In an interview with former acting Gov. Jane Swift during NBC's post-debate coverage, Brian Williams did not question Swift about her false assertion that Sen. Barack Obama made "disgraceful comments comparing our vice presidential nominee, Gov. [Sarah] Palin, to a pig" or her subsequent backtrack that she "can't know" whether Obama's comment "was aimed" at Palin.
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During NBC's October 2 coverage of the vice presidential debate, anchor Brian Williams interviewed former acting Massachusetts Gov. Jane Swift -- who is a national member of the McCain campaign's "Palin Truth Squad" -- but did not question Swift about why she had falsely accused Sen. Barack Obama of making "disgraceful comments comparing our vice presidential nominee, Gov. [Sarah] Palin, to a pig." Nor did Williams note that Swift backtracked on her assertion, saying that she "can't know" if Obama's comment "was aimed at Governor Palin."
As Media Matters for America has noted, Obama was not speaking about Palin when he stated that "you can put lipstick on a pig; it's still a pig." Rather, his preceding comments consisted of what he described as a "list" of Sen. John McCain's policies that Obama said were no different from President Bush's.
As Media Matters also documented, on the September 10 edition of MSNBC Live, chief Washington correspondent Norah O'Donnell asked Swift why she was "so sure that [Obama's 'lipstick on a pig' remark] was aimed at Governor Palin." Swift admitted, "I can't know if it was aimed at Governor Palin." When O'Donnell asked Swift to reconcile her comment that she "can't know" whether Obama's remark was about Palin with the fact that she demanded Obama apologize, Swift stated: "[W]hat I am saying is that I took offense. I think people in the crowd took offense, and, listen, I used to be in -- running in politics, and oftentimes, you're responsible for your words even if they're misconstrued. And so I'm not sure what's difficult about saying, you know, 'Maybe I didn't choose my words closely enough there.' " Swift continued: "I understand -- I think it's reasonable for people to have made the assumption that he was directing those comments at Governor Palin, and that -- it's just -- there's no place for that."
Nevertheless, on the September 10 broadcast of NBC's Nightly News, chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell reported Swift's false assertion that Obama made "disgraceful comments comparing our vice presidential nominee, Governor Palin, to a pig" without noting her subsequent backtrack.
From NBC's October 2 post-vice presidential debate coverage:
WILLIAMS: After the seventh vice presidential debate in history -- of course, the first and only for these two tonight in St. Louis -- we're back from New York and elsewhere. We thought we'd do a lightning round as we try to gather opinion from various folks as to what they saw and witnessed tonight. We are joined by Peggy Noonan, columnist, of course, for The Wall Street Journal and a Reagan White House-era speechwriter; Michele Norris of NPR, been with us before; as has former governor of Massachusetts Jane Swift -- she is in the so-called spin room at the venue.
WILLIAMS: Governor Swift, speaking tonight for your Republican Party, a former office-holder on the team now, in terms of reaction, your reaction to tonight?
SWIFT: Well, Governor Palin was direct, she was prepared, and she certainly was a breath of fresh air. While Senator Biden resorted to talking a lot about the past, I think that Governor Palin talked to Americans -- to families in their kitchen, in their living room -- and talked about what they're afraid of, what they're worried about, and how she and John McCain are gonna fix it, how they're going to address the corruption on Wall Street, how they're going to improve the economy, how they're gonna make us energy independent.
And I think all of those things served her and served this ticket very, very well. You know, the folks who had the worst night, I think, they're probably two groups: the folks in the Palin pile-on group, who were ready to write her off, I think, somewhat unfairly, are going to have a bad night tonight. And I think the fact-checkers looking at all the things that Joe Biden said are gonna be pretty busy as well.
WILLIAMS: All right, Governor. Michele, Peggy, thank you all very much. Interesting night. All three -- interesting responses. We've been dealing mostly in style. We'll take a break. When we come back: substance. Specifically, the facts, and holding them to them when we come back.