NBC, CBS Cover Obama Spelling Flub; ABC Out to Lunch

March 8th, 2014 2:46 PM

Viewers of ABC's morning and evening newscasts on Friday would have been left unaware of President Obama's gaffe of elementary proportions during a White House concert on Thursday evening. Both Good Morning America and World News omitted how the Democrat left out the first "E" in the title of Aretha Franklin's most famous song: "When Aretha first told us what R-S-P-E-C-T meant to her."

By contrast, the network's competitors at CBS and NBC covered the President's trip-up on their morning shows and evening news broadcasts. NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams even mentioned a infamous spelling flub by a former Republican vice president: [MP3 audio available here; video below the jump]

BRIAN WILLIAMS: Well, if you remember the heat Dan Quayle took for how he spelled 'potato,' or the linguistic and grammatical trouble that 43 [George W. Bush] got himself into, then you may want to see this from last night. President Obama paying tribute to the great Aretha Franklin at the White House – one song, though, in particular.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: When Aretha first told us what R-S-P-E-C-T meant to her- (audience laughs)

WILLIAMS: The President just decided to go with it, in keeping with the spirit of the evening – which was a raucous, good evening of music at the White House.

Williams' counterpart on CBS Evening News, Scott Pelley, didn't mention Quayle or Bush during his Friday news brief, but instead tried to incorporate a bit of humor into his reporting on the presidential misspelling:

SCOTT PELLEY: All Aretha Franklin ever wanted was a little respect, and President Obama tried his best to give it to her last night at a White House event honoring the women of soul. But he tripped over his tongue as he was spelling the most famous word from her most famous song.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: When Aretha first told us what R-S-P-E-C-T meant to her- (audience laughs)

PELLEY: So, he spelled it wrong – 'just a little bit; just a little bit.'

Earlier in the day, Bill Plante mentioned Obama's stumble only in passing during his full report on CBS This Morning about the White House concert:

BILL PLANTE (voice-over): The only one to miss a note was the President.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: When Aretha first told us what R-S-P-E-C-T meant to her- (audience laughs)

PLANTE: He may have missed a letter, but Aretha and the rest never missed a beat.

Interestingly, NBC's Tamron Hall was much less forgiving of the President than Plante was on Friday's Today. The morning newscast actually devoted an entire segment on Obama's gaffe. Co-host Willie Geist downplayed the misstep:

WILLIE GEIST: ...This is what happened when the President of the United States paid tribute to Aretha Franklin. Listen to the spelling. (Hall laughs)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Instead of singing about love and pain; forgiveness and acceptance – to a church audience, they sang about them to the world – and the world had never heard anything like it. When Aretha first told us what R-S-P-E-C-T meant to her- (audience laughs)

TAMRON HALL: Respect – it's respect- (laughs)

GEIST: He left out an 'E.' It happens-

HALL: Yes he – no! Not when you're doing Aretha, and Aretha is there! (laughs)


GEIST: But the funny thing is, the whole crowd laughs, and he doesn't – it doesn't register-


MORALES: No. He's like, why are they laughing at me?

HALL: Yeah-

GEIST: Yeah. But I always think it's bad karma for people like us to mock a bad prompter read-

HALL: Right-

GEIST: Because that's going to come back to haunt us very quickly-

HALL: Yeah. That's not a bad prompter read-

MORALES: No. That's just a-

HALL: That's Aretha-

GEIST: All right-

HALL: And I love it because she's one of the sassiest people in the world – that she didn't call him out is amazing.

MORALES: And you – you really don't have to read R-E-S-P-E-C-T from a prompter, do you?

GEIST: I know-

HALL: You have to sing it, though. Here's the key: you have to sing it. You have to sing it to get it to get it right.


MORALES: Yeah, I think that's it; that's it. I think that's it-

HALL: That's my theory- (laughs)

GEIST: He left all that – and you got the sense he knew something wasn't right-

HALL: Right! Because he's like-

GEIST: Because he sort of slowed down – and then, he said, it's too late. I'm just going with this-