15 Years of Giving Today Show Viewers a Jolt of Liberalism to Go With Their Morning Latte
Matt Lauer became a regular co-host of NBC’s Today show on January 6, 1997 and while his partners have changed over the years from Katie Couric, to Meredith Vieira and most recently Ann Curry, he’s joined them in regularly serving viewers a hearty portion of liberal spin to go along with their morning cup of coffee.
Over the years Lauer has treated his Democratic guests with light and frothy questions, as was the case when he asked Barack Obama how he would be able to “manage” the “expectations” of those hoping he would be their “Savior” and “Messiah.” In contrast he’s hit Republicans with bitter queries about their ability to lead, like the time he asked then Senator-Elect Rand Paul if Republicans, after having rode a “wave of anger and energy” into office in the 2010 midterms, would then “govern in Washington with anger?”
The following is a collection of examples of Lauer sticking up for Democrats and persistently taking the liberal side on every issue from gun control to global warming:
Hating Conservatives/Wishing They Would Moderate Their Ways
Matt Lauer: “When you look at some of the things the Tea Party and others on the far right are asking for — no funding for Planned Parenthood, no funding for climate control, public broadcasting — does it seem to you, Senator, that this is less about a fiscal debate or an economic policy debate and they are making an ideological stand here?”
Democratic Senator Charles Schumer: “That’s exactly right, Matt. You’ve hit the nail on the head.”
— Exchange on NBC’s Today, April 6, 2011
Co-host Matt Lauer: “For people who don’t remember, Senator, your time in the Senate, how would you describe yourself in terms of the political spectrum? Some have called you an ultra-conservative on social issues. Is that fair?”
Former Senator Rick Santorum: “Look, I’m a conservative. Yeah, I mean, I believe life begins at conception and I believe marriage is between a man a woman....”
Lauer: “In a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 65 percent of people said they are most likely to vote for a candidate in 2012 who is strong on the economy, on the deficit, on jobs, not social issues. That’s not really what they are concerned about. So are you, are you barking up the right tree?”
— NBC’s Today, March 8, 2011
“Critics of conservative voices right now are saying for the first time in a very long time, the conservatives have lost. They haven’t been able to choose their nominee and it’s the political version now of a 3-year-old saying, ‘if you can’t play the game the way I want to play, I’m taking my football and I’m going home.’ How do you respond to that?”
— Lauer to Ann Coulter on Today, February 8, 2008.
“A former Cabinet member says the President’s party is being held hostage by the far right....[Christine Todd Whitman’s] new book criticizing the far right is called It’s My Party Too....You say that today’s conservatives are not true conservatives. Let me read you a portion: ‘Much of their agenda is simply inconsistent with true conservatism. They seem to have forgotten that one of America’s greatest strengths has always been its ability to respect the broad range of ideas centered on a core set of values: freedom, opportunity, diversity....’ When it comes to the President’s agenda for his second term, things like Social Security, how much do you think it’s possible he could be held hostage by that far right?”
— Lauer to Whitman on NBC’s Today, January 27, 2005.
“They were college classmates from the ‘60s, mourning the loss of a friend and their idealism....It was 1983, a time of Reaganomics, burgeoning yuppies, and the Decade of Greed.”
– NBC’s Matt Lauer on the December 30, 2003 Today show, in a story on the 20th anniversary of the film The Big Chill.
Matt Lauer: “Let me write [sic] what one reviewer wrote about you. ‘Clancy insists on subjecting readers to a simplistically conservative political philosophy, whether or not they want it. For long stretches in this book it reads like the transcript of a Rush Limbaugh talkathon.’”
Tom Clancy, author, The Bear and The Dragon: “Obviously somebody who voted for George McGovern in 1972.”
Lauer: “You too conservative? Does it come through on every page?”
Clancy: “I don’t think so. The American people voted for Reagan twice.”
Lauer: “You think you’re in step with the feelings of this country?”
Clancy: “I’m in step with the feelings of a couple of million readers. I’ll settle for that. You know people vote for my books with their money, as opposed to saying yes when the Gallup poll calls them up on the phone.”
– Exchange on NBC’s Today, August 22, 2000.
“And when you talk about votes like that, that he [Dick Cheney] made while in Congress, anti-affirmative action, anti-abortion, anti-gun control, anti-equal rights, how does George Bush portray him as a compassionate conservative?”
- Today co-host Matt Lauer to Tim Russert, July 26, 2000.
“Governor Bush did very well with voters on the far right of the Republican Party in South Carolina; that may have been his margin of victory. Is it necessary for you now, Senator McCain, to make that a liability for Governor Bush, to portray him as someone beholden to that wing of the party?”
-Today co-host Matt Lauer to John McCain, Feb. 21, 2000.
“You said at a speech recently, you said, you know, ‘The Republicans, they’re treating me like a dog.’ There’s a lot of rhetoric out there, coming from the Republicans toward you, coming from the Tea Party toward you. Former President Clinton said he doesn’t think the Democrats, and you included, have been rigorous enough in pushing back against some of the Republican attacks. Over these next five weeks, Mr. President, do you intend to change your tone or your emotion in terms of your pushing back?”
— Matt Lauer to President Obama in a September 27, 2010 interview shown across most of NBC Universal’s networks, including NBC, MSNBC, Bravo, USA and SyFy.
“Passage of this bill and turning it into law has left this country as politically divided as I think it has been in a long time. You might be able to cite some other examples, but the vitriol, the rhetoric, the sniping, the threats — how are you possibly going to continue with any kind of legislative agenda when your opponents have said to you, ‘I’m not gonna cooperate with this President, with these Democrats, unless it’s a matter of national security.’ How do you move on?”
— Matt Lauer to President Obama on NBC's Today, March 30, 2010
“Have you stopped to think what the Obama version of Swift Boating might be in this campaign cycle if you get to the general election? What they did to John Kerry, what’s that version going to be with Barack Obama?”
— Lauer to Barack Obama on Today, February 19, 2008.
“Brilliant....Skilled and surprisingly self-destructive....Despite the scandals and investigations, Bill Clinton was an incredibly popular President who connected with the American people....Under Clinton the economy boomed — deficits turned into surplus — and more than 22 million jobs were created. Along with the character flaws and the subpoenas came peace and prosperity.”
— Lauer summarizing Bill Clinton’s biography during the June 5, 2005 Discovery Channel special listing 25 finalists for the title of “Greatest American.”
“Secretary of State Katherine Harris in Florida. As you know she’s a Republican, a Bush supporter. Warren Christopher said yesterday that her, her decision on this five o’clock deadline has the look of trying to produce a certain result in the election. Do you think, and to use a rather crude term, that her decision does not pass the smell test?”
– Matt Lauer to Gore aide Bill Daley, Nov. 14, 2000 Today.
“Let’s talk about what they are now calling, Mr. Vice President, ‘The Kiss’. You heard about ‘The Catch’ in that football game, this is ‘The Kiss.’ You really planted one on Mrs. Gore at the beginning of your speech there. What were you thinking?”
“Were you trying to tell the American people that you’re really a kind of emotional guy?”
“Well after watching that kiss I know how you survived 30 years, Mr. Vice President. Way to go! It’s nice talking to you.”
– Today co-host Matt Lauer to Al Gore, August 21, 2000.
Sucking Up to Obama
“Fit to serve: Barack Obama photographed shirtless in Hawaii and a lot of women are giving him the presidential seal of approval.”
— NBC’s Matt Lauer starting out the Today show, December 23, 2009
“People have called you ‘The Savior,’ ‘The Messiah,’ ‘The Messenger of Change.’ The expectations have been raised to such a level....If you are, as you just say, lucky enough to be elected the next President, are you going to have to consciously manage expectations during the first several months of your administration?”
— Lauer to Barack Obama on Today, Oct. 20, 2008.
Defending Bill Clinton
Matt Lauer: “You talk about the loss of opportunity which frustrates Bill Clinton and also must frustrate the American people. So will the lesson that will be learned out of all this, Doris, be that maybe we go back to a time where we give less scrutiny to a President’s personal life, back to the Kennedy and Eisenhower and Roosevelt years?”
Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin: “....I hope that the media does go back to that earlier standard. I don’t want to talk about this. None of us do. Think about how much more exciting it would be if we were talking about civil rights, education, health care...”
Lauer: “Yeah, but I hope you’re right. I hope that the American people would find it more exciting to talk about health care and Social Security and not about these personal peccadilloes.”
- Lauer on May 23, 2000 Today.
“Let me end with this. How many times, sitting in front of your computer typing away stories about cigars and cocktail dresses, did you look up and think to yourself ‘Why did I ever pursue the Paula Jones story?’”
- Last question from Today co-host Matt Lauer to Newsweek reporter Michael Isikoff on his Lewinsky scandal book Uncovering Clinton, April 8, 1999.
“Speaker Wright, let me start with you. When you resigned nine years ago, you had been battered by the right. You called for an end to what you called ‘mindless cannibalism.’ Nine years later we’re hearing terms like that again and others swirling around the impeachment of Bill Clinton. Have we learned nothing in nine years?”
-Matt Lauer to former Speaker Jim Wright, who resigned over ethical problems, December 21, 1998 Today.
“Speaker Wright, during McCarthy’s sort of communist witch hunt, the really turning point was when one person being grilled by the Senator said ‘Do you have no decency.’ Do you see anybody with the credibility in Washington right now to ask that same question?”
-Lauer to Wright, same show.
“Remember when the First Lady was here back in January and she talked about the vast right-wing conspiracy. You agree with a lot of what she had to say. If there is a hierarchy in that conspiracy, like a military hierarchy, where does Ken Starr fall? Is he a private, is he a general, what is he?”
-Today co-host Matt Lauer to James Carville in interview promoting his book, And the Horse He Rode In On: The People vs. Kenneth Starr, October 26, 1998.
“Senator, he brings up an interesting point. If there were no major revelations in the Starr report about all the gates -- Filegate, Travelgate, Whitewater – why shouldn’t Ken Starr then pick up the other portion of the tab?”
-Matt Lauer to Republican Senator Frank Murkowski, who had suggested making Clinton pay the tab for the Lewinsky probe, after a clip of White House press secretary Mike McCurry urging Starr be made to pay the cost of the probe incurred before Lewinsky, September 16, 1998 Today.
“Based on your dreams for the information age, can you give me your reaction to the type of information we are hearing in the current situation between the President and Monica Lewinsky? Is that the way you envision the information age turning out?”
“But in this particular case, do you think it’s gotten to the point where possibly there is a chance that there is too much information on this particular subject?”
“As our partner I’m sure you watch our programming, you’re probably a news junkie like the rest of us. Do you think though that we as journalists have gone overboard on this story?”
— NBC Today co-host Matt Lauer pressing Microsoft chief Bill Gates, February 24, 1998.
“You just heard Mr. Panetta and his comments on the proposed Senate Whitewater hearings. Polls in the past, Mr. Gingrich, have said that: a) the American people really don’t understand Whitewater; and b) they really don’t care about it. Is there a reason for hearings now, other than to inflict political damage on the President prior to the elections?”
— Today substitute co-host Matt Lauer interviewing Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, May 18, 1995.
Matt Lauer Wants to Raise Your Taxes
“When it comes to taxes, this issue of revenues, is there any way this deal gets done without the Republicans compromising somewhat on taxes?...President Obama talks about shared sacrifice. Where is the shared sacrifice going to come from on the Republican side?”
— Co-host Matt Lauer to conservative radio host Laura Ingraham on NBC’s Today, July 12.
“Why not use an increase in revenues? Tax hikes to help with that debt problem? What is the evidence that you can present that the tax cuts of the Bush era have actually accomplished their goals?...When the Bush era tax cuts were passed in 2001, unemployment in this country was 4.5 percent. Today it’s at 9 percent, just down from 10 percent. So why are the Bush era tax cuts creating jobs?”
— Host Matt Lauer to House Speaker John Boehner on NBC’s Today, May 10, 2011. In the five years after the full tax cut package was passed in 2003, the economy added more than 8.3 million new jobs.
“Like Congressman Ryan is suggesting, Medicare needs to be revamped....that affects the elderly and the poor...why shouldn’t the burden be equally shared? Why shouldn’t we put some of that burden on the wealthy and corporations?”
-Lauer to Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann on the April 13, 2011 Today show.
Co-host Matt Lauer: “Do you ever think about how much money is in politics, in political contributions, in lobbying? And wouldn’t it be a great idea if we took even half of that money that’s spent by corporations and special interests trying to influence politics and dedicated it to changing the world for the better?...What about a lobbying tax? If you’re gonna spend a certain amount of money lobbying for a special interest cause, you have to match that amount of money by giving it to help education or to fight AIDS?”
Ex-President Bill Clinton: “Well, that’s not a bad idea.”
— NBC’s Today, September 5, 2007.
“That cost [of a war in Iraq] is adding to the potential deficit, some $50-100 billion. Doesn’t that have something to do with the President’s ability to get his tax cut passed? A lot of people say, ‘Why are you cutting taxes now when you’re increasing the deficit.’ Shouldn’t this be a time when you’re increasing taxes?”
– NBC’s Matt Lauer to CNBC’s Ron Insana on Today, March 7, 2003.
...and Spend Your Money
“A bitter battle on Capitol Hill has ended with a deep slash in federal spending. The House made more than $9 billion in cuts, hitting education and employment programs especially hard.”
— NBC Today anchor Matt Lauer, August 4, 1995.
Co-host Matt Lauer: “What’s the civics lesson in this for our kids as they’re watching this on TV?”
Correspondent Natalie Morales: “Well, I think there — as a parent, there’s a huge civics lesson, and it teaches, you know, what is important about this. What are — I think you have to ask the questions, ‘What are they there for, what are the reasons behind this?’ And I think the idea of having that civil discourse is important to teach our kids and it’s something in history we’ve seen....”
— Exchange on NBC’s Today about the Occupy Wall Street protestors on October 21, 2011.
“I’m worried if you think if that’s a good thing [for Goldman Sachs to pay back its bailout money early]. Are they doing this because of financial stability, or might they be talking about that simply to get out from under the thumb of the federal government and be allowed to go back to running the business the way they want to run it, as opposed to the way the government wants them to run it?”
— Lauer to Obama economic adviser Christina Romer, April 14, 2009 Today.
“Russia’s rush to capitalism left the vast majority scrambling to survive. For many, life is worse than it was in Soviet times.”
– NBC’s Matt Lauer in Moscow on the February 12, 2004 Today.
“Americans are working more and getting less vacation time than people in any other industrialized nation....I feel strange saying, I never stopped to think about the fact there is no official U.S. policy on vacation time.”
-Today host Matt Lauer to Escape magazine’s Joe Robinson, a proponent of mandated vacation, June 12, 2000.
Baffled/Embarrassed by Unabashed Expressions of Liberty and Patriotism
Matt Lauer: “Two thousand British moviegoers were recently polled on a very important question. What are the Top 10 Cheesiest Movie Lines of all-time?...Braveheart takes #8 with the baffling battle cry.”
Clip of Mel Gibson on horseback rallying his warriors in the movie Braveheart about 13th century Scots battling the British: “That they may take our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom!”
— NBC’s Today, December 7, 2004.
Matt Lauer: “You are expecting a greater wave of patriotism here in the United States, in this particular time, than other countries have shown when they’ve hosted the games.”
Lloyd Ward, U.S. Olympic Committee President: “I certainly expect the stands to be rocking. I expect the flags to be flying. And you know, the expression of patriotism is fine for any country that hosts the Olympics. We want to express our nationalism as a part of the world’s community and I expect to see that.”
Lauer: “But we have to also be careful and draw a line not to let our patriotism get in the way of the games in general.”
– Exchange on NBC’s Today, February 7, 2002.
Matt Lauer: “If there are flickers, as you say, of al Qaeda among the rebels, would it not be a sign to them or showing them that the United States has compassion and we are willing to use our military might to help all people?”
Michele Bachmann: “Compassion for al Qaeda?”
-Lauer trying to convince Bachmann that Obama's strategy of bombing was a good way to show support for rebels on the March 30, 2011 Today show. Lauer later scrambled to clarify he meant “civilians in Benghazi.” Bachmann pointed out to Lauer: “Well of course we have compassion for people. That is not the point.”
“For months now, the White House has rejected claims that the situation in Iraq has deteriorated into civil war, and for the most part news organizations like NBC have hesitated to characterize it as such. But after careful consideration, NBC News has decided a change in terminology is warranted, that the situation in Iraq with armed militarized factions fighting for their own political agendas can now be characterized as civil war.”
— Lauer leading off NBC’s Today, Nov. 27, 2006.
Host Matt Lauer: “He [Senator John Kerry] made a joke, he says he blew the joke and inadvertently sounded as though he questioned the intelligence of U.S. troops in Iraq. Look me in the eye and tell me, if, with even a fraction of your heart, you think John Kerry meant to question the intelligence of U.S. troops in Iraq.”
Former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card: “Well, he’s had a past bias that would allow people to believe that....Even more significantly, it’s the Democrats that have said, ‘John Kerry stay home.’”
Lauer: “And, by the way, I think a lot of Democrats should have shame on their shoulders, because they ran away from this guy, as opposed to standing up and saying it was just a mistake.”
— NBC’s Today, November 3, 2006.
NBC’s Matt Lauer: “You admitted that there were these CIA secret facilities. Okay?”
President George W. Bush: “So what? Why is that not within the law?”
Lauer: “The head of Amnesty International says secret sites are against international law....Are you at all concerned that at some point, even if you get results, there is a blurring the lines of, between ourselves and the people we’re trying to protect us against?”
— Interview shown on NBC’s Today, September 11, 2006.
Matt Lauer in Baghdad: “Talk to me...about morale here. We’ve heard so much about the insurgent attacks, so much about the uncertainty as to when you folks are going to get to go home. How would you describe morale?”
Chief Warrant Officer Randy Kirgiss: “In my unit morale is pretty good. Every day we go out and do our missions and people are ready to execute their missions. They’re excited to be here.”
Lauer: “How much does that uncertainty of [not] knowing how long you’re going to be here impact morale?”
Specialist Steven Chitterer: “Morale is always high. Soldiers know they have a mission. They like taking on new objectives and taking on the new challenges....”
Lauer: “Don’t get me wrong here, I think you are probably telling me the truth but a lot of people at home are wondering how that could be possible with the conditions you’re facing and with the attacks you’re facing. What would you say to those people who are doubtful that morale can be that high?”
Captain Sherman Powell: “Sir, if I got my news from the newspapers also, I’d be pretty depressed as well.”
— Exchange on NBC’s Today, August 17, 2005.
“Because he did not attend any of the funerals of the fallen soldiers in Iraq, some family members felt he was not showing compassion, or a connection to the suffering that they have felt as a result of this war. Was this trip an effort to blunt that criticism?”
– NBC’s Matt Lauer to Condoleezza Rice on Today, Nov. 28, 2003. Since the war began, Bush has repeatedly met with hospitalized soldiers and with the families of those killed in Iraq.
“You know, [Mexican] President Calderon wants a reinstatement of the assault weapons ban that expired during the Bush administration....How can President Obama, who ran against assault weapons, how can he not deliver on that?”
— Lauer to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, April 16, 2009 Today.
Matt Lauer: “Have you ever gotten up one morning, read the newspaper or seen the news about a particularly horrific crime or event that involved a shooting and thought even for a second, I may be on the wrong side of this issue?”
NRA President Charlton Heston: “No, I never felt that.”
Lauer: “Never wavered?”
– Exchange on NBC’s Today, September 5, 2002.
“Let’s take hijacking and potential crimes out of this for a second, and I know you say you don’t want to dwell on [a] worst case scenario, but pilots are human beings. They get depressed, they get suicidal, they get angry. If they’re armed, isn’t that a formula for disaster?”
-Question from NBC’s Matt Lauer to the head of the Airline Pilots Association about a plan to permit pilots to carry guns to protect their planes, September 26, 2001 Today.
Matt Lauer: “Let’s say I come down to your dealership, I buy a car tomorrow, I get my voucher, I go out and get my gun and then in a week or so I decide that I don’t want it, what’s to stop me from selling it to anyone I want to sell it to?....”
“And so if then the person that buys that gun from me goes out and commits a crime with it, or God forbid takes a life with it, how are you going to feel at your auto dealership?”
Tennessee car dealer Greg Lambert, who gave free gun to car buyers: “I’m not responsible for the actions of other people...what we need is crime control, not gun control.”
Lauer: “Yeah, but why not take away the possibility? If you give someone a CD player, they can’t go out and kill someone with it....From what I understand, Mr. Lambert, you’re taking the promotion a little bit further. Even children who come to your dealership are going to get a free water pistol, and some people say that’s just going too far.”
– Aug. 25, 2000 Today interview.
“But isn’t it just a case of terrible timing, Mr. LaPierre? I mean, not coincidentally, we’ve had a show this morning that’s been filled with a murder in Los Angeles, a murder in Florida, five people were executed in a Wendy’s restaurant here in New York just last week. I mean, this doesn’t seem like the time you want to be promoting guns?”
— Matt Lauer to NRA Executive VP Wayne LaPierre about plans to open a restaurant in Times Square, May 30, 2000 Today.
“When Lauer has to report stories such as the recent first-grade shooting in Michigan, he says, a part of him wishes he weren’t a journalist. Then he wouldn’t have to appear objective. ‘I’d love to be more opinionated about guns.’ He fears historians will describe turn-of-the-21st-century America ‘in just two words: gun violence.’ He tells of attending a party where friends discussed their office layouts – which closets they’d hide in to save their lives. ‘People at cocktail parties now talk about their personal safety. There’s something really wrong here.’....
“If he could ask President Clinton just two questions: ‘It wouldn’t be about [Monica Lewinsky]. I’d ask, “What are you going to do about guns? Why not make this issue one of your legacies?’”
-From a profile of Today co-host Matt Lauer by Jeffrey Zaslow in the April 28-30, 2000 edition of USA Weekend.
“And General Powell, one of the aspects of the program that I think may get some attention is that there is training in riflery, in marksmanship here. I understand they use .22 caliber rifles. At a time when we are so sensitive, it seems, to the connection between young people and guns, do you think it’s a good idea to be putting them in contact with guns in high school?”
-Today co-host Matt Lauer to Colin Powell in interview about expanding ROTC in high schools, July 30, 1999.
“You’ll start debate on the youth violence bill today. That, of course, comes up with tougher punishments for youths who commit crimes with guns. But then you will deal with the actual gun bill. Why talk about the penalties for guns before you talk about the guns themselves?”
-Today co-host Matt Lauer to Congressman Bob Barr (R-Ga.), June 16, 1999.
Co-host Matt Lauer: “The book is called The World Without Us, and it asks the question what would happen to planet Earth if human beings were to suddenly disappear....And really it’s all about trying to figure out how long it would take nature to reclaim what we’ve created.”
Co-host Meredith Vieira: “The mess.”
Lauer: “How long it would take nature to fix the mess we’ve made?”
— Teasing upcoming segment on NBC’s Today, September 4, 2007.
“A controversy in Washington over what literally could be the end of the world as we know it. Did the Bush administration freeze out scientists trying to sound the alarm on global warming?”
— Lauer on NBC’s Today, January 31, 2007.
Matt Lauer: “From your point of view, if you were to run for President you could take this issue [global warming] to the next level, even during just a campaign. And if you were fortunate enough to win the presidency, you’d sit in the most powerful office in the free world with a real chance to make — you could be in a position to save the planet, without putting too much emphasis on it. Wouldn’t that be enough of a reason to run for President for you?”
Former Vice President Al Gore: “Well, I appreciate the impulse behind the question. I am not planning to run....”
Lauer: “But as someone who feels as passionately about the subject as you do, and your documentary is evidence of that, why pass up the opportunity to have that world stage again?”
— Exchange on NBC’s Today, December 6, 2006.
“Today, life on earth is disappearing faster than the days when dinosaurs breathed their last, but for a very different reason....Us homo sapiens are turning out to be as destructive a force as any asteroid. Earth’s intricate web of ecosystems thrived for millions of years as natural paradises, until we came along, paved paradise, and put up a parking lot. Our assault on nature is killing off the very things we depend on for our own lives....The stark reality is that there are simply too many of us, and we consume way too much, especially here at home....It will take a massive global effort to make things right, but the solutions are not a secret: control population, recycle, reduce consumption, develop green technologies.”
— Lauer hosting Countdown to Doomsday, a 2-hour June 14, 2006 Sci-Fi Channel special.