Wednesday's NBC Today was the only network morning show to cover President Obama being refused tee times at several top golf courses during his Labor Day weekend trip to New York, with co-host Matt Lauer declaring: "...the President has faced some criticism recently over the time he spends playing golf....[now] more problems tied to his favorite hobby." [Listen to the audio]
Fellow co-host Willie Geist explained: "Club managers saying they didn't want to inconvenience their high-profile and dues-paying members by shutting down their courses to accommodate the President during the busy holiday weekend." Moments later, Geist seemed to fault the courses by labeling the refusals a "country club snub."
However, as Lauer alluded to in the opening, Geist highlighted Obama being taken to task for his frequent golf outings: "...the President took heavy criticism for golfing last month during his vacation, just minutes after denouncing the militants who executed American journalist James Foley. In an interview with Chuck Todd on Meet the Press, the President acknowledged his timing could have been better." A soundbite followed of Obama admitting: "I should have anticipated the optics."
Early in the segment, Geist noted that the story came from "several sources who spoke to Jonathan Dienst of our New York station WNBC." In the original WNBC item, a quote was included of political analyst Dan Gerstein remarking on Obama being denied the tee times: "I think he has lost that star quality he had in his first two years in office and in that 2008 campaign." A similar soundbite was left out of the Today piece.
Another important detailed reported by WNBC was that Obama was traveling to the New York area to attend the wedding of former White House chef Sam Kass and MSNBC host Alex Wagner.
On Today, Geist mentioned the President took the trip "to attend the wedding of his former chef Sam Kass," but completely skipped the fact that Kass was marrying Wagner.
Here is a full transcript of the September 10 segment on Today:
7:16 AM ET
MATT LAUER: As you know, the President has faced some criticism recently over the time he spends playing golf. And Willie's here now with more problems tied to his favorite hobby. Willie, good morning to you.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Par for the Course; President Denied Tee Times At Private Golf Clubs]
WILLIE GEIST: Matt, good morning. The President was just outside New York City over Labor Day weekend to attend the wedding of his former chef Sam Kass and he hoped to sneak in a round of golf. But when his advance team made requests for the President to play 18, several elite courses reportedly turned him away.
According to several sources who spoke to Jonathan Dienst of our New York station WNBC, some of the New York area's top country clubs, including the Trump National Golf Club, Winged Foot, and Willow Ridge, turned down requests for President Obama to play a round over Labor Day weekend. Club managers saying they didn't want to inconvenience their high-profile and dues-paying members by shutting down their courses to accommodate the President during the busy holiday weekend.
BRUCE BECK [WNBC SPORTS ANCHOR]: It's probably the most important weekend of the year for golf, and 240 members are not going to say, "Hey, let the President come out, I'm not going to play this weekend." There's no way that would ever happen.
GEIST: Denied a tee time by the top courses, the President headed back to the White House before returning to New York the next day to attend a wedding. The White House explaining the itinerary change by saying:
JOSH EARNEST [WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY]: He can sleep in his own bed, do a little work tomorrow, spend some time with his family, and then travel back to – back to New York tomorrow evening.
GEIST: The country club snub comes shortly after the President took heavy criticism for golfing last month during his vacation, just minutes after denouncing the militants who executed American journalist James Foley. In an interview with Chuck Todd on Meet the Press, the President acknowledged his timing could have been better.
BARACK OBAMA: I should have anticipated the optics.
GEIST: But this is not the first time a president has been turned away. At least one of these courses denied Bill Clinton membership when he first moved to the area, denying any preferential treatment, even for a presidential tee time.
So some club officials said President Obama's not the first president they've turned down over the years. And he wasn't, by the way, the only head of state rejected over Labor Day weekend. We're told the king of Morocco also tried and failed to secure a tee time at some of the very same courses.
HODA KTOB: Wow.
AL ROKER: Not so good to be the king.