After NBC and ABC rushed to label Donald Trump “moderate” during Thursday’s evening newscasts following his move to left on transgender bathrooms and abortion, on Friday morning, all three network morning shows touted the Republican frontrunner “sounding strikingly more moderate on social issues” as he worked to “tone it down” on the campaign trail.
On NBC’s Today, correspondent Peter Alexander declared: “Trump has been a tough candidate to pin down on policy. But highlighted by our Today town hall, he appears to be moving toward the middle, sounding strikingly more moderate on social issues. And his aides are now openly discussing how he'll adjust his image as this race goes on.”
In a news brief for Good Morning America, news anchor Amy Robach proclaimed: “Donald Trump promising to tone it down and become more of a traditional candidate. Trump aides told Republican Party officials in a closed-door meeting that Trump has been projecting an image during the campaign and they promise he'll reshape that image and evolve into a, quote, ‘real different guy.’”
Introducing a report on CBS This Morning, co-host Gayle King announced: “Donald Trump's top strategist is telling Republican National Committee members they will soon see a different candidate. Paul Manafort says that Donald Trump is ready to reach out to a wider range of voters.”
While promoting the “different” Trump, all three networks also noted the billionaire taking heat from the right, especially from GOP primary opponent Ted Cruz. On Today, Alexander observed: “Ted Cruz is attacking Trump for his comments...challenging North Carolina's controversial transgender bathroom ban....Cruz arguing Trump's answer shows he's not a true conservative.”
A soundbite ran of Cruz denouncing Trump’s liberal stance: “Have we gone stark raving nuts? Grown adult men, strangers, should not be alone in a bathroom with little girls.”
Alexander also fact-checked another one of Trump’s left-leaning positions: “While Trump said he believes in raising taxes for the wealthy, his actual tax plan, released last September, would cut taxes for everyone, especially the wealthy. If enacted, slashing the top income tax rate from nearly 40% to 25%.”
On GMA, Robach mentioned: “Ted Cruz pounced, accusing Trump of putting on an act. Cruz is also slamming Trump for his position on North Carolina's so-called transgender bathroom law, saying Trump is too politically correct to be the Republican nominee.”
CBS This Morning did not highlight the transgender bathroom issue specifically, but correspondent Major Garrett noted that “Cruz quickly seized on the comments” from Trump campaign aide Paul Manafort that the frontrunner was merely “projecting an image.” A clip followed of Cruz telling conservative radio host Mark Levin: “He's telling us he's lying to us. That you look at what his campaign manager says, it is that this is just an act, this is just a show.”
Here is a full transcript of Alexander’s April 22 report on Today:
7:13 AM ET
MATT LAUER: Let us turn now on this Friday morning to politics, the presidential race this morning. Donald Trump is feeling some renewed heat from the remaining candidates in both parties, especially Ted Cruz, who’s blasting the Republican frontrunner for some things he said right here on our show yesterday. NBC national correspondent Peter Alexander has that story. Peter, good morning to you.
PETER ALEXANDER: Matt and Savannah, good morning. Just ask his opponents, Trump has been a tough candidate to pin down on policy. But highlighted by our Today town hall, he appears to be moving toward the middle, sounding strikingly more moderate on social issues. And his aides are now openly discussing how he'll adjust his image as this race goes on.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Cruz Blasts Trump’s Conservative Credentials; Blasts “Bathroom Ban” Remark on Today Town Hall]
Donald Trump making his pitch in Pennsylvania.
DONALD TRUMP: Do you know the Republican Party, not known necessarily as the hottest thing in the world, is now one of the hottest things in the world? We are gonna win, win, win.
ALEXANDER: But this morning, Ted Cruz is attacking Trump for his comments right here during the Today town hall, challenging North Carolina's controversial transgender bathroom ban.
TRUMP: People go, they use the bathroom that they feel is appropriate. There has been so little trouble.
ALEXANDER: Ted Cruz arguing Trump's answer shows he's not a true conservative.
TED CRUZ: Have we gone stark raving nuts? Grown adult men, strangers, should not be alone in a bathroom with little girls.
ALEXANDER: While Trump said he believes in raising taxes for the wealthy...
TRUMP: I do. I do, including myself. I do.
ALEXANDER: ...his actual tax plan, released last September, would cut taxes for everyone, especially the wealthy. If enacted, slashing the top income tax rate from nearly 40% to 25%. In Florida, Trump's top operative is trying to win over RNC members, telling them Trump has a different persona in private than in public.
PAUL MANAFORT: When he's out on the stage, when he's talking about the kinds of things he's talking about on the stump, he's projecting an image that's for that purpose.
ALEXANDER: Meanwhile, as Hillary Clinton looks to lock up the Democratic nomination, Bernie Sanders is vowing to fight on, despite long odds. Telling NBC's Andrea Mitchell, his party will unite in the end.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Sanders Preaches Unity for Dems; Vows to Join Forces to Stop Trump]
BERNIE SANDERS: I think there is a very deep-seeded understanding among the vast majority of the American people, that a Donald Trump presidency would be a disaster for this country and that we're going to do everything we can to prevent that.
ALEXANDER: And Bernie Sanders concedes if he doesn't have a majority of delegates after California votes this June, quote, “It's gonna be hard for us to win. So would he help Hillary Clinton win the votes of his young supporters? Sanders told Andrea, “That depends on whether her platform adopts his ideas. Matt and Savannah?
LAUER: Still wielding some power there. Peter, thank you very much.