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Matt Lauer: Senator-Elect Rand Paul Bringing Anger to Washington

NBC's Matt Lauer characterized Kentucky Senator-Elect Rand Paul's victory as a "wave of anger and energy" on Wednesday's Today show. Lauer asked the Tea Party candidate, "We know you can win an election with anger- can you govern in Washington with anger?"

The anchor conducted a short interview of the Kentucky Republican nine minutes into the 7 am Eastern hour. Lauer led with his stereotype of Tea Party/conservative voters: "You rode a wave of anger and energy to Washington." He then asked his question about winning and governing with "anger."

After Paul gave his initial answer, the NBC anchor followed-up by asking about his future colleague, Senator Harry Reid, who was interviewed by Meredith Vieira in the preceding segment: "I'm sure you were listening...when Meredith was just talking to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and he must have said 'work together' seven or eight times....Are you detecting a very different tone from the Senate majority leader?"

Lauer concluded his interview of Paul with a question specifically about the Tea Party: "Let me talk to you about the relationship between the Tea Party and the Republican Party in general moving forward. Is this a marriage of convenience? Will the honeymoon soon end, or are you folks soulmates?"

Two weeks earlier, on October 19, the NBC anchor did press Paul's Democratic opponent, Jack Conway, on the appropriateness of his questioning the faith of the Republican: "Did it cross a line? Is it fair, even in the increasingly dirty world of politics?"

The full transcript of Matt Lauer's interview of Rand Paul from Wednesday's Today show:

LAUER: Tea Party Republican Rand Paul defeated Democrat Jack Conway in Kentucky's Senate race. Senator-Elect Paul, good morning and congratulations to you.

PAUL: Good morning- glad to be with you.

LAUER: You rode a wave of anger and energy to Washington. So, we know you can win an election with anger- can you govern in Washington with anger?

PAUL: Well, I think people are unhappy about the fact that- you know, we have to balance our individual budgets, our family budgets, but we don't like that Congress doesn't balance their budget, and we really think that both sides- Republicans and Democrats- have proven themselves untrustworthy on this account. So we think what needs to happen is there needs to be a rule that basically says you have to balance the budget by law.

LAUER: Right-

PAUL: If you poll that question with Republicans, Democrats and independents, you'll find the vast majority are for a balanced budget amendment.

LAUER: Yeah. I'm sure you were listening, as I was, when Meredith [Vieira] was just talking to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and he must have said 'work together' seven or eight times. I'm sure there are a lot of people out there saying they really weren't sure that Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi worked with Republicans when they did things like pass health care legislation. So are you detecting a very different tone from the Senate majority leader?

PAUL: Well, the interesting thing is people complain a lot about gridlock, but whenever you analyze government- state government or federal government- it seems like the most fiscally conservative government is always divided government. Debate is healthy, and we shouldn't see it as unhealthy that we discuss the nation's problems and try to resolve them. When you have no debate and you don't include Republicans in your legislation at all, that's when the country gets upset, and I think a lot of this discontent is about the Democrats ramming through legislation that Republicans had nothing to do with.

LAUER: Let me talk to you about the relationship between the Tea Party and the Republican Party in general moving forward. Is this a marriage of convenience? Will the honeymoon soon end, or are you folks soulmates?

PAUL: Well, I think the interesting thing is I tell people that the Tea Party is equal parts chastisement to both parties over not doing enough about the deficit. We are concerned about passing that debt on to our kids and our grand-kids. We're concerned that the bills are so long, they don't read them. We're concerned that they earmark and stick stuff on the bills that's not related to the bills. We're concerned that regulators are writing laws without approval by Congress. So really, the Tea Party is about reforming government. It's not about one piece of legislation- it's really that government is broken and not responsive to the people, and not really responsive to the Constitution.

LAUER: Senator-Elect Rand Paul from Kentucky, I can hear from your voice, sir, that you've been up all night. Thanks for joining us this morning. I appreciate it- congratulations.

PAUL: Thank you.


- Matthew Balan is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter
here.