NBC's David Gregory accused of partisanship for confronting White House with ISG findings

››› ››› BEN ARMBRUSTER

Following a confrontation between Tony Snow and NBC's David Gregory, numerous conservative media figures attacked Gregory, calling him "angry," "partisan," "grouchy," and "ignorant," and claiming that he is "doing this for personal gain."

During the December 6 White House press briefing, after the bipartisan Iraq Study Group (ISG) released its report on the future of U.S. policy in Iraq, NBC News chief White House correspondent David Gregory quoted the co-chairmen of the ISG saying that " 'Stay the course' is no longer viable. The current approach is not working. The situation is grave and deteriorating." Gregory then asked White House press secretary Tony Snow: "Can this report be seen as anything other than a rejection of this president's handling of the war?" Snow claimed that Gregory framed his question in a "partisan way," to which Gregory replied: "Based on quoting the report and the chairmen ... I'm asking you a straight question."

Subsequently however, numerous conservative media figures attacked Gregory for his confrontation with Snow during the December 6 press briefing, saying he is "angry," "partisan," "grouchy," and "ignorant," adding that he is "trying to become famous" and "doing this for personal gain." For example:

  • On the December 7 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly said that Gregory is "a partisan," that he is using "loaded questions" and that "[h]e has come to the conclusion that Iraq is a loser and bases his questioning upon that belief." O'Reilly added: "NBC News, as we mentioned, has turned sharply left. Mr. Gregory epitomizes this."

  • On the December 7 edition of Fox News Fox & Friends First, co-host Brian Kilmeade claimed that "[i]t's all about David Gregory. It's never about the issue with that guy," adding that Gregory "talks to Tony Snow as if he wants to be famous and he wants John Kerry and Al Gore to be re-elected." Co-host Steve Doocy claimed that Gregory "never lets Tony Snow finish a sentence," called Gregory "Dick Gregory" and "Grouchy Gregory," and asked if "NBC [should] ditch David because he's asking partisan questions."

  • Doocy and Kilmeade again raised Gregory's confrontation with Snow on the December 7 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends. During the discussion, pictures of both Snow and Gregory appeared onscreen, with Snow's photo containing more color, Kilmeade said: "Who do we like better, Tony or David? One is in color and one is in black and white." Co-host Alisyn Camerota said that Gregory was "monopolizing" all of the reporters' time, while Doocy claimed: "Maybe this guy is auditioning for one of those commentary shows."

  • On the December 7 edition of MSNBC's Scarborough Country, attorney and author Bob Kohn said, "[W]hen he asks the questions of the Bush administration, time and time again, he does it in this insidious way that gets the kind of denial, and then he goes ahead on the news and says that that Bush administration denied today that they were stupid." Kohn later suggested that Gregory was "trying to put words in people's mouths."

  • On the December 7 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Rush Limbaugh, referring to Gregory's admission of not having read the entire ISG report, pretended to respond to Gregory as Tony Snow: "David, David -- when you get yourself informed here -- come back, ask me some questions, and I'll be able to talk to you. But if you're gonna stay ignorant on, on these things -- then please don't, don't bother me and waste my time."

  • On the December 8 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, Doocy, Kilmeade and co-host Gretchen Carlson followed up on their attacks on Gregory from the previous day. Kilmeade said that their focus on Gregory "[t]ouched a nerve because we think it's just outrageous that David Gregory is trying to become famous and get back on The Tonight Show by using that forum where he knows a lot of people are watching and to take on Tony Snow day in and day out." Carlson said that "the topic of debate ... is whether or not David Gregory is doing this for his own personal gain." Kilmeade responded to Carlson: "There's no question. He's a liberal. His questions sound like he's a liberal, and he has a point of view in his so-called journalistic questions and his approach to Tony Snow every single day he comes up there."

As noted by the weblog Crooks and Liars, the conservative Media Research Center declared in 2001 that Gregory was the "Best White House Correspondent" in coverage of Bush's first 100 days in office. Gregory, the MRC stated, "offered fewer biased reports and even achieved some balance on stories on the estate tax repeal, income tax cuts, and campaign finance reform."

From the December 7 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:

O'REILLY: The left-wing media, including the networks and most big city newspapers, reported heavily on how Bush has failed in Iraq rather than on the group's recommendations. NBC News, which has taken a dramatic turn to the left in pursuit of liberal viewers, epitomized this spin.

[...]

O'REILLY: And Mr. Gregory is a partisan. He has come to the conclusion that Iraq is a loser and bases his questioning upon that belief. While Gregory may be correct, using loaded questions to bolster his point of view is not what straight news reporting is about.

[...]

O'REILLY: Thanks for staying with us. I'm Bill O'Reilly. In the "Policing the Press" segment tonight, as I said in the "Talking Points Memo," many in the media are not reporting the news any more. They're trying to shape opinion. That is, they use news stories to damage people they don't like and praise people they do, and that's dangerous. Good example happened yesterday between Tony Snow and David Gregory. Mr. Gregory is NBC's White House correspondent. NBC News, as we mentioned, has turned sharply left. Mr. Gregory epitomizes this.

From the December 7 edition of Fox News Fox & Friends First:

KILMEADE: It's all about David Gregory. It's never about the issue with that guy. And I watch this almost every day, and when we don't carry it live, I can watch it on the closed circuit that we have here at the station because we pull in the feed, and David Gregory talks to Tony Snow as if he wants to be famous and he wants [Sen.] John Kerry [D-MA] and [former Vice President] Al Gore to be re-elected.

LAUREN GREEN (Fox & Friends news anchor): So they get into these constant, kind of matches, you're saying?

DOOCY: Yeah.

KILMEADE: It's non-stop.

DOOCY: And you know -- you know what I always notice about it is that David Gregory never lets Tony Snow finish a sentence before he interrupts and, you know, remember once upon a time when Helen Thomas was actually a reporter before she became --

KILMEADE: Angry?

DOOCY: Well yeah, exactly. Well, that's kind of what Tony Snow is insinuating here by saying that, you know, with the partisan question of, uh -- that he posed to him. So anyway, here's our question of the day regarding Dick Gregory -- I mean, David Gregory and Tony Snow. Grouchy Gregory.

GREEN: [inaudible]

DOOCY: Should NBC ditch David because he's asking partisan questions? Or do you think they're perfectly fine questions?

From the December 7 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:

DOOCY: Meanwhile, hell's a-breaking down at the White House. Did you see Tony Snow? He was during his daily press event at the White House --

KILMEADE: Who do we like better, Tony or David? One's in color, one's in black and white.

CAMEROTA: Is that black and white, or is that --

DOOCY: David is really washed out there. So anyway, Tony is being asked all sorts of questions about the Iraq Study Group's findings, and David Gregory was not getting the answers that apparently he wanted and, in fact, Tony Snow felt that Mr. Gregory was asking questions for the Democrats. Listen to this.

[begin video clip]

SNOW: But you need to understand that trying to frame it in a partisan way is actually at odds with what the group itself says it wanted to do. And so, you may try to do whatever you want in terms of rejection;, that's not the way they view it.

GREGORY: OK, I just want to be clear. Are you suggesting that I'm trying to frame this in a partisan way?

SNOW: Yes.

GREGORY: You are? Why? Based on the fact that --

SNOW: Because --

GREGORY: Wait a minute, wait a second. Based on quoting the report and the chairman, and I'm asking you a straight question, which you're not answering straight, you're actually --

SNOW: No, I am --

GREGORY: -- you're trying to answer it by --

SNOW: No, here's the --

GREGORY: -- nitpicking it.

SNOW: No.

GREGORY: You're suggesting that by quoting the report, I'm trying to make a partisan argument?

[end video clip]

DOOCY: So there you go, accusing -- Tony saying that he was asking partisan questions.

CAMEROTA: All right here's the question. Let me just read you what the question was that David Gregory asked. He went through some of the findings in the report, and then he said, "Can this report be seen as anything other than a rejection of the president's handling of the war?" Well, Tony Snow thinks that the report -- that's not the conclusion of the report, and he thought that he was making it partisan and was drawing a conclusion that wasn't in there. So they had this ongoing little scuttle here, tiff --

DOOCY: Snit.

CAMEROTA: -- I should say. Snit, tiff, and here's what I find so fascinating about it. Look at everybody around him, OK?

KILMEADE: They're sick --

DOOCY: They're leaning away.

CAMEROTA: I mean, [Fox News White House correspondent] Brett Baier is right next to him, but you can't see him because he's leaning away. But, you know, when you're in this room, everybody has to take a turn, so he's monopolizing all of this time, and all of the reporters look sort of resigned there around him because this is going on for, you know, this went on for a solid six minutes, seven minutes.

DOOCY: It went on for a while. You know what? And Brian made a good point. You know, over at -- NBC has got a cable outfit that nobody watches, and apparently they've stopped talking about the news, and all they talk about now is Fox News Channel. Thank you so much. Remind people to tune over to us. Maybe this guy is auditioning for one of those commentary shows because he's obviously, according to Tony Snow, gone over the line.

KILMEADE: Well, here's the thing. When you ask those questions, I think they are intended to get the answer so you can do a story. I think they're intended to get somebody famous. For example, I do understand that when they talk off camera -- and what do they call it, Steve, the gaggle?

DOOCY: Right, the gaggle.

KILMEADE: He is not nearly as hostile. And the fact that everyone's watching -- isn't it weird that the days when there's high viewership on those -- on those interview sessions, that's when he is especially hostile and he comes off especially angry in those days, and to sit there and interrupt the spokesperson over and over and over again, what he used to do with [former White House press secretary] Scott McClellan, Tony Snow doesn't let him get away with. And Tony's good at, number one, smiling back rather than showing, "Uh-oh, I'm in a tit-for-tat with the network people" --

DOOCY: Yeah, but he never let him finish the answer before he kept interrupting. An hour ago, we asked -- we made this question of the day: Do you think that he was partisan, David Gregory, or was it a perfectly OK thing for him to ask? Email us at friends@foxnews.com.

From the December 7 edition of MSNBC's Scarborough Country:

KOHN: Yeah, David Gregory got exactly what he deserved, and it was newsworthy. They covered it as a media event. There is nothing special about Fox News mentioning and showing what had happened. That doesn't often happen when the press secretary questions the premise of a question. That's exactly what he did.

Now, David Gregory could have asked the question, "What do you think this report means for the policy? What does this report say about the policy of the Bush administration?" And David Gregory could have gone to someone like [House Speaker-elect] Nancy Pelosi [D-CA] and asked her what she thinks the report means about the Bush administration's policy.But by framing the question that, "Do you think this repudiates your policy?" If the answer is no, David Gregory's going to go on the air that night and say, "The Bush administration denies that this report repudiates their policy."

SCARBOROUGH: But, Bob, I don't understand --

STEVE ADUBATO (MSNBC media analyst): So what?

KOHN: In other words, the Bush administration --

SCARBOROUGH: -- wait, wait, wait, are you telling David Gregory what questions he needs to ask the president of the United States?

[crosstalk]

ADUBATO: Joe, that's ridiculous.

KOHN: You know, he can ask whatever he wants. But when he asks the questions of the Bush administration, time and time again, he does it in this insidious way that gets the kind of denial, and then he goes ahead on the news and says that "Oh, yeah, the Bush administration denied today that they were stupid."

[...]

KOHN: No way. No way. I think, you know, it's -- you have to point out, when the press is trying to make the news, when they're trying to make the facts, when they're trying to put words in people's mouths, I think it's legitimate for criticism and commentary to go criticize the press, or else it's going to be open season. I think what is upsetting everybody right now is the fact that there is an organization like Fox News that didn't exist 10 years ago to point these things out.

From the December 7 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:

LIMBAUGH: So, "David, David -- when you get yourself informed here -- come back, ask me some questions and I'll be able to talk to you but if you're going to' stay ignorant on, on these things -- then please don't, don't bother me and waste my time." Just priceless, folks.

Now, as to this -- there's "no look back in this." I have, I have to disagree. I -- there's so much implied in this. They may not say it and they may have actually said -- Baker and Hamilton -- they're not looking back -- but, I mean, look it -- the media and the Dem, Democrats and liberals are allowed to spin it as though it is.

And they're, they're able to create their own reality out there as far as what they report and, and what the nimrods who still watch the drive-by media hear and see and so it is full of look back. Everyone can say it's not look back and the commissioners can say:

"No, no, no, no. We're looking' forward. We're not...[mutters]"

But how can you say it's not a look back when you proclaim it's grave and deteriorating and that there's no hope?

From the December 8 edtion of Fox News Fox & Friends:

DOOCY: So there, Tony Snow -- and yesterday, we were simply reporting a story that was contained in Editor & Publisher, the -- you know, a reputable website for journalists and people in the media business. This was a story they ran; we simply were running the clips. But I tell you what: One of those TV channels that nobody watches -- well, a couple of people watch, just not hundreds or thousands or millions -- spent pretty much all night long talking about us, so obviously, we've touched a nerve.

KILMEADE: Touched a nerve, because we think it's just outrageous that David Gregory is trying to become famous and get back on The Tonight Show by using that forum where he knows a lot of people are watching and to take on Tony Snow day in and day out. And evidently, he's totally different when the cameras aren't around. And it works -- Sam Donaldson, Dan Rather both became major anchors because of it.

CARLSON: Right, and I think a lot of people are saying, well, is NBC, will they reprimand Gregory for going toe-to-toe with Tony Snow? No! No, they're not going to do that, because this is a good thing for NBC in a sense --

DOOCY [referring to onscreen picture of NBC Universal chairman and CEO Robert Wright]: That's the guy who runs NBC.

CARLSON: -- yeah, this can be a good thing for NBC because it gets people talking about their network.

DOOCY: But how could -- how could it be --

CARLSON: Some people think that it's very admirable to have this kind of aggressive style. Of course, you need to ask the tough questions. Of course. I guess the topic of debate here is whether or not they are they one-sided, number one, and whether or not David Gregory is doing this for his own personal gain.

KILMEADE: There's no question. He's a liberal. His questions sound like he's a liberal, and he has a point of view in his so-called journalistic questions and approach to Tony Snow every single day he comes up there. And the thing is, Tony Snow is a broadcaster by nature, by trade, and he knows how to handle it, and he can pick it out.

DOOCY: What happened to NBC? You just have to -- you watch that channel --

KILMEADE: Excuse me, by the way, we're in a civil war.

DOOCY: No -- yeah, according to NBC.

CARLSON: They declared it.

DOOCY: NBC -- I worked there for a long time, a long time ago. NBC used to stand for something, but now all they do is talk about the Fox News Channel, which is great for us because it's great publicity. But remember when Tom Brokaw was the managing editor and in charge of all that stuff? NBC stood for something. They need to bring back Brokaw.

KILMEADE: I think he's tired.

DOOCY: Bring back Brokaw.

KILMEADE: He just wants to do specials now. He retired because he wants to enjoy the rest of his life.

DOOCY: He wants to go fishing.

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