NBC's Today Allows Trump To Rewrite His Own Record During Town Hall

In an April 21 town hall event, NBC’s Today co-hosts allowed Donald Trump to mislead about his past support for invading Iraq, his position on abortion, and his tax plan.

Hosts Don’t Correct Trump’s False Claim That He Opposed The Iraq War

Trump At Town Hall: “I Was Against The War In Iraq.” In response to a question from a town hall participant on ISIS, Trump said, “I was against the war in Iraq," adding “I was so strong against Iraq.” Co-host Matt Lauer then asked if Trump had a “comprehensive plan” regarding ISIS, but said nothing about his Iraq war remarks:

TOWN HALL PARTICIPANT: In regards to ISIS, I sincerely appreciate the aggressive stance you want to take with them. And my question, how do we avoid the pitfalls of the past, in part, by getting involved yet again in this perpetual state of war with no end in sight?

DONALD TRUMP: That is such an important question. You know, I was against the war in Iraq. I said you don't go in. You're going to destabilize the Middle East. I was so strong against Iraq. We went in. We made a terrible mistake in going in. Then we got out the wrong way. ISIS, as a matter of fact, was created because of the way we got out and because of the bad moves we made even while we were there. But we now have to do something. We have to knock the hell out of them. We're going to get them out. We're going to help. We're going to get the countries in that region to put up their manpower or they've got big problems. And a lot of that’s going to be leadership. But we do have to get rid of ISIS. We are going to make it impossible for ISIS to survive. They're cutting off heads. They're drowning people in steel cages. It's like medieval times. I've never seen anything like it. Nobody’s ever seen anything like it. So we are going to get rid of ISIS.

And by the way, speaking of that, our military’s been decimated with cuts and everything else. We're going to rebuild our military. It’s going to be bigger, better, stronger than ever before. Hopefully we don't have to use it. But the one place we will be using it is to get rid of ISIS. Great question. Thank you.


MATT LAUER (CO-HOST): Just to make sure I'm clear here, you're going to bomb the you know what out of ISIS. But you have a comprehensive plan for what to do in that region afterward? [NBC, Today, 4/21/16]

But Trump Supported Invading Iraq In 2002. BuzzFeed reported on February 18 that during a September 11, 2002, interview Trump was asked if he was “for invading Iraq,” and he responded, “’Yeah, I guess so’ … ‘I wish the first time it was done correctly.’” [BuzzFeed, 2/18/16]

Hosts Don’t Point Out Trump’s Shifting Abortion Positions When He Claims He Supports Exceptions To Anti-Choice Platform

Trump At Town Hall: I’d “Absolutely” Allow Abortion In Cases Of Rape And Incest And To Save The Life Of Mother. During the town hall, co-host Savannah Guthrie asked if Trump supported exceptions to the Republican Party’s anti-abortion platform for victims of rape and incest and to save the life of the mother. Trump said “I would absolutely have the three exceptions.” Co-host Matt Lauer then transitioned to another topic:

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE (CO-HOST): Let's talk about abortion, another potent social issue. The Republican platform every four years has a provision that states that the right of the unborn child shall not be infringed. And it makes no exceptions for rape, for incest, for the life of the mother. Would you want to change the Republican platform to include the exceptions that you have?

DONALD TRUMP: Yes, I would. Yes, I would. Absolutely. For the three exceptions. I would.

GUTHRIE: Would you have an exception for the health of the mother?

TRUMP: I would leave it for the life of the mother, but I would absolutely have the three exceptions.

MATT LAUER (CO-HOST): OK, Willie? [NBC, Today, 4/21/16]

But Trump Has Repeatedly Changed His Position On Abortion, And Has Said There Should Be “Some Form Of Punishment” For Women Who Obtain Abortions. The Washington Post reported that Trump “has held multiple contradicting positions” on abortion, noting that he “took 5 different positions on abortion in 3 days.” The Post explained that during a March 30 town hall with MSNBC's Chris Matthews, Trump said, “there has to be some form of punishment” for women who obtain abortions. Hours later, Trump recanted his position in a statement claiming, “I am pro-life with exceptions,” and then issued another statement saying if abortion was banned, “the doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a woman would be held legally responsible, not the woman.” On April 1, Trump told CBS that “The laws are set now on abortion … and I think we have to leave it that way.” Trump’s campaign re-framed his comments, once again, saying Trump “will change the law through his judicial appointments and allow the states to protect the unborn” :

You can see the exact moment last week that Donald Trump made up his mind on whether women would face criminal punishment once he signed new restrictions into law. He is at a town hall with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, and, after Matthews badgers him for a while, he finally answers the question.

“The answer is ... that,” Trump says, eyes looking to the side in thought, “there has to be some form of punishment.” He punctuates “has” with a hand gesture. Done. Final.

But as it turns out — and as it has turned out repeatedly over the course of his life — that was not, in fact, Trump’s final position on the subject. This past week alone, he has held multiple contradicting positions, including that one.


March 30, 2016, 2:30 p.m.

The interview with Matthews is taped, and Trump asserts that women who receive abortions once the procedure is illegal will face punishment. The men are involved will not, he adds.

News of the comments quickly leaks.

March 30, 2016, 3:30 p.m.

Before the MSNBC town hall even airs, a spokesperson for Trump releases a statement changing what he told Matthews.

March 30, 2016, 5 p.m.

About an hour later, Trump’s campaign releases a more formal “statement regarding abortion.” It’s different than what he said to Matthews and his initial statement.

“If Congress were to pass legislation making abortion illegal and the federal courts upheld this legislation, or any state were permitted to ban abortion under state and federal law,” the statement says, “the doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a woman would be held legally responsible, not the woman.” (It’s worth noting that this is in line with the pro-life movement’s position.)

The statement includes a snippet written in the first person: “My position has not changed — like Ronald Reagan, I am pro-life with exceptions.”

April 1, 2016, 6:30 p.m.

CBS releases an excerpt of its interview with Trump that aired Sunday morning. Asked again about abortion, Trump’s position seems to change yet again.

“The laws are set now on abortion and that’s the way they're going to remain until they’re changed,” he said, according to CBS’s transcript. “I would’ve preferred states’ rights. I think it would’ve been better if it were up to the states. But right now, the laws are set.... At this moment, the laws are set. And I think we have to leave it that way.”

Understandably, this is not well-received. The pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List replies that he had “disqualified himself as the GOP nominee” if this were his position.

Trump also offered a reason for his initial comments to Matthews: “I’ve been told by some people that was an older line answer and that was an answer that was given on a, you know, basis of an older line from years ago on a very conservative basis.”

April 1, 2016, 9 p.m.

Again before the program airs, the Trump campaign re-frames what the candidate said.

“Mr. Trump gave an accurate account of the law as it is today and made clear it must stay that way now — until he is president,” it read. “Then he will change the law through his judicial appointments and allow the states to protect the unborn. There is nothing new or different here.” [The Washington Post, 4/3/16]

Hosts Let Trump Falsely Claim He Supports Raising Taxes On The Wealthy Without Noting That His Tax Plan Would Provide Biggest Tax Cuts To High Income Taxpayers

Trump At Town Hall: “I Do” Support Raising Taxes On Wealthy, “Including Myself.” During the town hall, Guthrie asked if Trump believed in “raising taxes on the wealthy.” Trump responded, “I do. Including myself.” Lauer then transitioned to another question:

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE (CO-HOST): Do you believe in raising taxes on the wealthy?

DONALD TRUMP: I do. I do. Including myself. I do. [NBC, Today, 4/21/16]

But Trump’s Tax Plan Gives A Huge Tax Cut To The Wealthy. A December analysis of Trump’s tax plan from the Tax Policy Center found it would “benefit the wealthiest Americans the most while saddling the economy with trillions of dollars in new debt,” and provide the biggest tax cuts to high income taxpayers according to a New York Times report:

Donald J. Trump’s tax plan would benefit the wealthiest Americans the most while saddling the economy with trillions of dollars in new debt, according to an analysis released on Tuesdayby the Tax Policy Center.


The proposal would cut the top tax rate to 25 percent from 39.6 percent, and bring down the corporate tax rate to 15 percent from 35 percent. It would also end federal income taxes on individuals making less than $25,000 and married couples who file their taxes jointly earning less than $50,000.


While Mr. Trump said that billionaires like himself would be hit the hardest under his plan, the Tax Policy Center disagrees. It calculates that high income taxpayers get the biggest cuts in dollar terms and as a share of their income. The richest 0.1 percent would receive an average tax cut of $1.3 million in 2017, or 19 percent of their after-tax income, while the average cut for everyone would be about $5,100, or 7 percent of their pay.

“Donald Trump hasn’t released his tax returns, but people in his income group would get huge tax cuts,” [Tax Policy Center director Len] Burman said. [The New York Times, 12/22/15]