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Laura Ingraham Throws Down With Matt Lauer on Today

Laura Ingraham didn't waste any time getting into it with NBC's Matt Lauer, on Monday's Today, as the conservative talk show host and author took Lauer, his colleague George Lewis and MSNBC to task for their slanted reporting of Sarah Palin and the tea party. After a Lewis set-up piece, in which the reporter asked if Palin gets "people too riled up?" Ingraham, in her interview with Lauer, charged him with bias: "How do you go from Sarah Palin giving a speech to saying did she rile up the people too much and then talk about death threats? I think that kind of reporting, really is what drives people crazy about the dinosaur media." Lauer countered that "some people" have noted that Palin's "comments" and "graphics" have "incited some people."

Later on in the interview Lauer claimed Palin was "polarizing" to which Ingraham, citing low approval ratings for Obamacare, fired back at Lauer: "Well I think that, if you want to look at polarizing people right now, I wouldn't look at Palin, I'd look at Barack Obama."[audio available here]

Finally Lauer, making his best attempt at being balanced, asked if there was too much "vitriol" and "intimidation" from both sides. Ingraham acknowledged that "folks get angry" on from the right and left, but then slammed MSNBC for stoking that vitriol as she threw back at Lauer: "We have people on, frankly, your cable channel saying really hateful things about conservative commentators and politicians" as seen in the following exchange:

MATT LAUER: Let me ask you this. Given the current - you've, you've covered and you've commented on the political dynamic-

INGRAHAM: Yes.

LAUER: -for an awfully long time. When you look at what's going on right now, the vitriol, the comments, the intimidation, vand-, and I'm not talking about from one side. It's happening both directions. Vandalism, threats to violence. Can you compare it to any other time in your experience?

INGRAHAM: Well I think that what we're seeing now is that the people feel like they, the people in Congress don't have their consent to govern them. They keep doing things that are incredibly unpopular. And so when that happens, folks get angry. And there's gonna be freaks in every movement, Matt. I mean we have the anti-WTO protestors throwing stuff. We have, we have Code Pink camping out at George Bush's ranch during his time. We have people on, frankly, your cable channel saying really hateful things about conservative commentators and politicians. And I say more speech not less-

LAUER: Laura, Laura-

INGRAHAM: - but no vandalism. No threats-

LAUER: Right.

INGRAHAM: And look, you know, we got people riled up-

LAUER: Laura-

INGRAHAM: -because there, there are big issues being decided.

LAUER: -those hateful words go both ways. Let's be honest here.

INGRAHAM: Yeah but you guys don't report on them, unless they're, they're being made from the supposed right! I wish the same reports and condemnation were coming, when they come from the right. That's where I think people think the media coverage is not all that fair, sometimes, Matt.

The following is a full transcript of the Lewis segment that Ingraham critiqued, followed by her full interview with Lauer as it was aired on the March 29 Today show:

ANN CURRY: And Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, did some traveling of her won this weekend, something for John McCain in helping the tea party movement kick off a road trip aimed at ousting Democrats in the November election. NBC's George Lewis is in Flagstaff this morning with more on this. George, good morning.

[On screen headline: "Life Of The Tea Party, Sarah Palin's Rockstar Roadtrip Across America"]

GEORGE LEWIS: Good morning to you Ann. Behind me are the buses of the Tea Party Express, rolling through 44 cities in 23 states. Today is day three of that and over the weekend they got a big sendoff from a superstar of the right.

SARAH PALIN: Thank you, Tea Party America! Do you love your freedom?

LEWIS: Sarah Palin's presence was enough to get an estimated 9,000 tea party loyalists out to the dusty Nevada desert for what was billed as the conservatives' Woodstock.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: She calls it the way she sees it, which is the way we think.

LEWIS: But does she get people too riled up? Some members of Congress reported receiving death threats during the voting on health care reform. In the middle of that, Palin was criticized for her Twitter and Facebook messages saying "Don't retreat, instead, reload." And images of crosshairs for targeted congressional districts. Palin told the crowd that the media got it wrong, that it was not a literal call to arms.

PALIN: When we talk about fighting for our country, we're talking about our vote, our vote is our arms.

LEWIS: So there she was, in Searchlight, Nevada, the hometown of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, calling on people to vote him out.

PALIN: What he's doing now is gambling our future and somebody needs to tell him this isn't a crap shoot.

LEWIS: Earlier, she was in Arizona, urging tea party followers to help re-elect her former running mate, Senator John McCain. Some of them don't think he is conservative enough.

PALIN: In respect to the tea party movement, beautiful movement, you know what? Everybody here today supporting John McCain, we are all a part of that tea party movement, because-

LEWIS: It was a bit odd, McCain the former GOP presidential nominee, playing second fiddle to his vice presidential choice, something McCain's wife, Cindy, joked about.

CINDY MCCAIN: Now, I know all of you came here to see my husband today.

LEWIS: In Mesa, Arizona, most came to see Palin, a few to heckle her.

PALIN: Young man, stick around and listen to what we're gonna say. Sir, maybe you'll learn something.

LEWIS: Twice, demonstrators were forcibly removed, more proof that Palin stirs up strong passions, both from supporters and opponents. The Tea Party Express now rolls eastward, winding up in Washington D.C. on April 15th, Tax Day. The day before that, Palin will rejoin the caravan in Boston. Matt?

MATT LAUER: Alright George Lewis in Arizona, this morning. George, as always, thanks very much. Laura Ingraham is a Fox News contributor and a radio talk show host. Hi Laura, good to see you.

LAURA INGRAHAM: Hey Matt. Can I just say something? George Lewis' report and I love George Lewis, I think he does a great job. How do you go from Sarah Palin giving a speech to saying did she rile up the people too much and then talk about death threats? I think that kind of reporting, really is what drives people crazy about the dinosaur media.

LAUER: Well there have been some people who say that, that some of her, her comments and, and some of her graphics that's she's used over the last couple of weeks have, have, perhaps, incited some people. And maybe-

INGRAHAM: Well yeah, I know they say that.

LAUER: -and maybe misrepresented her thoughts. She cleared it up herself. So, why wouldn't you connect the two?

INGRAHAM: Yeah well, well why wouldn't I connect the two? For the same reason that the media didn't connect the film, the Assassination of George Bush, to any, any threats against the President. Look free speech is supposed to be alive and well in the United States of America. Condemning violence, condemning vandalism, absolutely. We all do. But to say that Sarah Palin and the tea party movement is responsible for vandalism or threats is just a way to dismiss the American people and, and their dissatisfaction with this health care bill.

LAUER: Well wait, but wait a second. I'm gonna go back to, I'll look at George's script in a second Laura and see if he actually said just that. I'm not sure that's exactly what he said.

INGRAHAM: Well that was the import of it. We're, we're smart here Matt. We know what's going on.

LAUER: Let, let, let, let me go on here and ask you was it a little surreal to see Sarah Palin and John McCain up on that stage together, given what seemed to be the bad blood following the election?

INGRAHAM: Well look it was obvious that she was gonna go to Arizona. He picked her to be his running mate and so look he knows that she's really popular and among a pretty big subset of the American people. So it was smart for him to bring her there. He's being challenged, Matt, from the right by J.D. Hayworth. And Hayworth is out there-

LAUER: How much trouble is he in?

INGRAHAM: Yeah and, well he's only seven points up which is not a great place to be. We'll see if he gets a bump up after this weekend.

[On screen headline: "Power To The People, How Will Health Care Change Midterm Elections?"]

LAUER: You know you mentioned Sarah Palin, she's popular with a large percentage of people in this country. She's also a polarizing figure, as you know. And I'm wondering, come November, do you think she is going to be the face of the party or could she possibly do a little bit more harm than good leading up to those midterm elections?

INGRAHAM: Well I think that, if you want to look at polarizing people right now, I wouldn't look at Palin, I'd look at Barack Obama. If you saw the Washington Post poll, over the weekend, Matt, the American people, a majority, 54 to 46 say this health care bill is not a good idea. Despite the, from here to eternity campaigning of this administration, the American people are still saying, "This is probably going to make my health insurance situation worse and my health care worse." That's devastating for the President. So it doesn't surprise me that, you know, people are trying to change the subject to Sarah Palin or the tea party or threats or any of that.

LAUER: Let me just correct one thing, it's not a health care bill any more, it's the health care law these days, okay.

INGRAHAM: Yeah law. Yeah good point. Yeah, but why is she still campaigning for it then, if it's already law?

LAUER: Let me ask you this. Given the current - you've, you've covered and you've commented on the political dynamic-

INGRAHAM: Yes.

LAUER: -for an awfully long time. When you look at what's going on right now, the vitriol, the comments, the intimidation, vand-, and I'm not talking about from one side. It's happening both directions. Vandalism, threats to violence. Can you compare it to any other time in your experience?

INGRAHAM: Well I think that what we're seeing now is that the people feel like they, the people in Congress don't have their consent to govern them. They keep doing things that are incredibly unpopular. And so when that happens, folks get angry. And there's gonna be freaks in every movement, Matt. I mean we have the anti-WTO protestors throwing stuff. We have, we have Code Pink camping out at George Bush's ranch during his time. We have people on, frankly, your cable channel saying really hateful things about conservative commentators and politicians. And I say more speech not less-

LAUER: Laura, Laura-

INGRAHAM: - but no vandalism. No threats-

LAUER: Right.

INGRAHAM: And look, you know, we got people riled up-

LAUER: Laura-

INGRAHAM: -because there, there are big issues being decided.

LAUER: -those hateful words go both ways. Let's be honest here.

INGRAHAM: Yeah but you guys don't report on them, unless they're, they're being made from the supposed right! I wish the same reports and condemnation were coming, when they come from the right. That's where I think people think the media coverage is not all that fair, sometimes, Matt.

LAUER: Let me ask, let me ask you this Laura. Real quickly, if you can. You know this talk of repealing the health care law, on, on the part of some Republicans-

INGRAHAM: Right.

LAUER: Scale of 1 to 10, their chances of actually accomplishing that are what?

INGRAHAM: Well I think it's gonna be tough but I'd say, you know, anything's possible Matt. Maybe six or seven.

LAUER: Really that high?

INGRAHAM: Yeah.

LAUER: Alright Laura Ingraham, Laura thanks very much.

INGRAHAM: Thanks.

LAUER: And by the way, coming up tomorrow on Today, we'll have an exclusive interview with President Barack OBama. It's his first since the passage of health care reform. That's tomorrow, right here on Today.

-Geoffrey Dickens is the senior news analyst at the Media Research Center.