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NBC Gives Most Coverage to Newsweek Cover Controversy, But Uses it to Paint Bachmann as 'Extreme'

While anchor Brian Williams described Newsweek's controversial cover photo of Michelle Bachmann as "clearly a misfire" on Monday's NBC Nightly News, on Tuesday's Today, correspondent Andrea Mitchell saw an opportunity to portray Bachmann as "extreme." Meanwhile, CBS completely ignored the story and ABC only provided a news brief on the topic.

On Tuesday's Today, while Mitchell described the Newsweek cover, she skipped over accusations that it was sexist. She did manage to include a defense of the cover from both Newsweek editor Tina Brown and the author of the Bachmann article, Lois Romano, both of whom argued the clearly unflattering picture somehow captured Bachmann's "intensity." A statement was included from Alex Wagner of The Huffington Post labeling the cover "unfair."

Later in the report, Mitchell made Bachmann herself the source of controversy: "She's also generating excitement among evangelical voters...by making no apology for her positions on social issues....Also controversial, Bachmann's own must-reads, a list the New Yorker showed includes a book defending slavery." A sound bite was featured of the New Yorker's Ryan Lizza proclaiming: "I don't think we have seen a candidate with sort of the views – and frankly, the extreme views that she holds – last in national politics."

On Tuesday's Good Morning America on ABC, news reader Josh Elliot framed the Newsweek controversy as mostly upsetting Bachmann supporters: "And the latest issue of Newsweek has conservatives and others seeing red....Tea Party advocates call the cover chauvinistic." However, unlike Mitchell, he did make a point to note that: "The National Organization for Women calls the cover sexist."

The anchor brief by Williams on Nightly News took direct aim at the liberal magazine: "Newsweek magazine tonight is catching heat for a cover photo many people consider a cheap shot. Calling Michele Bachmann 'The Queen of Rage' is one thing, but the photo is clearly a misfire. It received widespread criticism today, some called it biased and insulting....Several wondered if a male politician would be treated in similar fashion."

Here is a full transcript of Mitchell's August 9 report on Today:

7:01AM ET TEASE:

ANN CURRY: Also ahead this morning, we're going to take a look at this Newsweek cover, it's featuring Michele Bachmann and it's caption is 'The Queen of Rage.' But it's the unflattering photo that has a lot of people crying foul. We'll get details on that coming up this morning.

7:14AM ET SEGMENT:

CURRY: We're now going to turn to presidential politics. Republican hopeful Michele Bachmann has grabbed her share of the early headlines, but now her most recent magazine cover is causing quite a stir for all the wrong reasons. NBC's Andrea Mitchell now joins us with details on this story. Andrea, good morning.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: "The Queen of Rage"; Newsweek's Controversial Cover of Michele Bachmann]

ANDREA MITCHELL: Hi there, Ann. She has rocketed to become the front-runner in Iowa in the critical days before this week's straw poll in Ames. But now Michele Bachmann faces a whole new challenge, an unflattering Newsweek cover.

MICHELE BACHMANN: Come to Ames, we're going to have a ball.

MITCHELL: Campaigning in Iowa, Michele Bachmann is energetic, focused, taking aim at President Obama.

BACHMANN: When the ratings downgrade came out last week, where was President Obama? Did he rush to the microphone to give confidence to the American people? He got in the helicopter, he took off for the weekend.

MITCHELL: Those close to her say she is unfazed by this week's Newsweek cover photo, captioned as 'The Queen of Rage.'

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Have you seen it yet?

BACHMANN: I have not.

MAN: Okay, it's a big close-up, sort of a wild-eyed photo with the headline 'Queen of Rage.'

BACHMANN: A-ha. Well we'll have to take a look at that, won't we?

MITCHELL: In a statement, Newsweek editor Tina Brown said, 'Michele Bachmann's intensity is galvanizing voters in Iowa right now and Newsweek's cover captures that.' Lois Romano wrote the cover story.

LOIS ROMANO [NEWSWEEK/THE DAILY BEAST]: It's a very provocative photo. She's a very provocative candidate. She is stirring a lot of intense passions among the electorate and a lot of intense passions among her own party and I think the cover reflects that.

MITCHELL: But how could a woman even critics describe as attractive be made to look this bad?

ALEX WAGNER [THE HUFFINGTON POST]: She looks sort of blank and confused. And I did think it was unfair.

MITCHELL: In the cover story, Bachmann tells Newsweek, 'You used the word anger. It's not anger. Americans aren't expressing unhinged anger, people are saying the country is not working.' Bachmann has built a fan base for her opposition to raising the debt ceiling.

BACHMANN: Do not raise the debt ceiling.

MITCHELL: But she's also generating excitement among evangelical voters, key to winning in Iowa and South Carolina, by making no apology for her positions on social issues. On Sunday, Bachmann was in an Iowa church, where the pastor played a video celebrating the so-called conversion of a gay man who says he is now straight.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN B: Homosexuality is an abomination.

MITCHELL: Also controversial, Bachmann's own must-reads, a list the New Yorker showed includes a book defending slavery.

RYAN LIZZA [THE NEW YORKER]: I don't think we have seen a candidate with sort of the views – and frankly, the extreme views that she holds – last in national politics.

MITCHELL: The Newsweek cover is not Bachmann's first clash with the media. On Fox News Sunday a while ago she was once asked, 'Are you a flake?' Anchor Chris Wallace later apologized. And, in fact, Bachmann's advisers believe that talk about the Newsweek cover will only help her with conservative primary voters. Ann.

CURRY: Certainly not the last we've heard about that.

MITCHELL: Not at all.

CURRY: Alright, Andrea Mitchell, thank you so much this morning.

- Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow Kyle Drennen on Twitter.