Goldberg publishes badly doctored version of Rose/Brokaw interview as purported evidence of Brokaw's bias

››› ››› JEREMY SCHULMAN

In another house-of-cards example of purported media infatuation with President Obama offered by Bernard Goldberg in his new book, Goldberg echoes Rush Limbaugh by printing badly doctored "snippets" of an interview between Charlie Rose and Tom Brokaw. Goldberg's doctored transcript of the interview falsely suggests, among other things, that Brokaw expressed the view that "there's a lot about [Obama] we don't know," when, in fact, Brokaw attributed that assertion to "conservative commentators" and that comments Brokaw and Rose made about their lack of familiarity with the candidates applied only to Obama when, in fact, they were referring to Sen. John McCain as well.

In another house-of-cards example of purported media infatuation with President Obama offered by Bernard Goldberg in his new book, Goldberg echoes Rush Limbaugh by printing badly doctored "snippets" of an October 30, 2008, interview between PBS's Charlie Rose and NBC's Tom Brokaw, which Goldberg cites as purported evidence that Brokaw waited until "just a few days before the election" to "inform us that he knew next to nothing about Obama." Among other things, Goldberg's doctored transcript of the interview falsely suggests that Brokaw expressed the view that "there's a lot about him [Obama] we don't know," when, in fact, Brokaw attributed that assertion to "conservative commentators." Also, recalling another Goldberg example that collapsed upon review, Goldberg's edited transcript falsely suggests that comments Brokaw and Rose made about their lack of familiarity with the candidates applied only to Obama when, in fact, they were referring to both Obama and his opponent, Sen. John McCain.

A full video of the interview is available here.

In A Slobbering Love Affair: The True (and Pathetic) Story of the Torrid Romance Between Barack Obama and the Mainstream Media, which Media Matters for America obtained in advance of its January 26 publication date, Goldberg writes:

Tom Brokaw had also appeared on Rose's show to inform us that he knew next to nothing about Obama. And he did this just a few days before the election. Obama had launched his campaign over a year and a half before, but apparently it took Brokaw until just before Election Day to decide that he had no idea who Obama was. Ain't journalism wonderful?

Here are a few snippets from that exchange: [pp. 136-137]

Following the "snippets" from the interview, Goldberg writes of Brokaw and other journalists: "It is their job to tell us how he [Obama] thinks, what drives him, what he really believes in, right -- and not hide their fears and suspicions until after they got him elected?" [p. 138]

But Goldberg's "snippets" distort what Brokaw and Rose actually said during the interview. For example, Goldberg claims in his book that the following exchange took place during the Charlie Rose interview:

ROSE: What do we know about the heroes of Barack Obama?

BROKAW: There's a lot about him we don't know.

But that's not how Brokaw answered Rose's question. As Media Matters documented in response to Limbaugh's previous distortions of the same interview, Brokaw was not purporting to express his own view when he said, "There is a lot about him we don't know"; he attributed the view to "conservative commentators." Moreover, the statement was not in response to the question about "heroes"; rather, it was made earlier in the conservation. Brokaw responded to the "heroes" question by saying that "Thurgood Marshall is a big hero of" Obama's -- a statement that is missing from Goldberg's portrayal of the interview.

Here's the actual Charlie Rose transcript, with the text that Goldberg included in bold:

ROSE: Exactly, two of them, two books. What do you make of him? Tell me what you see there, because I was talking to a friend of mine, and he said, I see someone who is clearly aspirational, someone who is clearly bright, someone who is clearly ambitious in the best sense of that, but who is clearly cautious. And in the end, he may very well be a man of the center.

BROKAW: He is a very interesting figure in American politics. He has made very few false steps along the way, when you think about this long, difficult road that he has been on -- against the Clinton machine first, and the appearances he has made all over the country.

Sure, he has hit some speed bumps, and there are conservative commentators who say there is a lot about him we don't know because we haven't asked enough tough questions -- the Bill Ayers relationship -- even those who say we've got to go back and explore what his drug use was.

[...]

ROSE: All right. We know people sometimes by the books that they read, heroes they have. We know John McCain, for example, enormously admires Teddy Roosevelt, probably more than anyone else in a political sense, and really wanted to run a campaign, you know, in which Teddy would be his model -- Teddy Roosevelt.

What do we know about the heroes of Barack Obama --

BROKAW: He likes Justice --

ROSE: -- the books?

BROKAW: Well, he -- Thurgood Marshall is a big hero of his. He has got a picture of him in his office.

ROSE: Now was that because of his central role in arguing Brown versus Board of Education?

BROKAW: Well, I think that -- remember Barack Obama went to Harvard Law School and taught at the University of Chicago, and there was no greater legal figure in the African-American community or in those times when America was changing than Thurgood Marshall. So, that makes perfect sense.

Goldberg also presents the following edited "snippets" from the interview:

ROSE: I don't know what Barack Obama's worldview is.

BROKAW: No, I don't either.

ROSE: I don't know how he really sees where China is.

BROKAW: We don't know a lot about Barack Obama and the universe of his thinking about foreign policy.

In fact, Rose and Brokaw actually expressed uncertainty about both Obama's and McCain's views, and Rose specifically said: "I don't know how he [Obama] really sees where China is and where it wants to go and how smart he is about that, or India, or the whole global structure ... or John McCain either" [emphasis added]. Goldberg replaces this context with a statement -- "We don't know a lot about Barack Obama and the universe of his thinking about foreign policy" -- that Brokaw actually made earlier in the interview (see transcript at the bottom of this item).

From Charlie Rose (portions transcribed by Goldberg in bold):

ROSE: I care about it almost as much as you do in terms of being a political junkie, but there are questions you don't know in terms of -- I don't know what Barack Obama's worldview is, I really don't know.

BROKAW: No, no, I don't either.

ROSE: I don't know how he really sees where China is and where it wants to go and how smart he is about that, or India, or the whole global structure.

BROKAW: Well, one of the things that --

ROSE: And -- or John McCain either.

BROKAW: Yeah, one of things I tried to get at in the national debate, and they began to answer it a little bit, which was -- which I think is an important question: What is the Obama doctrine and the McCain doctrine when there is a humanitarian crisis?

We are going through one this week in the Congo again, and I raised the Congo as an example of that, and the use of American military forces to intervene if we have no national security stake in all of that. And they both said in a kind of broadest possible terms, well, we should go help out.

But you didn't get the impression that they were going to go pull the trigger on that in the next day. That's an important discussion for this country to have.

In another "snippet," Goldberg presents the following purported exchange:

ROSE: I don't really know. And do we know anything about the people who are advising him?

BROKAW: You know that's an interesting question.

In fact, Rose did not ask: "And do we know anything about the people who are advising him?" He asked: "And do we know anything about the people who are advising them?" [emphasis added]. Rose also said: "[D]o we know who might populate these governments," further indicating that he was referring to both candidates. And, contrary to the "snippet" provided by Goldberg, Brokaw did not respond by saying, "You know that's [sic: it's] an interesting question" -- a statement Brokaw actually made elsewhere in the interview, while discussing what "books" the candidates read (see transcript at end of item). Rather, Brokaw responded by discussing advisers and potential appointees for both Obama and McCain.

The actual exchange occurred as follows:

ROSE: But I don't really know -- and do we know anything about the people who are advising them, I mean, in terms of whether Susan Rice and where they are? And then who -- do we know who might populate these governments?

BROKAW: Tony Lake, who worked in the Clinton administration; Dick Holbrooke, obviously, is eager to be involved in the briefings. There are some kind of neutral foreign policy specialists in the academies and in the Council of Foreign Relations that Barack Obama has been reaching out to.

John McCain has been reaching out to those think tanks and institutions that are --

ROSE: AEI and others.

BROKAW: -- right of center.

So, sure, we do know -- who do we know is going to land as secretary of state? No, I don't think we know that yet. I had Colin Powell on 10 days ago, who was endorsing Obama at that time, and I raised with him the idea of going back into government service.

I don't think it would be secretary of state, but I said -- I made this up at the point, I said, ambassador-at-large for Africa, where we will have a huge investment, or which I think --

ROSE: And which he cares about.

From pages 136-138 of Goldberg's A Slobbering Love Affair:

Tom Brokaw had also appeared on Rose's show to inform us that he knew next to nothing about Obama. And he did this just a few days before the election. Obama had launched his campaign over a year and a half before, but apparently it took Brokaw until just before Election Day to decide that he had no idea who Obama was. Ain't journalism wonderful?

Here are a few snippets from that exchange:

ROSE: I don't know what Barack Obama's worldview is.

BROKAW: No, I don't either.

ROSE: I don't know how he really sees where China is.

BROKAW: We don't know a lot about Barack Obama and the universe of his thinking about foreign policy.

ROSE: I don't really know. And do we know anything about the people who are advising him?

BROKAW: You know that's an interesting question.

ROSE: He is principally known through his autobiography and through very aspirational [sic] speeches, two of them.

BROKAW: I don't know what books he's read.

ROSE: What do we know about the heroes of Barack Obama?

BROKAW: There's a lot about him we don't know.

[Newsweek editor Jon] Meacham, Thomas, and Brokaw are newsmen, right? It is their job to tell us who this Barack Obama is, right -- and not run interference for him? It is their job to tell us how he thinks, what drives him, what he really believes in, right -- and not hide their fears and suspicions until after they got him elected?

From the October 30, 2008, broadcast of PBS's Charlie Rose (portions transcribed by Goldberg in bold):

BROKAW: Now, John McCain, when I asked him the other day about defending her, he said, not just defending her --

ROSE: I know, he said that in [inaudible] --

BROKAW: -- I admire her, and wanted to make that clear. So he is not backing away in any way.

ROSE: All right. Barack Obama, we know him because of -- he has been in the public view for a long time. He is principally known through his autobiography and through very aspirational speeches.

BROKAW: Two of them.

ROSE: Exactly, two of them, two books. What do you make of him? Tell me what you see there, because I was talking to a friend of mine, and he said, I see someone who is clearly aspirational, someone who is clearly bright, someone who is clearly ambitious in the best sense of that, but who is clearly cautious. And in the end, he may very well be a man of the center.

BROKAW: He is a very interesting figure in American politics. He has made very few false steps along the way, when you think about this long, difficult road that he has been on -- against the Clinton machine first, and the appearances he has made all over the country.

Sure, he has hit some speed bumps, and there are conservative commentators who say there is a lot about him we don't know because we haven't asked enough tough questions -- the Bill Ayers relationship -- even those who say we've got to go back and explore what his drug use was.

ROSE: Even though Senator McCain had a chance to do that very thing and ask him about it in one of the debates.

BROKAW: And did not. He chose not to go there. And, look, he is a very smart guy. I love this phrase "postmodern," even though I don't know what it means.

[...]

ROSE: All right. We know people sometimes by the books that they read, heroes they have. We know John McCain, for example, enormously admires Teddy Roosevelt, probably more than anyone else in a political sense, and really wanted to run a campaign, you know, in which Teddy would be his model -- Teddy Roosevelt.

What do we know about the heroes of Barack Obama --

BROKAW: He likes Justice --

ROSE: -- the books?

BROKAW: Well, he -- Thurgood Marshall is a big hero of his. He has got a picture of him in his office.

ROSE: Now was that because of his central role in arguing Brown versus Board of Education?

BROKAW: Well, I think that -- remember Barack Obama went to Harvard Law School and taught at the University of Chicago, and there was no greater legal figure in the African-American community or in those times when America was changing than Thurgood Marshall. So, that makes perfect sense.

You know, it's an interesting question. I don't know what books he has read. I know that he's got a great, curious mind. So does John McCain, by the way. He's always got a book in his hand. Mark Salter, who is a first-rate writer, is his --

ROSE: Right, and his best friend.

BROKAW: -- alter ego --

ROSE: Yeah, right, his alter ego.

BROKAW: -- and they're trading book ideas constantly. So that's an interesting question.

[...]

ROSE: Foreign policy -- economic crisis will stand out, but there is also enormous challenge here. Have we had a serious debate about foreign policy in this country?

BROKAW: No. We have not had -- there are a number of issues that have not come up. John McCain believes in a league of democracy, putting together a separate group to push against Russia. Charles Krauthammer -- Krauthammer -- wrote that that was -- he couldn't say, and I can, as Charles put it, he said, that is designed to kill the United Nations, which is a good idea. We didn't examine that very carefully.

We don't know a lot about Barack Obama and the universe of his thinking about foreign policy. China has been not examined at all.

ROSE: At all.

BROKAW: Which is astonishing.

ROSE: But do we know about what they think? I mean, it is more likely we'll know more about John McCain, because he's been speaking about foreign policy --

BROKAW: Right.

ROSE: -- just over a longer period of time.

BROKAW: Right.

ROSE: But I don't really know -- and do we know anything about the people who are advising them, I mean, in terms of whether Susan Rice and where they are? And then who -- do we know who might populate these governments?

BROKAW: Tony Lake, who worked in the Clinton administration; Dick Holbrooke, obviously, is eager to be involved in the briefings. There are some kind of neutral foreign policy specialists in the academies and in the Council of Foreign Relations that Barack Obama has been reaching out to.

John McCain has been reaching out to those think tanks and institutions that are --

ROSE: AEI and others.

BROKAW: -- right of center.

So, sure, we do know -- who do we know is going to land as secretary of state? No, I don't think we know that yet. I had Colin Powell on 10 days ago, who was endorsing Obama at that time, and I raised with him the idea of going back into government service.

I don't think it would be secretary of state, but I said -- I made this up at the point, I said, ambassador-at-large for Africa, where we will have a huge investment, or which I think --

ROSE: And which he cares about.

BROKAW: And a critical decision will be: Who do you send to the Middle East to deal with the Israelis and the Palestinians, because that remains at the nexus of the problems that we have in that part of the world. And he didn't wave off the idea that he would never go -- he didn't say, "I'm never going to go back into public service." He didn't wave off that idea that he could be summoned to public service again.

ROSE: Well, I mean, going back to your idea about bipartisan -- having to raise your hands and enlist as citizens. There is, I think -- and I want to come back to what you sense as you go around the country -- there is this sense that times are so critical that everybody has to stand up and be counted. And because you have been affiliated with the previous administration, or in fact you have been president or you've been a candidate, is now the time to forego that and think about what you can do?

Should, for example, whoever is elected send Bill Clinton to the Middle East because of his own talent and skills there?

BROKAW: Sure.

ROSE: Should you take a Holbrooke, if a Democrat is elected, and send him to Afghanistan, where he feels strongly about Afghanistan, you know? I mean, what -- the reason I have some faith in the country is a lot of extraordinary talent, you know, and what we need is the right kind of people and team that can employ that.

[...]

ROSE: I mean, Time magazine did a cover story called "Does Temperament Matter?" --

BROKAW: Right.

ROSE: -- which is part of that. I mean, part of that, because it is said -- I mean, there are so many things that I don't know, you know, in terms of the make-up of -- we have gone through this long campaign. I care about it almost as much as you do in terms of being a political junkie, but there are questions you don't know in terms of -- I don't know what Barack Obama's worldview is, I really don't know.

BROKAW: No, no, I don't either.

ROSE: I don't know how he really sees where China is and where it wants to go and how smart he is about that, or India, or the whole global structure.

BROKAW: Well, one of the things that --

ROSE: And -- or John McCain either.

BROKAW: Yeah, one of things I tried to get at in the national debate, and they began to answer it a little bit, which was -- which I think is an important question: What is the Obama doctrine and the McCain doctrine when there is a humanitarian crisis?

We are going through one this week in the Congo again, and I raised the Congo as an example of that, and the use of American military forces to intervene if we have no national security stake in all of that. And they both said in a kind of broadest possible terms, well, we should go help out.

But you didn't get the impression that they were going to go pull the trigger on that in the next day. That's an important discussion for this country to have.

ROSE: Well, and if you look at Rwanda and where you have been -- I remember at some point I saw you off on a trip to Rwanda, I think -- and the former secretary-general of the United Nations has said, we made mistakes. The president of the United States has said we made mistakes.

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