On Tuesday, all three network morning shows worked to discredit and dismiss Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Monday presentation detailing Iran’s deception about its nuclear weapons program prior to the 2015 international deal to prevent that program’s progress. While secret Iranian files obtained by Israel clearly demonstrated that the authoritarian regime lacked any credibility on the issue, anchors and correspondents made Netanyahu the target instead.
Reporting for NBC’s Today show, Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Andrea Mitchell threw cold water on the revelations: “Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu documenting Iran’s past nuclear program and claiming Iran remains a nuclear threat....Evidence he says that Iran once was trying to build a nuclear weapon....But no smoking gun that Iran still has a nuclear weapons program today.”
She feared that the Israeli leader was goading President Trump into withdrawing from the agreement:
Netanyahu is trying to counteract a parade of European leaders trying to save the deal....Israeli officials say that Netanyahu did brief the President on this intelligence back in March, when he was in D.C. He provided no evidence yesterday that Iran has cheated on the Iran deal, but his theatrical presentation is timed to dominate the debate this week as President Trump is about to make arguably the most momentous decision since he took office.
On ABC’s Good Morning America, co-host George Stephanopoulos announced: “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu now has revealed documents which he says are proof that Iran lied about pursuing nuclear weapons. That’s just days before President Trump’s deadline to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal.”
Chief Global Affairs Anchor Martha Raddatz downplayed the findings: “But the documents predate the Iran nuclear deal of 2015. In fact, the White House quietly corrected a statement last night saying the documents show the Iranians ‘had’ a clandestine nuclear program instead of ‘have’ such a program.”
Stephanopoulos reiterated: “Right, but it does – as you point out, it does not show that Iran is violating the deal right now.”
After he asked about the impact the President’s Iran deal decision could have on the Korean peace process, Raddatz worried: “And you know, Kim Jong-un must be asking himself, ‘Can you trust a country that signs a deal and ten rips it up?’”
On CBS This Morning, co-host Norah O’Donnell introduced a report on the topic by actually quoting Iran’s foreign minister attacking Netanyahu: “Iran’s foreign minister mocked Netanyahu on Twitter writing, quote, ‘The boy who can’t stop crying wolf is at it again.’” In the story that followed, Face the Nation moderator Margaret Brennan emphasized: “Most of the intelligence Netanyahu cited was from before the 2015 deal had been signed, and he did not present any evidence that Iran had violated it.”
She later highlighted: “This morning, the IAEA, which is the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, said they had, quote, ‘No credible indications of activities in Iran relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device after 2009.’” Brennan added, “In other words, we already knew this.”
Co-host John Dickerson fretted: “And given the fact that policy makers base their policy on the idea that Iran was lying. Who was this for? Was this an audience of one, in Donald Trump? And was it to convince him give him backing for what he might do?” Brennan replied: “It was an all-English presentation, it was multimedia. It appealed to many of the things that the President likes in these presentations. And he used TV clips, as well. So it spoke to the President’s language...”
Dickerson then raised the peace negotiations with North Korea. Like Raddatz, Brennan warned: “Yes, all our partners in this deal say how can we partner with you again when you’re gonna break your own word? And how can anyone agree to sign on if you’re gonna do that?”
Durning interviews with Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer and former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice later in the program, the CBS hosts feared the "damage" that would be done if the U.S. decided to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal.
Here is a full transcript of Mitchell’s May 1 report on NBC’s Today show:
7:12 AM ET
HODA KOTB: We have a lot more to get to this morning, including new claims that Iran has lied about the nuclear weapons. As President Trump faces a deadline to decide the fate of the Iran nuclear deal. NBC’s Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Andrea Mitchell has the very latest. Andrea, good morning.
ANDREA MITCHELL: Good morning, Hoda. Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu documenting Iran’s past nuclear program and claiming Iran remains a nuclear threat. And doing it in English for an audience of one, President Trump, who is reportedly leaning toward withdrawing from the nuclear deal as soon as next week.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Trump to Abandon Iran Deal?; Battle Over Nuke Program as Israel Accuses Tehran of “Lies”]
President Trump today closing in on whether to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, as Israel’s prime minister, Netanyahu, makes a dramatic case against it. Showing off copies of thousands of documents and disks.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: 183 disks.
MITCHELL: Reportedly stolen by Israeli spies from a warehouse in Tehran. Evidence he says that Iran once was trying to build a nuclear weapon.
NETANYAHU: The nuclear deal is based on lies. It’s based on Iranian lies and Iranian deception. 100,000 files right here prove that they lied.
MITCHELL: But no smoking gun that Iran still has a nuclear weapons program today. The elaborate powerpoint to bolster President Trump’s inclination to tear up the deal next week, Mr. Trump reacting 20 minutes later.
DONALD TRUMP: What we’ve learned has really shown that I’ve been 100% right.
MITCHELL: Echoing his newly-minted secretary of state, with Netanyahu in Tel Aviv two days ago.
MIKE POMPEO: President Trump’s been pretty clear, this deal is very flawed. He’s directed the administration to try and fix it. And if we can't fix it, he is going to withdraw from the deal.
MITCHELL: Even though Mike Pompeo only weeks ago, then still CIA Director, acknowledged Iran is adhering to the nuclear agreement.
POMPEO: With the information I have been provided, I have no – I’ve seen no evidence they are not in compliance today.
MITCHELL: But Netanyahu is trying to counteract a parade of European leaders trying to save the deal. Macron of France, Merkel of Germany, and May of Great Britain on the phone. The President, so far, not swayed.
TRUMP: We got nothing. We got nothing. So that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t negotiate a new agreement, we’ll see what happens.
MITCHELL: Israeli officials say that Netanyahu did brief the President on this intelligence back in March, when he was in D.C. He provided no evidence yesterday that Iran has cheated on the Iran deal, but his theatrical presentation is timed to dominate the debate this week as President Trump is about to make arguably the most momentous decision since he took office. Savannah and Hoda?
KOTB: Alright, Andrea Mitchell, thanks.