NBC's Katie Couric wrongly challenged Howard Dean when he made the accurate statement that "all these folks involved in getting money" from Jack Abramoff "are Republicans." However, Couric and Matt Lauer have often failed to challenge guests who assert conservative falsehoods or make misleading claims that enhance conservative positions.
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On the January 26 edition of NBC's Today, co-host Katie Couric chided Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairman Howard Dean for his accurate statement that "all these folks involved in getting money" from former lobbyist Jack Abramoff "are Republicans." Couric responded: "Hey, wait a second. Democrats took money ... from Jack Abramoff, too, Mr. Dean." In fact, while Democrats received money from the clients and associates of the well-connected Abramoff, no evidence exists to suggest that they have received contributions from Abramoff directly.
Despite wrongly challenging Dean, Couric and Today co-host Matt Lauer have often failed to dispute guests who assert conservative falsehoods or make misleading claims that enhance conservative positions. Couric did not correct Newsweek chief political correspondent Howard Fineman, for example, when he echoed the Republican suggestion that only Democrats oppose the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program and face political repercussions for criticizing it, as Media Matters for America has documented. As recently as January 25, Lauer permitted Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) to make misleading claims about the domestic surveillance program in a segment titled "Straight Talk from John McCain."
From the January 26 edition of NBC's Today:
DEAN: That was something [former Speaker of the House] Newt Gingrich also said in 1994, and it was also, or on CNN a year before; but the truth is, the president and the Republicans are abusing their power in Congress. Just the other day, they stuck something in that gave HMOs [health maintenance organizations] $22 billion of taxpayers' money. They stuck it in the middle of the night. Nobody knew anything about it, and it passed because nobody knew it was there. That is not the way to run Congress. We ought to have a real democracy in Congress where both sides get listened to, and that's not the way it is right now. The other thing is the corruption scandals in Congress; [former House Majority Leader] Tom DeLay; all these folks involved in getting money -- all of whom are Republicans -- from Jack Abramoff. We need to -- an overhaul of Congress in the worst way.
COURIC: Hey, wait a second. Democrats took money -- Democrats took money from Jack Abramoff, too, Mr. Dean.
DEAN: That is absolutely false. That did not happen. Not one dime of money from Jack Abramoff went to any Repub -- Democrat at any time.
COURIC: According -- let me just tell you. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Abramoff and his associates gave $3 million to Republican and one -- Republicans -- and $1.5 million to Democrats including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid [R-NV]. So, this --
DEAN: Katie, not one -- not one dime. Not one dime of Jack Abramoff money ever went to any Democrat. We can show you the FEC [Federal Election Commission] reports, we'd be very happy to do it. There is a lot of stuff in the press that the Republican National Committee has been spinning that this is a bipartisan scandal. It is a Republican-financed scandal. Not one dime of money from Jack Abramoff ever went to any Democrat. Not one dime.
COURIC: Well, we will obviously have to look into that and clarify that for our viewers at a -- at a later date.