NBC’s Guthrie to Jill Biden: Is Trump ‘Threat to Very Essence of This Country?’

In a softball interview with Jill Biden Tuesday morning, wife of former Vice President and 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden, NBC’s Today show co-host Savannah Guthrie worried if President Trump was a “threat to the very essence of this country.” The anchor also fretted that Biden’s husband would be the victim of “nasty” attacks and invited her to label Trump a “bully.”

Early in the friendly exchange, Guthrie touted Joe Biden’s campaign announcement video in which the former VP “said that he didn’t think, in essence, that the country could survive eight years of President Trump” and “said Trump ‘will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation.’” Turning to Jill Biden, Guthrie asked: “Do you see it that way? Do you think that President Trump is a threat to the very essence of this country?”

 

 

The spouse of the Democratic frontrunner quickly agreed: “I do. I do. And I think we saw that in Charlottesville, in how the President handled that.” She added: “And that’s one of the reasons Joe decided to run for president.”

Guthrie wondered if that was the main motivation behind a Biden candidacy: “Do you think that he would be running if it were anyone other than Trump in the White House right now?...if it was about Trump more than any other issue, at this point in his career?”

Minutes later, Guthrie sympathized: “And you know about politics. You know it’s a nasty business. I gotta say, it seems to be getting more personal, more nasty. Are you worried about that? Are you worried, in particular, about attacks on your family that seem inevitable to come?” The host specifically fretted over “some of the nicknames that the President’s trying out” like “‘Sleepy Joe,’ ‘Creepy Joe.’ Says he has a low IQ.”

Biden replied: “I think it’s ridiculous. And I – you know, I think the American people think that. Name calling, bullying, it’s just, you know, it’s just – it’s just a different type of leadership, let’s put it that way.” Guthrie seized on her language: “Do you think of the President as a bully? Because you’ve talked about bullying a fair bit on the campaign trail and I always wonder if that’s who you have in mind.”

To her credit, Guthrie at least acknowledged Joe Biden having his own history of nasty attacks on Trump:

I should say that your husband can give it as well. He called President Trump a clown recently. And we all remember in 2016 when he said, “Hey, if this was high school, we’d go back and I’d beat the hell out of him.” And you know, “It’s always the ugliest, fattest kid who’s, you know, the bully.”

Only a single question in the lengthy eight-minute interview focused on women accusing the former Vice President of inappropriate touching:

Let’s talk about one of the issues that’s come up, which is women coming forward who have had interactions with your – with your husband over the years and have said he was inappropriate, that he came into their personal space in a way that made them feel uncomfortable and that was uninvited. Do you think that’s a fair criticism? I’m sure you’ve read their stories.

However, that line of questioning quickly morphed into Guthrie hitting from the left by voicing concerns about Anita Hill:

In the same vein, he presided over the Anita Hill hearing. He recently had a phone call with Anita Hill, where he, as I understand it, expressed some acknowledgment about the failings, and his own failings, in that hearing. She told The New York Times she wasn’t satisfied. She said, “It’s not enough for him to say, ‘I’m sorry for what happened to you.’” If she’s saying that, does that demonstrate in and of itself that he needs to somehow go further in his apology or his statements to her?

The rest of the segment was devoted to promoting Jill Biden’s new book, Where The Light Enters, about the loss of their son Beau Biden to cancer.

Biden was treated to several friendly media forums on Tuesday, including CBS This Morning, where co-host Gayle King lamented how women could “misinterpret” Joe Biden’s handsy behavior.

Here is a transcript of Guthrie’s questions to Jill Biden on the May 7 Today show:

8:43 AM ET

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Welcome back. When former Vice President Joe Biden announced he was running for president again, his wife Dr. Jill Biden said she celebrated by going back to work. She’s been teaching, hitting the campaign trail. She’s written a new memoir as well, it’s called, Where The Light Enters: Building a Family, Discovering Myself. Dr. Biden, good morning, it’s good to see you.

JILL BIDEN: Good morning.

GUTHRIE: Well, we’ll get to the book in a minute, but of course, we know your husband is running for president.

BIDEN: Yes.

GUTHRIE: You’ve been here before. Were you gung-ho for this decision or did you have to be convinced?

(...)

GUTHRIE: You know, I watched very carefully Vice President Biden’s campaign video and the  announcement. And he said that he didn’t think, in essence, that the country could survive eight years of President Trump. He said Trump “will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation.” Do you see it that way? Do you think that President Trump is a threat to the very essence of this country?

BIDEN: I do. I do. And I think we saw that in Charlottesville, in how the President handled that. And I feel that it’s them and us and people all over this country are just – you know, they’re looking for new leadership. And we hear it all the time. And that’s one of the reasons Joe decided to run for president.

GUTHRIE: I was going to ask you. Do you think that he would be running if it were anyone other than Trump in the White House right now?

BIDEN: I don’t know. I mean, that’s a hard question to answer.

GUTHRIE: I wondered if it was about Trump more than any other issue, at this point in his career?

(...)

GUTHRIE: You have obviously been a political spouse for a really long time.

BIDEN: Yeah, forever.

GUTHRIE: Yeah, forever, truly. And you know about politics. You know it’s a nasty business. I gotta say, it seems to be getting more personal, more nasty. Are you worried about that? Are you worried, in particular, about attacks on your family that seem inevitable to come?

(...)

GUTHRIE: We’ve already heard some of the nicknames that the President’s trying out for him, “Sleepy Joe,” “Creepy Joe.” Says he has a low IQ. What do you think of that?

BIDEN: I think it’s ridiculous. And I – you know, I think the American people think that. Name calling, bullying, it’s just, you know, it’s just – it’s just a different type of leadership, let’s put it that way.

GUTHRIE: Do you think of the President as a bully? Because you’ve talked about bullying a fair bit on the campaign trail and I always wonder if that’s who you have in mind.

BIDEN: Because I’ve seen bullies. I mean, I’m a teacher. I’ve seen the effects of bullying. And I see it all the time in my classroom and why kids drop out. I write about it in my book, when my sister was bullied by the kid at the bus stop who threw the worms on her.

GUTHRIE: I should say that your husband can give it as well. He called President Trump a clown recently. And we all remember in 2016 when he said, “Hey, if this was high school, we’d go back and I’d beat the hell out of him.” And you know, “It’s always the ugliest, fattest kid who’s, you know, the bully.”

BIDEN: No, I spoke to him about that.

GUTHRIE: You did? What did you tell him? Yeah, because I was going to say, is he gonna get down in the mud?

BIDEN: No, he’s not going to get down in the mud.

GUTHRIE: Okay, what did you tell him?

BIDEN: Remember what Michelle said, “When they go low, we go high.”

GUTHRIE: Okay. Let’s talk about one of the issues that’s come up, which is women coming forward who have had interactions with your – with your husband over the years and have said he was inappropriate, that he came into their personal space in a way that made them feel uncomfortable and that was uninvited. Do you think that’s a fair criticism? I’m sure you’ve read their stories.

(...)

GUTHRIE: In the same vein, he presided over the Anita Hill hearing. He recently had a phone call with Anita Hill...

BIDEN: He did.

GUTHRIE: ...where he, as I understand it, expressed some acknowledgment about the failings, and his own failings, in that hearing. She told The New York Times she wasn’t satisfied. She said, “It’s not enough for him to say, ‘I’m sorry for what happened to you.’” If she’s saying that, does that demonstrate in and of itself that he needs to somehow go further in his apology or his statements to her?

(...)

GUTHRIE: I want to talk about the book. And I’m just gonna be honest, there are parts that I read that I read through tears and with a lump in my throat because you have suffered such a tremendous loss and you’re very honest about your grief. I mean, you say at one point, “I’m not the same. I’m not the same person.”

BIDEN: No.

GUTHRIE: How are you finding the strength not only to write about it but to come into the public and put yourself out there for a presidential campaign when, the way I read this book, is it is still so very ever-present?

(...)

GUTHRIE: You wrote so movingly about it, I really also was struck by you writing about your faith, how important your faith has been in your life. You chose your faith, it wasn’t foisted upon you. But you write that one of your last prayers was one for Beau.

BIDEN: It was.

GUTHRIE: And it was a prayer that went unanswered – or it’s certainly how it feels. How are you grappling with that? And are you hopeful you’ll find your faith again?

(...)

GUTHRIE: Well, you have done an amazing thing by writing about this and sharing your grief and connecting with people on that level. I think it will mean a lot to them.

And as you said, we are celebrating teachers today.

BIDEN: Yes.

GUTHRIE: You are a teacher. If you were going to be First Lady, would you continue teaching?

BIDEN: Oh, my god, I would love to continue teaching. I don’t know whether security – you know, I could do that, but maybe I could sneak in and, you know, do a class now and then.

GUTHRIE: Well, maybe you could red pen some speeches if gets to that point or do something.

BIDEN: My students are taking their final exams today. Yeah, so I have to post grades by Thursday.

GUTHRIE: Oh, my gosh. You’re on deadline, too. Dr. Biden, thank you so much.

BIDEN: Thanks.

GUTHRIE: Thanks for the conversation, and again, the book is called Where The Light Enters.

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