In an obnoxious question to MSNBC Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough during NBC's prime time Super Tuesday special coverage, Nightly News anchor Brian Williams mocked the GOP as he pondered: "Who woke up in the Republican Party one day recently and said, 'I know what let's go after, let's go after reproductive rights in the United States'? What was that about?"
Williams teed up correspondent Savannah Guthrie on the topic: "How much
gender gap repair do you think the GOP nominee is going to be faced
with?" Guthrie replied: "There's no question that there's been some damage done with all the focus on contraception.
The comments from Rush Limbaugh certainly didn't help, because the way
Rush Limbaugh talked about this issue was not "it's a issue of religious
liberty," but rather, "it's an issue about sex," which is not something
that Republicans necessarily are on the strongest ground on."
Earlier in the coverage, Guthrie lamented how "There have been a lot of distractions in the Republican primary because of the strength of social conservatives..."
Tuesday was not the first time Williams pleaded ignorance on the origin of the contraception debate. On the February 23 Nightly News, he declared: "Birth control seems to have become, as one headline writer put it today, 'The Third Rail of American Politics Right Now,' and this happened really out of nowhere."
Of course, Williams knows very well the Obama administration made it an issue with its decision to attempt to force religious institutions to pay for birth control in their health insurance plans.
Here are portions of the March 6 coverage:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: And yet, Savannah, parties are resilient. Everyone says this is doing such damage to the Republican brand name. People so quickly forget the Democrats went at it till June. People thought they'd be bloodied to a pulp, could never win in a general.
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Yeah, well, a couple points on that. First of all, in the Democratic primary, which we all know was hard-fought, the Democrats in that scenario didn't exactly run to the left flank of their party. So they didn't perhaps do as much damage with independents.
As we are seeing Romney has done, if you compare him to McCain, where he was at this point in 2008. Frankly, any of his recent predecessors, he's got higher negatives than any of them. The other problem for Romney is, if he can't close this sale, he can't pivot to that general election message. He can't make the argument that perhaps is his most effective against President Obama, getting out there and prosecuting this argument on the economy every single day.
There have been a lot of distractions in the Republican primary because of the strength of social conservatives, who are demanding certain other features of their candidates. That's where some of the fights have been. And whenever Romney's on that turf, he's not on his strengths. And that's been a problem for him.
WILLIAMS: Our family has grown by two members. You know them both. Former congressman from Florida, the veteran Republican – who was that we were just hearing? Someone talking – Joe Scarborough. He of Morning Joe fame. Welcome.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: It's great to be here.
WILLIAMS: Andrea Mitchell's here as well.
ANDREA MITCHELL: Great to be with you.
WILLIAMS: This is a setup, because I heard you out on this topic. Who woke up in the Republican Party one day recently and said, "I know what let's go after, let's go after reproductive rights...
SCARBOROUGH: Oh, no doubt about it.
WILLIAMS: ...in the United States"?
SCARBOROUGH: Let us debate-
WILLIAMS: What was that about?
SCARBOROUGH: Yeah. Let us debate 1965 cases, Griswold v. Connecticut. It's caused a real problem. And it looked like, for a while, that Rick Santorum was doing everything he could do to hand the advantage back to Mitt Romney, the presumptive front-runner.
WILLIAMS: And Savannah Guthrie, how much gender gap repair do you think the GOP nominee is going to be faced with?
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Well, I think that's something we just talked about with Joe. There's no question that there's been some damage done with all the focus on contraception. The comments from Rush Limbaugh certainly didn't help, because the way Rush Limbaugh talked about this issue was not "it's a issue of religious liberty," but rather, "it's an issue about sex," which is not something that Republicans necessarily are on the strongest ground on.
-- Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow Kyle Drennen on Twitter.