Tomorrow night Brian Williams will moderate, along with Politico's John F. Harris, the GOP presidential candidate debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. If recent performances by the NBC Nightly News anchor are an indication, candidates (particularly those favored by the Tea Party) should recognize his hostility to their agenda and be prepared for a number of topics and questions from the left. Ever since its emergence, Williams has undercut the Tea Party, its champions within the GOP, and its cause of fiscal conservatism. At the same time, Williams has heralded its chief opponent Barack Obama.
Update: Williams incessantly peppers Republicans with questions from the left during debate.
Mocking the Tea Party...
In the summer of 2010 Williams began mocking the Tea Partiers as unsavvy paranoids. On the August 23 Late Show With David Letterman, Williams made fun of the signs he had seen at Tea Party rallies, as he told the late night talk show host: "It makes people feel better to say 'Take our country back.' If you ask them, they would say from, 'from the Trilateral Commission, from the big bankers, from the Council on Foreign Relations.'...You see a lot of signs, 'Federal Government Out of My Social Security,' 'Federal Government Out of My Medicare and Medicaid,' but for the federal government, of course, those programs would not exist."
Williams continued that refrain during NBC's 2010 Election Night coverage with his Nightly News anchor predecessor Tom Brokaw as he tried to toss a wet blanket on the Tea Party's historic success.
NBC's Tom Brokaw: "Matt Kibbe, who speaks for Freedom Works, the Dick Armey organization has said, 'We want this message to go across the country. The people want less from their federal government.' We've heard that before, when it bumps up against reality and you're talking about closing a base or shutting down an agricultural substation of some kind, then it gets pretty tough to do, Brian."
Williams: "Reminds me of the signs at more than one rally this past season: 'Get the government out of my Social Security. Get the government out of my Medicare.'"
...Its Champions in the GOP
Williams has also attacked those in the GOP who have championed the Tea Party cause, namely - Texas governor and presidential candidate Rick Perry, former Alaska governor and 2008 vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and current Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.
Williams introduced Perry to his viewers, on the August 16 Nightly News, as a name-caller who came out "swinging and talking" and alerted his audience that the White House had already warned him "to watch what he says."
"On the broadcast tonight, fighting words. Rick Perry comes out swinging and talking, and the White House tells him to watch what he says....The rest of the country is learning what Texans already know about their Governor, what he says, what he does, how he does business....Today's debate had to do with money, name-calling, and whether or not the President of the United States loves his country."
Williams repeatedly derided Palin, for of all things, her retelling of the famous midnight ride of Paul Revere, actually devoting segments to the perceived gaffe on three straight weeknights, beginning with this report his June 3 show:
WILLIAMS: "And this piece of video from a woman prominent in the news this week already has tongues wagging. It's from her tour of historic sites - listen to the following and you shall hear, Sarah Palin's version of the midnight ride of Paul Revere:"
SARAH PALIN: "He who warned the British that they weren't be taking away our arms, by ringing those bells and making sure as he's riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be secure and we were going to be free."
WILLIAMS: "As she said, that already has — as we said, rather — that already has people talking. Sarah Palin touring the Freedom Trail in Boston. Of course, the real life version involves lanterns."
Back in 2007, however ,Williams ignored a historical gaffe by a then-candidate Barack Obama when he claimed his parents "got together" because of "what happened in Selma" even though his mother and father had married four years prior to the famous 1965 march in Alabama.
...And Its Cause of Fiscal Conservatism
On the February 18 Nightly News Williams hyped the fight between Wisconsin state Republicans and public unions as a decisive backlash against the Tea Party. Williams summoned images of the revolution in Egypt: "On the broadcast tonight, the uprising at home...another day of fury in Wisconsin...From the Mideast to the American Midwest tonight, people are rising up. Citizens uprisings are changing the world."
By the time the Wisconsin Supreme Court handed GOP Governor Scott Walker and the Tea Party a huge victory, by allowing a collective bargaining law to be implemented, Williams had forgotten all about what he previously celebrated as a momentous struggle, by ignoring that bit of news on his June 15 broadcast. However, Williams, on that show, did report about the troubled Broadway production Spider-Man: Turn of the Dark.
Williams' news embargo of that ruling wasn't surprising as Williams has, on numerous occasions, sided against the Tea Party's cause of fiscal conservatism by advocating for increased spending on government programs and tax hikes on job producers.
On his July 31, 2010 special "Taking The Hill: Inside Congress" Williams depicted any GOP attempt to balance the budget as an attack on the poor as he asked Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi: "A liberal member said to me his fear is the poor are gonna get hurt and the rich are gonna get by without harm in this. Is that your fear?" On the other hand, Williams pressed Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell about raising taxes on the wealthy as he demanded: "Why shouldn't rich folks pay more?"
Prior to that special Williams led his December 6, 2010 newscast this way: "Good evening. It's a fair question to ask, and for a while now Americans have been wondering how lawmakers in Washington could possibly extend tax breaks for wealthy Americans while allowing benefits for jobless Americans to be cut off."
However that wasn't the first time Williams played the class warfare card, as on the December 1, 2010 Nightly News, he offered just one challenging question to deficit commission co-chairmen Erksine Bowles and Alan Simpson, and not surprisingly it was from the left: "It seems to me there's two arguments. There's what you're trying to accomplish and then there's how you're trying to accomplish, and there are, as you know, critics of what you're trying to do. James K. Galbraith writes in the New York Times, 'Bowles-Simpson proposal is an assault on the middle class, the working class and the poor.'"
...But Heralding Its Opponent
In sharp contrast, Williams, on the August 8, 2011 Nightly News, looked to the President for hope as he wished Obama would take hold of a "leadership moment" and bring "sanity" back to Congress when he asked CNBC's David Faber the following question:
"I'm not a historian, but I think this is a leadership moment, potentially, for the President of the United States. He's getting pressure to force Congress into a sudden breakout of sanity. If that happens, how long until we could get our top credit rating back?"
Of course this wasn't the first time Williams carried water for Obama. After John Boehner, on the January 6, 2011 Nightly News, charged that "ObamaCare will ruin the best health care delivery system in the world, and then, thirdly, I think it will bankrupt our country," Williams returned fire for the President as he lectured the Republican Speaker of the House: "Two points: What do you say to those who would disagree that it was the best health care delivery system in the world because they, by the millions, weren't getting it? And, second, where are you getting the notion — as you said again this morning — the American people want it repealed? Our exit polling was about 48-47, very evenly split on that."
Williams ignored the results of another poll from Fox News/Opinion Dynamics, taken in mid-December of 2010 that showed a solid majority, 59%, were for repealing all or part of ObamaCare, vs. 31% who wished it left alone or expanded.
When viewers of Wednesday's night debate watch Williams hurl hardball questions from the left at GOP presidential candidates they should keep in mind this is the same man who, when given the same chance, didn't exactly treat Obama in a similar manner.
During an exclusive one-on-one interview with Obama on August 29, 2010 Williams tossed this softball at the President: "Finally, I'm hoping to find you in a reflective mood on a cloudy day. We're the first to speak to you coming off your summer vacation. How does it re-charge you? What do you think about? What do you see? What do you read about? How are you thinking about your job these days?"
- Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow Geoffrey Dickens on Twitter.