CBS's Norah O'Donnell Chides: Jan Brewer's 'Finger' 'Has Tongues Wagging'

January 26th, 2012 12:36 PM

Reporter Norah O'Donnell chided the governor of Arizona on Thursday, insisting, "...It's [Jan] Brewer's finger that has tongues wagging." All three networks highlighted a confrontation between the Republican and Barack Obama at a Phoenix tarmac. However, CBS, NBC and ABC ignored the context of the conflict, the Justice Department's lawsuit against the state's illegal immigration law.

The This Morning reporter suggested Brewer's recounting of a 2010 White House meeting was inconsistent. After a clip of Brewer describing the "cordial discussion," O'Donnell corrected, "Yet, a year later in her book, she recalled that same meeting quite differently." (On, Scorpions for Breakfast jumped 211 percent in sales after Wednesday's incident.)

On Good Morning America, news reader Josh Elliott blandly recounted, "She says the President was disturbed by her new book. In it, she claims that the President was condescending to her during a White House meeting on immigration."

Neither Elliott, nor co-anchor George Stephanopoulos (who also briefly covered the exchange), mentioned Arizona's law as something that prompted the moment.

Today reporter Peter Alexander explained, "...The President had a tense exchange with Governor Jan Brewer about her book, which characterized Mr. Obama as lecturing her during a 2009 meeting over immigration. Later, Brewer called the president 'thin-skinned' and said the encounter left her breathless."

Only CBS's O'Donnell quoted from Brewer's book at all. She briefly recited, "It was as though President Obama thought he would lecture me and I would learn at his knee. He was patronizing."   

MSNBC published an excerpt of Brewer's book, recounting the moment when she found out a rancher had been killed by an illegal alien:

I was at home when I got the call. It was late at night. A highly regarded rancher had been killed in the south of the state, I was told. Rob Krentz had been killed. That’s all they knew. I hung up the phone. And as I waited for my staff to get back to me with more information, I grieved, I worried, and I wondered. Everyone in Arizona, it seemed, either knew Rob or knew of him. I had met him at a couple of meetings with the ranchers. Had he been a victim of the escalating violence on the border? As I waited, I couldn’t help but fear the worst. Oh my God, what has happened? We have to get a handle on this.

A transcript of the January 26 CBS This Morning segment, which aired at 7:14am EST, follows:

ERICA HILL: President Obama is out west today promoting his State of the Union proposals. But, he's making news this morning for a confrontation with Arizona's Republican governor. Chief White House correspondent Norah O'Donnell is in Las Vegas. She is traveling with the president. Norah, good morning.

NORAH O'DONNELL: Good morning. The President was near Phoenix to talk about manufacturing. But, it's what happened on the tarmac when Air Force One landed that now has everybody talking. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer got right to the point, Wednesday, in a heated exchange captured on the tarmac of Phoenix airport.

JAN BREWER: We could have been talking about a lot of different things. Bottom line is, that he generally wants to talk about amnesty and I want to talk about securing our border.

O'DONNELL: But it's Brewer's finger that has tongues wagging.

BREWER: They always say that a picture is what it is. But I must say, I was not hostile. I was trying to be very, very gracious. I respect the office of the president. And I would never be disrespectful in that- in that manner.

O'DONNELL: Brewer took a different tax on the record with Greta Van Susteren.

BREWER: He immediately took umbrage, if you will, with my book that I wrote, Scorpions for Breakfast and was somewhat of disgruntled, if you will, about the way he was portrayed in the book. I don't know why he was surprised by my book. But he evidently is and he's very thin-skinned.

O'DONNELL: The President and the governor have a history of strained relations and evolving explanations. Here's Brewer following a 2010 White House meeting.

BREWER: We just completed our meeting this afternoon. It was a very cordial discussion, was taking place.

O'DONNELL: Yet, a year later in her book, she recalled that same meeting quite differently. "It was as though President Obama thought he would lecture me and I would learn at his knee. He was patronizing." Last January, the two put aside their differences at this meet. It doesn't look like they'll be making up any time soon. The President said later, he'd be glad to meet with Governor Brewer again but he couldn't resist the opportunity to point out that he thought her book inaccurately described that last White House meeting they had in 2010. Charlie and Erica?

CHARLIE ROSE: Is this the end of this?

O'DONNELL: It may not be. And certainly the President is going to be returning to Arizona, because even though that is a red, Republican state, uh the President's political advisers think it can be a battleground state in 2012, in part because of the huge Hispanic growth.