On Wednesday, all three network morning shows touted criticism of President Trump’s Tuesday phone call with Russian President Vladimir in which Trump congratulated Putin on his recent re-election victory – results widely considered to be illegitimate. However, only NBC’s Today show briefly mentioned that President Obama did the same thing in 2012.
“Some Republicans and Democrats criticizing the President for his congratulatory phone call to Vladimir Putin,” co-host Savannah Guthrie noted. Correspondent Peter Alexander fretted: “The President congratulating Vladimir Putin on his re-election, despite specific warnings from his national security advisers not to....The President also reportedly ignoring instructions to condemn the recent poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain. He didn’t bring up Russia’s meddling in the U.S. election either.”
The reporter at least offered a sentence pointing out that Barack Obama had a similar phone call with Putin in 2012: “It is worth noting, in 2012, President Obama congratulated Putin after his re-election then.”
Quickly putting the focus back on Trump, Alexander warned: “But this, of course, is sparking a new round of sharp criticism about the President’s non-confrontational tone toward one of America’s biggest global rivals.”
By contrast, neither ABC’s Good Morning America nor CBS This Morning made any mention of Obama’s 2012 conversation with Putin. “It’s not just what President Trump said during that phone call with Vladimir Putin, it is also what he did not say that has some in his own party angry this morning,” correspondent Cecilia Vega announced on GMA. The headline on screen blared: “Trump Faces Backlash for Congratulating Putin; Report: President Ignored National Security Team’s Advice.”
On the CBS morning show, correspondent Chip Reid highlighted: “The State Department is standing by a report that the Russian election restricted fundamental freedoms.” Moments later, he remarked: “President Trump spoke with the Russian president Tuesday and offered him well wishes on getting re-elected to a fourth term and six more years.”
Not only did Obama congratulate Putin on his electoral success in March of 2012, but later that same month, the then-president was caught on a hot mic telling outgoing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to forward a message to Putin on the subject of U.S. missile defense: “On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solved, but it’s important for him to give me space.”
Referring to his own re-election bid that year, Obama added: “This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility.”
Several months later, after Obama won a second term in the 2012 election, Putin called to congratulate him.
After Russia’s 2014 invasion of Ukraine, NBC was the only network to remind viewers of Obama mocking Republican nominee Mitt Romney in a presidential debate for labeling Russia as America’s “number one geopolitical foe.”
Here is a full transcript of the relevant portion of Alexander’s March 21 report:
7:16 AM ET
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: And there’s another conversation happening right now, Peter. Some Republicans and Democrats criticizing the President for his congratulatory phone call to Vladimir Putin. Can you tell us more about that?
PETER ALEXANDER: Yeah, Savannah, that’s right. The President congratulating Vladimir Putin on his re-election, despite specific warnings from his national security advisers not to. The Washington Post reporting that the words “DO NOT CONGRATULATE,” in all-caps, were written inside the President’s briefing book yesterday.
The President also reportedly ignoring instructions to condemn the recent poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain. He didn’t bring up Russia’s meddling in the U.S. election either.
It is worth noting, in 2012, President Obama congratulated Putin after his re-election then.
President Trump said that he and Putin had a good call, that they’ll likely meet soon. But this, of course, is sparking a new round of sharp criticism about the President’s non-confrontational tone toward one of America’s biggest global rivals. And all of it against the backdrop of the Russia investigation.