RNC Chair Tells Off Matt Lauer, Rips Media ‘Vendetta’ Against GOP Candidates

During an interview with NBC Today co-host Matt Lauer on Monday, Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus denounced the “crazy obsession” of the media over alleged inaccuracies in Ben Carson’s biography and pointed out a glaring double standard: “The fact is, you know, we kind of wish the media would be just as obsessed or half obsessed with Hillary Clinton's lies of many years and real relevant things like people who have died in Benghazi and e-mails and everything else.”

Lauer indignantly responded: “Dr. Carson is saying that he is being targeted, not vetted....he says he is being vetted more severely than anyone else, including Barack Obama, who faced years of birther questions, and Hillary Clinton, as you just mentioned, who’s faced decades of questions about her marriage, her personal life, her e-mails, 11 hours in a chair in front of Congress just a couple of weeks ago. Is he being more severely vetted than anyone else?”

Preibus hit back hard:

Yeah, but the difference is that the media is actually, you know – they do have an actual vendetta or at least an agenda against some of these candidates. In regard to Hillary Clinton, the media sort of, yeah, they cover it, but they cover it with a laugh and a wink and a nod, and you know, “Isn't this horrible that she had to sit in a chair for 11 hours?” I mean, that's the tone of the coverage of Hillary Clinton. It's a tone of, “This is silly, let's move on.”

Whereas with the Republicans it's, “Hey, can you believe that, you know, 40 years ago this happened or that, hey, you know, this credit card over here.” I mean, those are things that might be interesting for, you know, a question, but not an obsession. I would say that Hillary Clinton's past is something that people ought to be obsessed with.

The criticisms of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton that Lauer referenced were questions raised by their political opponents, not the media. If fact, the press actively defended Obama and Clinton against both controversies.

Obama’s biography, Dreams From My Father, was riddled with inaccuracies and fabrications which the media largely ignored.  

Wrapping up the contentious exchange that clearly demonstrated NBC’s liberal bias, Lauer demanded to know if the GOP was “making progress in terms of renewing ties with this network on future debates?”

Priebus explained: “My belief is that there has to be some consequences for what we saw a couple weeks ago in Denver. You know, people did something that – that we didn't obviously – wasn't promised, it wasn't expected, and there has to be consequences....But we're looking forward to the debate this week, and I think it's going to be a much better debate, and I think it's going to be a good time to put that CNBC debate behind us, Matt.”

Here is a full transcript of the November 9 interview:

7:05 AM ET

MATT LAUER: Reince Priebus is the chairman of the Republican National Committee. Mr. Priebus, good to see you, good morning.

REINCE PRIEBUS: Good morning, Matt.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: GOP Candidates Under Fire; RNC Chair on Issues Facing Carson, Rubio & Trump]

LAUER: Let's talk about Ben Carson. When someone runs for president and that person has no real political experience and no record in public office to run on, and they decide to run on the elements of an interesting and inspiring life story, are specific and pointed questions about elements of that life story appropriate?

PRIEBUS: Well, look, I mean, I would imagine some questions are appropriate, but I do believe that this is a totally crazy obsession over incredible detail from 30 and 40 years ago, whether it be this issue or some of these other issues highlighted earlier in the segment among other candidates. The fact is, you know, we kind of wish the media would be just as obsessed or half obsessed with Hillary Clinton's lies of many years and real relevant things...

LAUER: Well, except that Dr. Carson –

PRIEBUS: ...like people who have died in Benghazi and e-mails and everything else.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: GOP Candidates Under Fire; RNC Chairman on Claims Carson Lied About Past]

LAUER: Dr. Carson is saying that he is being targeted, not vetted. And if he says he is being vetted, he says he is being vetted more severely than anyone else, including Barack Obama, who faced years of birther questions, and Hillary Clinton, as you just mentioned, who’s faced decades of questions about her marriage, her personal life, her e-mails, 11 hours in a chair in front of Congress just a couple of weeks ago. Is he being more severely vetted than anyone else?

PRIEBUS: Yeah, but the difference is that the media is actually, you know – they do have an actual vendetta or at least an agenda against some of these candidates. In regard to Hillary Clinton, the media sort of, yeah, they cover it, but they cover it with a laugh and a wink and a nod, and you know, “Isn't this horrible that she had to sit in a chair for 11 hours?” I mean, that's the tone of the coverage of Hillary Clinton. It's a tone of, “This is silly, let's move on.”

Whereas with the Republicans it's, “Hey, can you believe that, you know, 40 years ago this happened or that, hey, you know, this credit card over here.” I mean, those are things that might be interesting for, you know, a question, but not an obsession.

LAUER: But just to –

PRIEBUS: I would say that Hillary Clinton's past is something that people ought to be obsessed with.

LAUER: Let's just be clear here, though, if Ben Carson has woven stories like the West Point story into the fabric of his interesting and inspiring life story, doesn't it make it fair game for questions?

PRIEBUS: Sure, and people asked the question and he answered it. So, I mean, you know, I think, okay, asked and answered, and I think people need to move on to the next question. I'm not saying that questions aren't appropriate. Of course, people can ask questions, but I think you get to a place where all the questions have been asked.

LAUER: Real, real quickly. I know you wrote a letter to the chairman of NBC News following the last debate on CNBC. There were a lot of questions, there was a lot of criticism about the tone of that debate and you suspended ties with this network for future debates. I also know you've spoken to the chairman of NBC News, Andy Lack. Are you making progress in terms of renewing ties with this network on future debates?

PRIEBUS: Well, look, I mean, here's the issue. I mean, this was an issue in regard to CNBC. ABC is the parent organization.

LAUER: NBC.

PRIEBUS: My belief is that there’s – NBC, sorry. NBC is the parent organization. My belief is that there has to be some consequences for what we saw a couple weeks ago in Denver. You know, people did something that – that we didn't obviously – wasn't promised, it wasn't expected, and there has to be consequences. And so, yeah, I did I have a good conversation with Andy Lack, and by the way, we're going to be talking to the candidates about the future of that debate. But we're looking forward to the debate this week, and I think it's going to be a much better debate, and I think it's going to be a good time to put that CNBC debate behind us, Matt.

LAUER: Reince Priebus, the chairman of the RNC. Always good to see you, Reince. Thank you very much for your time.

PRIEBUS: Thank you. You bet.

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