Managing to squeeze politics into the opening ceremony of the Olympics on Friday, NBC hosts Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira cheered a tribute to Britain's government-run National Health Service, with Lauer declaring: "Back in the states...we're locked in this kind of partisan debate over the future of health care in our own country. Here, they feel so strongly about their health care system, they're actually celebrating it as part of the Olympic opening ceremony." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
In a live interview with Mitt and Ann Romney on Friday's NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer fretted over the "very negative" presidential race and wondered: "Are you proud of the campaign you're running so far? Is this the campaign you'd like to run?"
Romney responded: "I'm very proud of the fact that my campaign is focused on the economy. It's focused on my vision for what I do to get more jobs for America. And about the President's-" Lauer interrupted: "And what President Obama has done wrong with the economy." Lauer pressed: "Do you think your campaign has been less negative than the Obama campaign?"
In an interview with singer Elton John on Tuesday's NBC Today that focused on the performer's AIDS awareness activism, co-host Matt Lauer teed him up to rate recent presidents on combating the disease: "Elton champions those he feels made a positive impact on the AIDS epidemic, but he also takes to task those he believes caused harm. And he doesn't hold back." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Lauer declared: "Let's play a little game of political word association. Give me the brief answer to each of the names that I'm going to throw out, just your first reaction. Ronald Reagan." John sniffed: "Overrated." Lauer continued: "Bill Clinton." John gushed: "Fantastic. Made some big mistakes but, God, he's a fantastic man."
In an otherwise tough interview with Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter on Tuesday's NBC Today about the negative tone of the President's re-election bid, co-host Matt Lauer failed to challenge her on the nastiest attack hurled by Democrats so far, Cutter's own charge that Mitt Romney may have committed a felony.
Lauer repeatedly grilled Cutter on President Obama abandoning the rhetoric of hope and change from the 2008 campaign: "If you think about what your candidate is out there on the campaign trail saying and compare it to what he was saying as a candidate four years ago....are you proud of the message he's out there delivering?...would you say the President has run an exceedingly positive or exceedingly negative campaign?" However, the obvious question about Cutter leading that "exceedingly negative campaign" never came.
The very early returns are in for Savannah Guthrie's debut as the new co-anchor at NBC's Today show and so far they're not great. According to TV Newser's Chris Ariens, ABC's Good Morning America beat its morning show competitor in the ratings on Guthrie's first day in the co-anchor chair. Ariens reported that GMA won Monday morning's showdown among both total viewers and younger viewers:
On Friday's NBC Today co-host Matt Lauer didn't just lob a softball to Obama campaign advisor David Axelrod about Attorney General Eric Holder being held in contempt of Congress, he placed the ball on a tee and helped Axelrod swing the bat: "Paraphrasing here, Mr. Holder said the American people deserve better. What is the President's reaction to the actions in Congress?"
Axelrod happily spewed White House talking points on the Thursday vote that held Holder in contempt for failing to release documents regarding the Fast and Furious gun-walking scandal: "I think it was an embarrassment to the Congress....They're getting their questions answered, they wanted the confrontation, they wanted the political theater. They ought to be getting to work on the problems that are significant to the American people."
Trying to do some cheerleading for President Obama on Friday, NBC's Today touted the First Daughters as a major boon to his reelection, as co-host Matt Lauer proclaimed: "...with the election just about five months away, Malia and Sasha are stepping forward a little bit. So are they a good way to connect with voters?...are they his secret weapon in the upcoming campaign?"
Introducing the pro-Obama fluff as legitimate news, co-host Ann Curry talked about the President as if he were a summer action flick: "Like most parents, President Obama loves talking about his kids. But during an election year, those stories might also just help him out at the box office."
Appearing on Friday's NBC Today, Meet the Press host David Gregory advised the Obama campaign on how defeat Mitt Romney: "What the President's got to do is say, 'Hey, don't forget about George W. Bush. Things got really, really bad under him.'" [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Co-host Matt Lauer was skeptical: "I hear him saying that all the time....do you think that strategy works, the blame Bush strategy, or do people want you to take ownership of this economy at this stage?" Gregory was undeterred: "...they've got to prevail in providing context. Saying, 'Look, it's not about blaming the previous president, it's that the hill was so high to climb. And we're making some progress but the hole is still so deep.'"
ABC and NBC on Friday both excitedly touted Barack Obama's "star-studded" celebrity fund-raisers in New York City, gushing over the "Prez in the City." Neither network wondered if $40,000 per plate dinners with millionaire celebrities might make the President seem out of touch, a charge often leveled at Republican Mitt Romney.
On Good Morning America, reporter Jon Karl enthused, "Call it Prez in the City, a star-studded, big city Obama fund-raiser at the Manhattan home of Sex and the City star Sarah Jessica Parker." "The A-list evening didn't end there," Karl added, highlighting Obama's follow-up party with Mariah Carey at the Plaza hotel.
At the top of Monday's NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer warned Mitt Romney against going after President Obama too hard on the stagnant economy: "Romney's campaign using the rise in unemployment to target President Obama's record on the economy, but can he make his point without sounding like he wants the recovery to fail?" [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Later, fill-in co-host Savannah Guthrie talked to left-wing MSNBC host Chris Matthews about the GOP's economic message and teed him up to slam Republicans: "I mean obviously they see that the bad economy will ultimately be good for his [Romney's] prospects, but they don't want to be perceived as rooting for failure." Matthews ranted: "But of course they are. You know, they've got a spring in their step now. This is great news for the Republicans.....All things being equal, they don't have to do anything except enjoy the economic downturn."
Twelve hours after the Today show repeatedly announced how NBC News had decided to call the situation in Iraq a “civil war,” as if that decision was major news itself, Monday's NBC Nightly News led with the term and conceded it could “erode” public support for the war. Meanwhile, CBS and ABC didn't go quite as far as CBS's Katie Couric referred to how Iraq “slips ever-closer to civil war” and ABC's Charles Gibson suggested “you can call it anarchy, you can call it chaos, you can call it civil war...”