is going to get conscripted to "Wheels on the Bus." And my mom is a great "Wheels on the Bus" singer.

GUTHRIE: Last thing before I let you go, I had to laugh when I read in People last week that you said your husband Mark, who is a wonderful dad, hands on, doesn't like to change the diapers, to which I say he needs to read chapter four of this book.

CLINTON: He's working on it. He’s working on it. He’s really rather mortified that I shared that so he's been changing lots of diapers in the last week. I didn't know that that would have the impact it would. If I did, I would have talked to People much earlier.

GUTHRIE: Yeah, exactly, exactly. Chelsea Clinton, it’s a pleasure to have you here, thank you so much.

CLINTON: Thank you, Savannah.

GUTHRIE: Again, the book is called It's Your World. Thank you very much.

CLINTON: Thank you.

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