NBC and ABC Bash Reagan as Pro-Apartheid During Mandela Coverage

Amid the tributes looking back at the life of former South African President Nelson Mandela following his death on Thursday, Friday's NBC Today and ABC's Good Morning America both managed to take shots at Ronald Reagan for not being supportive of Mandela during Apartheid. [Listen to the audio]

On Today, chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell proclaimed: "The U.S. wasn't always on Mandela's side. In the 1980s, President Reagan supported the Apartheid regime, a cold war ally, even as protests broke out on college campuses across America demanding that the U.S. punish the regime....Finally, Congress, including key Republicans, overrode Reagan's veto, imposing the economic sanctions that helped break the Apartheid regime."

On Good Morning America, human rights attorney Gay McDougall took a similar jab at Reagan: "Americans took a stand against Apartheid and said no to our government, when Ronald Reagan wanted to solidify, you know, U.S. support for Apartheid. We said no, we said sanctions, and we played an important role."

Mitchell and McDougall both failed to describe the full context of Reagan not backing Mandela. In a Thursday article examining the complexity of Mandela's legacy, Brietbart's Joel Pollak, originally from South Africa, explained:

The ANC [African National Congress] remained banned in the country [South Africa], but its military wing continued to operate within Southern Africa, with assistance from the Soviet Union. The decision to align with the Soviet Union would later haunt the ANC, as it alienated the United States and Great Britain, which were otherwise inclined to support the anti-apartheid movement (and did so, albeit in limited fashion). While Mandela was in prison, the Soviet-trained leaders of the ANC's army committed human rights abuses in military camps outside the country, and used terror attacks on civilians inside South Africa.

Pollak elaborated during an appearance on Mark Levin's radio show that evening.

Prior to reciting the anti-Reagan talking points, Mitchell's Today report began with her gushing over how Mandela influenced President Obama:

MITCHELL: Nelson Mandela transformed his nation and the world. A freedom fighter with the grace and courage to forgive his oppressors, inspiring generations of civil rights leaders and a young Barack Obama, who recalled a rally on his own college campus.

BARACK OBAMA: My very first political action. The first thing I ever did that involved an issue or a policy or politics was a protest against Apartheid.
 
MITCHELL: As a senator, Obama had visited Mandela. And the President and Mrs. Obama brought their daughters to Robin Island Prison so they could better understand what Mandela had suffered. After he died, Michelle Obama tweeted, "We will forever draw strength and inspiration from Nelson Mandela's extraordinary example of moral courage, kindness, and humility."

Here is a full transcript of Mitchell's December 6 report:

8:03AM ET

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Let's go to NBC's Andrea Mitchell. She's been following the outpouring of tributes pouring in all around the world. Andrea, good morning to you.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Remembering Nelson Mandela; World Leaders Pay Tribute to Fmr. Leader]

ANDREA MITCHELL: Good morning, Savannah. Nelson Mandela is indeed being mourned around the world and here at home by the Americans whose lives he influenced, starting with the President of the United States.

Nelson Mandela transformed his nation and the world. A freedom fighter with the grace and courage to forgive his oppressors, inspiring generations of civil rights leaders and a young Barack Obama, who recalled a rally on his own college campus.

BARACK OBAMA: My very first political action. The first thing I ever did that involved an issue or a policy or politics was a protest against Apartheid.
 
MITCHELL: As a senator, Obama had visited Mandela. And the President and Mrs. Obama brought their daughters to Robin Island Prison so they could better understand what Mandela had suffered. After he died, Michelle Obama tweeted, "We will forever draw strength and inspiration from Nelson Mandela's extraordinary example of moral courage, kindness, and humility."

Bill Clinton tweeted a picture and wrote, "I will never forget my friend Madiba," using the affectionate name by which Mandela was known to his followers.

But the U.S. wasn't always on Mandela's side. In the 1980s, President Reagan supported the Apartheid regime, a cold war ally, even as protests broke out on college campuses across America demanding that the U.S. punish the regime.

[SONG PLAYING: "Free Nelson Mandela"]

"Free Nelson Mandela" became a popular anthem for black and white Americans. Finally, Congress, including key Republicans, overrode Reagan's veto, imposing the economic sanctions that helped break the Apartheid regime. That set the stage for Mandela's triumphant visit to Washington as his country's president.

NELSON MANDELA: We are to one another brother and sister. A united rainbow nation that derives its strength from the bonding of its many races and colors.

MITCHELL: Bono, Mandela's great friend, wrote, "In the end, Nelson Mandela showed us how to love rather than hate. Not because he had never surrendered to rage or violence, but because he learned that love would do a better job." Savannah.

GUTHRIE: Well chosen words. Andrea, thank you so much.

— Kyle Drennen is News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Kyle Drennen on Twitter.