NBC and MSNBC anchors ignore their own political director's criticism of media's "hyping" of purported division among Clinton supporters

››› ››› MATT GERTZ

In reference to the media's focus on what Chris Matthews called a "civil war" between "the PUMAs, the holdouts ... and the majority, apparently, of [Sen.] Hillary [Clinton] people who really want [Sen.] Barack Obama and the Democratic Party to win this November," Chuck Todd said: "I kind of think we're hyping it up a little bit. ... I wonder if in three days, we look back and say, 'Why did we waste all of our time with that?' " Despite Todd's criticism, in August 25 interviews with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Charles Schumer, President Jimmy Carter, and Robert Gibbs, 18 of the 20 questions NBC and MSNBC correspondents and anchors asked dealt with Clinton, her supporters, or former President Bill Clinton.

On the August 25 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, when asked by host Chris Matthews about "this civil war" between "the PUMAs, the holdouts ... and the majority, apparently, of [Sen.] Hillary [Clinton] people who really want [Sen.] Barack Obama and the Democratic Party to win this November," NBC News political director Chuck Todd said of the story, "I kind of think we're hyping it up a little bit. It's getting a little overheated. ... And I wonder if in three days, we look back and say, 'Why did we waste all of our time with that?' " Notwithstanding Todd's comments, during MSNBC's August 25 coverage of the Democratic National Convention, in interviews with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), former President Jimmy Carter, and Obama communications director Robert Gibbs, 18 of the 20 questions asked by NBC and MSNBC correspondents and anchors dealt with Clinton, her supporters, or former President Bill Clinton.

Following NBC News correspondent Savannah Guthrie's interview with Schumer -- in which three of the four questions she asked dealt with Hillary Clinton -- Matthews asserted: "Savannah Guthrie there with Chuck Schumer, the senator from New York, talking up Hillary's role in this. Of course, it is going to be the story of the week, no matter what we say. Will the Clintons get aboard? Will they be invited aboard with all the right protocols?"

On Hardball, Todd asserted of Matthews' purported "civil war" in the Democratic Party:

TODD: But, look, I think this is one of those stories that we're -- we're in the bubble. We are in the Denver bubble right now. And as [MSNBC political analyst] Howard [Fineman] said, there are Clinton people everywhere. You could find a PUMA, not just on your feet for shoes that you might need to be using to do all the walking that you do, but you can find a PUMA anywhere you want and you can write this story. But that doesn't mean it's a story.

I kind of think we're hyping it up a little bit. It's getting a little overheated.

MATTHEWS: Yeah.

TODD: And I wonder if in three days, we look back and say, "Why did we waste all of our time with that?" The big moment tonight is going to be [Sen.] Teddy Kennedy [D-MA], when he does something tonight. Does he speak? I think we all assume he's not coming out here to go on stage to wave. That's not -- that's not the Teddy Kennedy we've all come to watch over the years. That's going to be a bigger moment than any Clinton people who are bitter, arguing outside looking for cameras to get attention.

They feel almost like -- they're becoming like Ron Paul supporters were back in the Republican primaries. I think they're a much smaller group than we make them out to be, frankly.

All of the six questions Ann Curry, co-host of NBC's Today, asked Pelosi dealt with the Clintons or Hillary Clinton's supporters:

  • "Should Senator Clinton have called on her supporters to back Barack Obama already?"
  • "[H]as she [Clinton] hurt Barack Obama, given what the polls are looking ... like? ... Why not?"
  • "[I]t's three months until the election, Madame Speaker, and what we have is -- you talked about 20 percent. There are a lot of disgruntled, some of them actually angry, supporters of Hillary Clinton."
  • "What gives you confidence of party unity?"
  • "What do you say to Hillary supporters who are now being wooed by John McCain?"
  • "Hillary speaks tomorrow night. President Clinton speaks on Wednesday night. What do the Clintons want, and what role do you think they [the Clintons] will play?"

Questions Guthrie asked Schumer about Hillary Clinton included:

  • "I have to ask you, first of all, about that other senator from New York. A lot has been said and written about lingering division in the party. Do you see that in your delegation?"
  • "Is there some aspect to this that Hillary herself has not been able to control? I mean, there are people who clearly feel strongly about it and, no matter what her signals are, want to make a stand."
  • "What do you think her role in the Senate will be now? Is she going to be the lioness of the Senate, in the mold of Ted Kennedy?"

Questions Curry asked Carter about the Clintons included:

  • "Do you think that she [Hillary Clinton] should have thrown her support and asked her supporters to go to Obama before now?"
  • "Have you spoken to the Clintons? Have you asked them to have a certain kind of message? In other words, have you tried to guide what they're going to do here?"
  • "[H]ave you called to talk to them about what they need to do here?"

All six questions Matthews and MSNBC's Keith Olbermann asked Gibbs dealt with the Clintons or Hillary Clinton's supporters:

  • Matthews asked: "When are we going to see a real coming together of Bill Clinton, the former president, and the Democratic nominee for president, Barack Obama? When will we see them in the same picture together, having lunch together, hanging out together in a friendly environment? When will that happen?"
  • Matthews asked: "I haven't seen a picture yet of Bill Clinton with Barack Obama. When will I see them together?"
  • Matthews asked: Let me ask you about this very bad blood that went on during South Carolina, all the primaries in the beginning, when comments were made by former President Clinton, you know, 'this is a fairy tale,' comparisons of the success in states like South Carolina by Barack Obama with those of [Rev.] Jesse Jackson in the past in a way that seemed to minimize the success of Barack Obama, his dominance, if you will of this effort. Were they racist or were they just unfortunate? How would you describe those comments by Bill Clinton?"
  • Matthews asked: 'Let's talk about the roll call. Keith has been raising it -- he may want to jump in on this -- he's been raising the question as to what's the choreography come Wednesday night? We've watched a number of conventions where the loser grandly and magnificently or magnanimously says, 'I ask that this be made unanimous.' Will there be a moment like that of unity?"
  • Olbermann asked: "Mr. Gibbs, what's the best-case scenario? What do you see as the best-case scenario of these conversations, if we don't call them negotiations, between you and those supporters sort of running what's left of the Clinton campaign as we wait for the Kennedy thing tonight?"
  • Matthews asked: "Do you expect Bill Clinton to barnstorm his way through those areas where he did well -- Southern white guys, if you will -- in the Appalachian area, states that can be tricky? Portions of Ohio; portions of Pennsylvania. Are you going to really surgically use Bill the way, for example, Eddie Rendell, the governor of Pennsylvania, was able to call in air strikes by the Clintons?"

From the August 25 edition of MSNBC's Hardball:

MATTHEWS: Chuck Todd, give us analysis of where this civil war stands right now. Out here, it's pretty noisy between the PUMAs, the holdouts, and the people -- and the majority, apparently, of Hillary people who really want Barack Obama and the Democratic Party to win this November.

TODD: I tell you, in here, they actually just started the convention, so I'm sort of confused. I do see the crowds out there going a little nuts, but they actually did start the convention behind here with -- Howard Dean just dropped the gavel, gave the opening remarks.

But, look, I think this is one of those stories that we're -- we're in the bubble. We are in the Denver bubble right now. And as Howard said, there are Clinton people everywhere. You could find a PUMA, not just on your feet for shoes that you might need to be using to do all the walking that you do, but you can find a PUMA anywhere you want and you can write this story. But that doesn't mean it's a story.

I kind of think we're hyping it up a little bit. It's getting a little overheated.

MATTHEWS: Yeah.

TODD: And I wonder if in three days, we look back and say, "Why did we waste all of our time with that?" The big moment tonight is going to be Teddy Kennedy, when he does something tonight. Does he speak? I think we all assume he's not coming out here to go on stage to wave. That's not -- that's not the Teddy Kennedy we've all come to watch over the years. That's going to be a bigger moment than any Clinton people who are bitter, arguing outside looking for cameras to get attention.

They feel almost like -- they're becoming like Ron Paul supporters were back in the Republican primaries. I think they're a much smaller group than we make them out to be, frankly.

MATTHEWS: Yeah, well, it's a free country, but the noisiest people get the attention. Mike Barnicle --

TODD: They do.

From MSNBC's August 26 coverage of the Democratic National Convention:

OLBERMANN: Our correspondent Ann Curry is inside the Pepsi Center, in fact at the podium, with the woman we just heard, Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Ann, good evening.

CURRY: That's right. That's right. Good evening, Keith and Chris. Good evening, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. In your remarks tonight, you talked about Barack Obama being the man who will take America into a new future. Here's the question I have to ask for you. Should Senator Clinton have called on her supporters to back Barack Obama already?

PELOSI: Senator Clinton, I think, has done exactly the right thing. It's very important for voters who have -- workers who have worked so hard in the campaign, they have to follow the lead of the candidate they are supporting.

CURRY: But has she hurt Barack Obama, given what the polls are looking at -- like?

PELOSI: I don't think so. I don't think so.

CURRY: Why not?

PELOSI: I don't think so. I think -- first of all, let's put it the way, this -- Barack Obama won the nomination with full confidence that he could win the general election. Now, 80 percent -- what is -- Barack Obama is leading among women right now, the bulk of Sen. -- much of Senator Clinton's support, by 20 points. By 20 points. So he is taking his message directly to the American people. Senator Clinton has emerged as a great leader in our country. She was before -- a greater leader now. And her support of course is very important --

CURRY: You mentioned the 20 --

PELOSI: -- but this is the natural course of events.

CURRY: The natural course of events -- but it's three months until the election, Madame Speaker, and what we have is -- you talked about 20 percent. There are a lot of disgruntled, some of them actually angry, supporters of Hillary Clinton.

PELOSI: Well, they are, but that is not the point. The point is, here we have come here together to be unified, focused, disciplined. We will leave here with a clarity of message of the difference between the Democrats and the Republicans. We will leave here mobilized to drive a grassroots operation, to get out the vote, and we are confident of victory.

CURRY: What gives you confidence of party unity?

PELOSI: It doesn't mean party unanimity; you never have that. This is my 12th convention, and I can say that this is a pretty enthusiastic convention because in those earlier days, sometimes you didn't know the outcome going into the convention when you came out. We knew the outcome going in, and we knew what one of those outcomes would be a unified, confident Democratic Party coming out. You know why? Because everybody knows what is at stake. People are concerned about their -- losing their jobs, losing their homes, losing their standard of living, losing their purchasing power, and they know that we must have change. And that's why we're confident that with our message of an economic agenda for all Americans that we will win.

CURRY: What do you say to Hillary supporters who are now being wooed by John McCain?

PELOSI: Well, I would say to them that women have the most to lose with the election of John McCain and the most to gain with the election of Barack Obama. Take any day in Congress, whether you're talking about childrens' health or pay equity, equal pay for equal work for women, or talk about issues like Medicare where John McCain was wrong and Barack Obama was right. Or issues about our national security and going to war, or our economy, where, instead of investing in good paying jobs here, our economy is on the downturn. So on all of the issues, whether they're national security, economic security, or issues as personal to women as their right to choice or their pay equity or Medicare, whatever it happens to be -- children's health -- this -- the difference between the parties in policy and the individuals in terms of leadership on those policies are clear.

CURRY: Hillary -- Hillary speaks tomorrow night. President Clinton speaks on Wednesday night. What do the Clintons want, and what role do you think they will play?

PELOSI: Sorry?

CURRY: What do the Clintons want, and what role will they play once this convention is over?

PELOSI: Well, President Clinton is a former president of the United States. So his role is a very clear one, and I would like to hear Senator -- President Carter here. So he will always be a force in our country and certainly in the Democratic Party. So everyone is looking forward to being inspired by him, by hearing what his views are about the future and his support for Barack Obama and [Sen.] Joe Biden [D-DE]. Senator Clinton, a candidate in her own right, brings a different credential. In some ways her speech is more important than President Clinton's because she was currently in this race and now her supporters want to take their lead from her. But she's been absolutely great. Our country, our party have been strengthened by her candidacy, and we're all very, very proud of it.

CURRY: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, thank you so much for stopping to speak to us. Thank you so much. All right now, Keith, right back to you.

OLBERMANN: Ann Curry at the podium. Thank you, Ann.

MATTHEWS: And now to Savannah Guthrie, who is with New York Senator Chuck Schumer -- senior Senator Chuck Schumer.

GUTHRIE: Chuck Schumer is with me now. I have to ask you, first of all, about that other senator from New York. A lot has been said and written about lingering division in the party. Do you see that in your delegation?

SCHUMER: I don't. We're probably the most pro-Hillary delegation of all of them, and there is great unity. Hillary this morning spoke to the delegation, and she said, "We need unity," and that makes sense because Hillary cares about this country and knows we can't afford another four years of John McCain.

GUTHRIE: Is there some aspect to this that Hillary herself has not been able to control? I mean, there are people who clearly feel strongly about it and, no matter what her signals are, want to make a stand.

SCHUMER: There are a few outliers who will be never happy, but the overwhelming majority of Hillary delegates here at this convention -- and I was the first senator to be for her and last off -- but the overwhelming majority are going to be for her and for her big time.

GUTHRIE: What do you think her role will be now?

SCHUMER: Sorry -- for him, and for him big time. We were for her big time, now we're going to be for Barack big time.

GUTHRIE: Old habits die hard.

SCHUMER: Exactly.

GUTHRIE: What do you think her role in the Senate will be now? Is she going to be the lioness of the Senate, in the mold of Ted Kennedy?

SCHUMER: Well, you know, she -- you know, sometimes you lose an election. You hate to lose it. But you actually grow in stature. That has happened to Hillary, and I think she could on major issues be really a seminal voice.

GUTHRIE: Obviously, the presidential election is what has brought us all here, but you're very integral to the Senate campaigns. How many seats do you think the Democrats will gain?

SCHUMER: We're going to pick up a whole bunch. Now, 60 is the dream. It's hard 'cause there are so many red states, but it's not out of the question, and we're finding in places we never thought we had a chance -- Oklahoma, this week, Georgia, we're much closer than we thought in addition to other 11 states.

GUTHRIE: Senator Chuck Schumer, thanks for your time.

SCHUMER: Thank you.

GUTHRIE: Chris, back to you.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you, Savannah Guthrie there with Chuck Schumer, the senator from New York, talking up Hillary's role in this. Of course, it is going to be the story of the week, no matter what we say. Will the Clintons get aboard? Will they be invited aboard with all the right protocols?

[...]

OLBERMANN: Let me do the -- run the risk of interrupting you because we don't want to keep a former president waiting. Ann Curry back inside the Pepsi Center with former President Carter. Ann?

CURRY: That's right. Thank you so much, Keith. Thank you so much, Mr. President, for sticking around. Now, let me ask you, you know, you're the elder statesman, really, of this party.

CARTER: I guess so. I think this is my ninth convention.

CURRY: I need to ask you your feelings about why -- what is your sense about why this race is still so tight?

CARTER: Well, I think the main reason is that a lot of supporters of Senator Clinton have not yet made up their minds. I noticed in news media this morning that only 46 percent of them so far are completely dedicated to Obama. But I think after this convention, you'll see a massive move by them to support Obama, and I think the polls will change very quickly.

CURRY: In part that is probably because we will hear from Senator Clinton on Tuesday night and she will make her statements known. However, it is now three months until the election. You know how this rolls. Do you think that she should have thrown her support and asked her supporters to go to Obama before now?

CARTER: No, I think this is working out quite well. You know, I know this from history -- you said I'm an elder statesman, and I know it from history. In 1976, when I got the nomination for president, there was an intense argument or debate between Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan at their Republican convention. They divided horribly, and it was about four or five -- almost two months later before the Reagan people finally said, "OK, we will support Gerald Ford as a last choice." That's not going to wait this long this year. I think immediately after this convention, you'll see a massive move by the Clinton supporters to Obama.

CURRY: Have you spoken to the Clintons? Have you asked them to have a certain kind of message? In other words, have you tried to guide what they're going to do here?

CARTER: Not really. I don't think that's appropriate for me. They know a lot more about politics than I do and have been in it a lot more recently.

CURRY: But have you called to talk to them about what they need to do here?

CARTER: Yeah, in fact, Bill Clinton has called me. I think he called me last time. I called him earlier. But we stay in communication. And I don't think there's any doubt that Bill and his wife will be completely committed to Obama. I don't have any doubt about that.

CURRY: All right. Mr. President, I know you've got to make it to another location. Thank you so much for staying.

CARTER: Pleasure to talk to you.

CURRY: It's a pleasure to see you, sir.

CARTER: I think it's going to be a wonderful convention.

CURRY: Well, you're looking very well and I'm very glad to see you.

CARTER: Thank you very much.

CURRY: So now back to you, Keith and Chris, back in the studio.

[...]

MATTHEWS: Robert Gibbs is the Obama campaign communications director. Robert, thank you for joining us. You're right near us now. When are we going to see a real coming together of Bill Clinton, the former president, and the Democratic nominee for president, Barack Obama? When will we see them in the same picture together, having lunch together, hanging out together in a friendly environment? When will that happen?

GIBBS: Well, look, they're trying to get together real soon but they had a long conversation last Thursday on our campaign bus as we were rolling through Virginia. You know, Chris, this party is united. This party's going to be united coming out of -- coming out of Denver here on Friday. We're gonna -- we're united by a simple message, and that is: We need change in this country. We can't have four more years of the same George Bush-John McCain policies that have taken this country in the wrong direction. That's what unites a lot of different delegates that have come here supporting different candidates in the past. But it's important that people understand we are going to be united. We have to have change in November.

MATTHEWS: Well, again, I haven't seen a picture yet of Bill Clinton with Barack Obama. When will I see them together?

GIBBS: Real soon.

MATTHEWS: Real soon. Let me ask you about this very bad blood that went on during South Carolina, all the primaries in the beginning, when comments were made by former President Clinton, you know, "this is a fairy tale," comparisons of the success in states like South Carolina by Barack Obama with those of Jesse Jackson in the past in a way that seemed to minimize the success of Barack Obama, his dominance, if you will of this effort. Were they racist or were they just unfortunate? How would you describe those comments by Bill Clinton?

GIBBS: You know, Chris, I remember South Carolina. It was -- it all happened so fast. We were quickly off on to I don't know how many states for February 5th. We didn't have a lot of time to focus on this. Look, I don't think in any way, shape, or form were those comments racist. There's been no better advocate for the African-American community than former President Bill Clinton. We're a united party. Somebody -- a very exclusive club, former presidents, and we look to hope to use the wisdom and the campaign skills of Bill Clinton to good use in the fall to bring Democrats together, to bring independents and Republicans out in places like Colorado and all throughout the West, and win the White House for the first time since he occupied it a little over eight years ago.

MATTHEWS: Let's talk about the roll call. Keith's been raising it -- he may want to jump in on this -- he's been raising the question as to what's the choreography come Wednesday night? We've watched a number of conventions where the loser grandly and magnificently or magnanimously says, "I ask that this be made unanimous." Will there be a moment like that of unity?

GIBBS: Well, look, the logistics of this are in some flux and they're being worked out. But again, what I think you'll see after that roll call is a party that's united. Look, again, we understand that people came with strong passions. Look, Senator Clinton ran a fabulous campaign. She was an outspoken and eloquent voice for working families, for better health care, for better schools. That's exactly what Barack Obama wants to see in this country, and that's what we're here to advocate each and every night in this platform.

OLBERMANN: Mr. Gibbs, what's the best-case scenario? What do you see as the best-case scenario of these conversations, if we don't call them negotiations, between you and those supporters sort of running what's left of the Clinton campaign as we wait for the Kennedy thing tonight?

GIBBS: Well, look -- here's what I think is going to happen. I think you're going to hear a very passionate, a very eloquent speech tomorrow night from Senator Clinton, and she's going to tell the hall and all of America that the candidate that she most wants to see as president of the United States is Barack Obama. I think that's going to carry a tremendous amount of weight with Democrats that may not be as excited right now as we'd like them to be. But I guarantee that 10 weeks, a little over 10 weeks from now on election night, Democrats will be -- will come out in full force in numbers like you've never seen before.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the question as to the role they're going to play. Do you expect Bill Clinton to barnstorm his way through those areas where he did well -- Southern white guys, if you will -- in the Appalachian area, states that can be tricky -- portions of Ohio, portions of Pennsylvania? Are you going to really surgically use Bill the way, for example, Eddie Rendell, the governor of Pennsylvania, was able to call in the airstrikes by the Clintons?

GIBBS: Well, look, former President Clinton has expressed a desire to get out and campaign. Obviously, Senator Clinton has been in key states for us -- Florida, New Mexico, and other places recently. They've both been fabulous. They've both been extraordinarily helpful. We couldn't ask anything more. And I think you mentioned it. Look, this race is going to be decided in places like Scranton, Pennsylvania, and Youngstown, Ohio, and Macomb County, Michigan, and look, you've got a great choice between these two candidates, right? John McCain was asked last week fairly innocently, I would presume, by a reporter, "How many houses do you own?" And his answer was, "I'll get back to you. I'll get some staff to get you that answer." For your viewers, guys, the answer was seven. That's how many houses they own. But I think there are voters sitting here tonight in Scranton, in Youngstown, in Macomb County, that are just trying to make their mortgage payment for next month. They want a president that's in touch with their problems, that understands that this economy has to get moving again, and that choice is Barack Obama.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you for joining us over here at the MSNBC site.

GIBBS: Thanks, guys.

MATTHEWS: Robert Gibbs, communication director.

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