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The White House vs. NBC, Continued--"In Case You Missed It."

Written By mista sense on Tuesday, May 20, 2008 | 12:27 PM

This just came from the White House press operation, at 3:19 PM ET. It's obvious that the Bush folks are not giving up their tussle with NBC, and so Counselor Ed Gillespie is sharing his side of the fight with, in this case, Fox News' Megyn Kelly.

The White House does not want people to miss this:

"We Are Not Going To Allow For People To Say, As Fact, That The President Attacked Anyone On The Floor Of The Knesset. He Asserted American Policy And We Are Going To Continue To Do So."

– Counselor To The President Ed Gillespie, 5/20/08

MEGYN KELLY: The White House is not at all happy with NBC News. In an unusual move, the Administration is calling the network's story reporting on its recent interview with President Bush, "utterly misleading and irresponsible." The controversy is over the President's answer to a question asked by an NBC reporter about the President's policies when it comes to negotiating with Iran and Barack Obama. The White House says there is a difference between what the President said to that reporter and what NBC viewers actually saw. Here's the interview as it appeared on NBC Nightly News. (Fox News' "America's Newsroom," 5/20/08)

RICHARD ENGEL: You said it was appeasement. Were you referring to Senator Barack Obama?

PRESIDENT BUSH: You know, my policies haven't changed, but evidently the political calendar has. And when a leader of Iran says that they want to destroy Israel, you've got to take those words seriously.

KELLY: Here with us now to talk about what exactly the problem is, is White House Counselor Ed Gillespie. Thank you for being here with us. Alright, it gets a little confusing, but just so our viewers understand, the reporter asked President Bush – he said, President Bush, you said negotiating with Iran is pointless and that it's appeasement. Were you referring to Barack Obama when you made those comments? Now, in response, President Bush said to him – you didn't get that exactly right. And he went on to clarify his actual position on negotiating with Iran. Then he said that bit about, my positions have not changed but the political calendar has. You say NBC selectively edited that exchange, for what purpose?

ED GILLESPIE: Well, to take out the part where the premise of the question was challenged by the President, where he rejected the notion. He said, read the speech, you did not get that exactly right either. Then he went on to say, here is what I said. They removed that, very artfully by the way. If you look at the clip you wouldn't know that there was a removal of an edit of the President's remarks that was masked by NBC. That's why I say it's deceptive. What we have asked is that they run the full response by the President. Let his own words speak for themselves and do not take them through editing, out of context, and make it seem like he was affirming the charge being made by the interviewer there. They have said they're not going to do that, because even though they aired that deceptively edited piece on "The Today Show" and "NBC Nightly News," they said that viewers can go on their website and stream video of the actual answer itself. So, that's their response; if people want to see the truth, they can go on the website and download it.

KELLY: So at the end of the day, your charge is that NBC viewers are left with the impression that the President agreed with the reporter's premise, that "negotiating with Iran is pointless." When if fact, the President had said – that is not what I said, and my position has always been that we would talk to Iran if they suspended their uranium-enrichment program.

GILLESPIE: Well, two things, Megyn. The President's position on Iran has been clear, which is we are bringing multilateral pressure on Iran to abandon any effort to obtain a nuclear weapon and if they suspend verifiably their nuclear-enrichment programs, then they can come to the table with the international community. We have always said that. That part of the question was ignored – or that part of the answer was ignored. More importantly, the notion that when the President states American policy and the policy of this Administration somewhere, that it could be taken as an attack on anyone, and in the case of the question here: an attack on Barack Obama. The President said, read the speech, you didn't get that exactly right. The President's policies have been clear for a long time. We believe that we need to stand by Israel as a friend and ally in the Middle East. We believe that we shouldn't allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon. We don't believe that you should negotiate with terrorists like Hamas, Hezbollah and Al Qaeda. That is the long-standing position of the United States. If people disagree with that, they are free to, but it is not an attack on anyone. We are not going to allow for people to say, as fact, that the President attacked anyone on the floor of the Knesset. He asserted American policy, and we are going to continue to do so.

KELLY: Let me ask you, because NBC came out and said, look, editing is part of journalism. And that is true. We, in the news, are hard pressed to pick clips that will fit into a two-minute piece and so on, and they have those pressures there as well. What is your response to that defense? They also say that it is a gross misrepresentation of the facts to say that they engaged in deceitful editing.

GILLESPIE: All I can ask is to allow your viewers – and of course they can go on the website at MSNBC.com, to find out the actual airing of the President, what he actually said. But they didn't just truncate the President's comments; they excerpted the part where he took exception to the premise of the question and made it seem like he was agreeing with the premise of the question when he absolutely, utterly did not. That is what is misleading about it and they masked the edit. You couldn't tell that that response had been edited by NBC News. Our concern is that when you have people like Keith Olbermann and Christopher Matthews at MSNBC and the frequently blurring of the lines between that commentary – that advocacy on their part on behalf of certain candidates, with the NBC news division increasingly commingling, that there may be a spillover effect here that is disconcerting. We also asked NBC if they still considered Iraq to be a civil war, when we have seen the unity government of moderate Shia and Sunni go after Shia and Sunni extremists in Iraq, reclaim the port of Basra. They still have this public hand-wringing over deliberating and coming to a conclusion that Iraq was in civil war. They stopped saying it – that was in November of 2006, around September of 2007 they stopped saying it – but they have never said, were they wrong to declare it in the first place, or that they declared it over. They question whether or not official government data about the economy is believable. Why did they think that? They did not respond to those concerns at all.

KELLY: We put the statement from NBC on the screen about it being in charge of its editorial process.

GILLESPIE: I can request that they make available to their viewers what the President actually said and they're free to say no, which they did.

KELLY: We appreciate you being here. It is an extraordinary story and we appreciate your clarification.

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