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NBC's Curry Hectors McCain to Condemn Palin's 'Incendiary Language'

Picking up the Democratic line that her MSNBC colleagues started repeating yesterday, NBC's Ann Curry, on Thursday's Today show, continually harangued Senator John McCain about Republican lawmakers "encouraging the violence" against Democrats, and even urged the Arizona senator to condemn his former running mate Sarah Palin. After Curry recounted that the former Alaska governor had "posted a map highlighting weak Democratic districts...with a crosshair symbol" she pressed McCain: "Do you know recommend that your party use less incendiary language?" When McCain responded that terms like "targeted" and "battleground" are just part of the "political lexicon" Curry persisted: "These are very dangerous times. Is this the language that we should be hearing today?" [audio available here]

The following is a portion of the combative back and forth between Curry and McCain that was aired in the 7am half hour of Thursday's show:

ANN CURRY: You're also working, Senator, for re-election. And I understand that Sarah Palin will be joining you in Arizona as you campaign tomorrow. And as we just saw from Kelly O'Donnell's report, she has used some pretty incendiary language. She Tweeted in response to the health care vote, "Commonsense, conservative and lovers of America don't retreat, instead reload." And on her Facebook page she also posted a map highlighting weak Democratic districts that conservatives should target with a crosshair symbol. Considering these threats, these concerns, that we've been hearing about regarding violence, do you think, do you now recommend that your party use less incendiary language and will you say that to her tomorrow?

JOHN MCCAIN: Ann, I have seen the rhetoric of targeted districts as long as I've been in politics. Please. This is - any threat of violence is terrible. But to say that there is a targeted district or that we reload or go back in to the fight again, please. That's just language.

CURRY: Those are not my words, those are her words!

MCCAIN: Oh those, those are fine. We, they're used all the time. Those words have been used throughout my political career.

CURRY: But should they be perhaps used less.

MCCAIN: There are targeted districts.

CURRY: Sorry for interrupting Senator.

MCCAIN: There are targeted districts and there are areas that we call battleground states. And so, please. That, that rhetoric and kind of language is just part of the political lexicon. It is in no place for threats or violence or anything else. But to say someone is in a battle ground state, is not originated today.

CURRY: Senator, with all due respect and, and I, I heard what you had to say.

MCCAIN: With all due respect, that's, that's, with all due respect that's simply...

CURRY: No let me just simply, let me just inject this one question sir.

MCCAIN: Sure.

CURRY: The question is, given even if, even if what you're saying is, is accepted by everyone that this is a language of campaigning, this is the language of politics. Given, however, the sensitivity regarding this particular bill, should this still be the language of this day, given how much we are hearing about hundreds of calls regarding threats, about vandalism, about the gas line of a congressman's brother's home being cut. Sir, this is, these are very dangerous times. Is this the language that we should be hearing today?

The following is the full transcript of the entire interview as it was aired on the March 25 Today show:

ANN CURRY: Arizona Republican Senator John McCain has been a vocal opponent of health care reform and Senator McCain, good morning.

JOHN MCCAIN: Good morning.

CURRY: Sir, this week you said that you will not cooperate with Democrats for the rest of this year, unless there is a national emergency, because of the way they passed this health care reform bill. This seems to contradict some comments that you made almost two years ago when you said, "We have many challenges before our nation, both at home and abroad. Challenges such as an entitlement reform, energy security, health care, that require a strict attention to our responsibilities as public servants and our recognition that we'll not discharge these responsibilities to the satisfaction of the people we serve unless we work cooperatively across party lines." Senator, what has changed?

MCCAIN: Well, I have worked and continue to work on, with the Democrats on issues that are important to this country. Senator Levin and I are working on a defense authorization bill right now. But the fact is I didn't anticipate, at that time, that the Democrats would jam through legislation such as they have from the beginning on a totally partisan basis. So it's not that we won't cooperate. They have not done one single - made one single effort to act in a bipartisan fashion. I know bipartisanship because I've done it. This administration had 60 votes and an overwhelming majority in the House, and so they jammed legislation through hoping to pick up a Democrat or so. And so there is no bipartisanship. But I'll continue to work with anybody to help secure this nation and its future.

CURRY: So what is your response then to the White House press secretary Robert Gibbs when he came pretty close to comparing your behavior to that of his six-year-old child when he doesn't get what he wants?

MCCAIN: Oh, I've been, I've been working until 3:00 o'clock in the morning last night. We're working hard on behalf of the citizens of Arizona who are outraged at this process and this sleaze that's been going on. I haven't got the time, nor the inclination to respond to the White House flack.

CURRY: I want to see if I can get you to respond to these concerns about this violence - the, the threats of violence against Democratic lawmakers that Kelly O'Donnell just reported about. While Republicans have condemned this violence, do you see a connection between the statements that have been made, the angry statements that we've heard from Republicans on the Hill, the angry rhetoric, and even the statement that you made that I just quoted. Do you see any connection between that as encouraging the violence that we've seen, those who desperately oppose this health care reform law?

MCCAIN: Ann, I've been involved in heated discussions and debates on the floor on a broad variety of issues. Any threats of violence or anything along those lines is totally unacceptable and, and we condemn it all. But compared to debate on the floor of the Senate, what - I'll tell you one thing that has people enraged, and that's the sleazy back-room deals, the sausage making that has gone on. They took out some of the sleazy deals that were cut, they left in the Louisiana purchase and $100 million for a hospital in Connecticut and the sleazy deals behind closed doors with the PhRMA and other special interests. Everybody was there but the American people. They don't feel that their voice was heard. Overwhelmingly they reject this legislation.

CURRY: It sounds like you're rejecting any connection that there is any fanning of the flames as we've heard from Representative Slaughter. And if that is true, then what is your message this morning to anyone who participated in that violence and who may be contemplating more violence, sir?

MCCAIN: Of course I condemn it. Of course we need to - it is unacceptable in America. But what we need to do, we who oppose this legislation and worry about the future of our children being mortgaged, we should be translating that in to voter registration and preparing for the next election and working towards repeal and replace this terrible piece of legislation which has been passed in the most unethical way that the American people soundly reject.

CURRY: Republicans are now talking about repealing the law. You said that you will challenge it in the courts and the towns, the cities, farms all over America.

MCCAIN: Sure.

CURRY: How exactly are you going to do this, Senator? Are you going to do this after November in one fell chunk or are you gonna try take it down piece by piece before then?

MCCAIN: Well, right now the attorneys general of several states are preparing cases to take to court immediately. Obviously we will again expose how fraudulent and, and how much budget gimmickry is associated with this. And again with the sleazy deals that have been cut by an administration that said they would have everything done on C-SPAN. So we'll be working. The American people, by large majorities, reject this proposal and we reject the sleazy way it was done and we reject the use of recon-, quote "reconciliation" in a way that's unprecedented in history.

[On screen graphic: "Reform, Repeal, 'Reload', Sen. John McCain On Battling the Health Care Bill"]

CURRY: You're also working, Senator, for re-election. And I understand that Sarah Palin will be joining you in Arizona as you campaign tomorrow. And as we just saw from Kelly O'Donnell's report, she has used some pretty incendiary language. She Tweeted in response to the health care vote, "Commonsense, conservative and lovers of America don't retreat, instead reload." And on her Facebook page she also posted a map highlighting weak Democratic districts that conservatives should target with a crosshair symbol. Considering these threats, these concerns, that we've been hearing about regarding violence, do you think, do you now recommend that your party use less incendiary language and will you say that to her tomorrow?

MCCAIN: Ann, I have seen the rhetoric of targeted districts as long as I've been in politics. Please. This is - any threat of violence is terrible. But to say that there is a targeted district or that we reload or go back in to the fight again, please. That's just language.

CURRY: Those are not my words, those are her words!

MCCAIN: Oh those, those are fine. We, they're used all the time. Those words have been used throughout my political career.

CURRY: But should they be perhaps used less.

MCCAIN: There are targeted districts.

CURRY: Sorry for interrupting Senator.

MCCAIN: There are targeted districts and there are areas that we call battleground states. And so, please. That, that rhetoric and kind of language is just part of the political lexicon. It is in no place for threats or violence or anything else. But to say someone is in a battle ground state, is not originated today.

CURRY: Senator, with all due respect and, and I, I heard what you had to say.

MCCAIN: With all due respect, that's, that's, with all due respect that's simply...

CURRY: No let me just simply, let me just inject this one question sir.

MCCAIN: Sure.

CURRY: The question is, given even if, even if what you're saying is, is accepted by everyone that this is a language of campaigning, this is the language of politics. Given, however, the sensitivity regarding this particular bill, should this still be the language of this day, given how much we are hearing about hundreds of calls regarding threats, about vandalism, about the gas line of a congressman's brother's home being cut. Sir, this is, these are very dangerous times. Is this the language that we should be hearing today?

MCCAIN: The language that we should be using today is the language that we are using. We condemn violence. We, we condemn threats of violence. If anyone does that, and violates the law, they will be persecuted to the full extent of the law and that there is no place for it. But to somehow say that someone's in a battleground state is somehow offensive simply, I'm sorry.

CURRY: Well I think it's the "reload" and the, and the crosshairs, I think, that's caused a lot of people to be concerned, Senator.

MCCAIN: Well maybe it has and we condemn any violence, any threats of violence. But I've heard all of that language throughout my political career. But we have to do everything we can to make sure the American people know that there's no place for that in America but what has just been done, against the overwhelming opposition of the American people, sleazy deals done in an unprecedented fashion, of course has people angry. That anger should be, should be channeled into voter registration and go continue the, the struggle that we're in to regain America and stop mortgaging our children's futures.

CURRY: Alright Senator John McCain, thank you so much for joining us.

MCCAIN: Thank you.

CURRY: I know you guys worked pretty late last night so thank you so much.

MCCAIN: It's a pleasure.

CURRY: Thank you.

-Geoffrey Dickens is the senior news analyst at the Media Research Center.