NBC correspondent Richard Engel sat down with President George W. Bush for an interview last weekend, and presented an edited version of a response on Sunday’s edition of “Nightly News.” White House counsel Ed Gillespie labeled the editing deceitful, but NBC stood by its editorial decision.
Engel’s question concerned Bush’s comments before Israel’s legislative body that were widely seen as an indirect attack on Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama (D-IL). Bush’s comments were actually addressed to the strawman “some.” Explaining that he was addressing no one individual in particular, Bush said, "You know, my policies haven’t changed, but evidently the political calendar has. People need to read the speech. You didn’t get it exactly right, either. What I said was that we need to take the words of people seriously. And when, you know, a leader of Iran says that they want to destroy Israel, you’ve got to take those words seriously."
This sentence was left out: "People need to read the speech. You didn’t get it exactly right, either. What I said was that we need to take the words of people seriously."
Gillespie thought that the edited answer gave the false impression that Bush agreed with Engel’s premise that the comments were indeed aimed at Obama. NBC disagreed, saying there was no such implication or distortion, that the full interview was available uncut on its website, and that the White House has no place in its newsroom, nor a voice in its editorial decisions.
RBR/TVBR observation: Frankly, this strikes us as the sort of tempest in a teapot that will blow over just as soon as another minor tempest is brewed up to blow it aside. That said, we don’t see how the inclusion or omission of the middle sentence in Bush’s quote removes the invitation for anybody who heard the speech to try to figure out who Bush was referring to when he said “some.” And the conclusion that “some” is a group that includes Obama is almost inescapable, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with NBC’s asking the question, nor does its editorial decision distort the issue. If Bush was not attacking Obama, then say so – and tell us who was being referred to. We’d love to get that scoop.