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NBC's Williams Blames Obama's Plummeting Approval on Getting Dragged Into Gulf Oil Leak

Unlike Katie Couric on Monday night, on Wednesday evening NBC's Brian Williams didn't hide the bad news for President Obama in the network's latest poll, but Williams and Savannah Guthrie sure seemed to lament the public mood's swing against Obama as Williams attributed it to how Obama "had to touch" the gulf oil leak, "he had to own it and now he's getting tagged with how he's reacting to it." As if Obama had nothing to do with it, Guthrie agreed he's "had a barrage of bad headlines on some of these very issues of leadership, handling a crisis..."

"If you're the White House looking at these numbers we're about to debut tonight, there isn't much here that's encouraging right now," Williams warned of the NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey findings. Guthrie agreed: "There's not a lot of good news in this poll for the White House. Gushing oil, persistent unemployment the real problem."

Online, MSNBC.com's headline also ascribed Obama's troubles to the gulf: "Spill drags the President's rating down." The subhead, over the posting by NBC News Deputy Political director Mark Murray, emphasized a bright spot in areas Guthrie noted declines : "A silver lining for Obama is that his personal scores are still strong."

Guthrie recounted how "for the first time ever in our poll, more disapprove of the President than approve" and how "we saw big drops in issues like likability, compassion, leadership, relatability, handling of a crisis. Why?" She explained: "The oil spill. 50 percent said they disapprove of how the President has been handling this oil spill. 42 percent say they approve." That prompted Williams to rue:

What's so interesting here, the advice to the President for weeks was "if you touch it, you own it" - meaning the oil spill crisis. But the public anger was such that he had to touch it, he had to own it and now he's getting tagged with how he's reacting to it.

(Monday night: "CBS Poll Finds Tough Numbers for Obama on Oil Leak, But Couric Hides Them")

From the Wednesday, June 23 NBC Nightly News:

BRIAN WILLIAMS: We're back, as promised, with our new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. It says a lot about the mood of this country right now, how Americans are feeling these days about their President and even the upcoming November elections. Now, if you're the White House looking at these numbers we're about to debut tonight, there isn't much here that's encouraging right now. Our White House correspondent Savannah Guthrie has paid us a visit here in New York tonight with the numbers. Savannah, welcome, good evening.

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Good evening, Brian. As you said, there's not a lot of good news in this poll for the White House. Gushing oil, persistent unemployment the real problem. Let's look at the top line number: the approval rating for President Obama. It has never been this low, 45 percent. For the first time ever in our poll, more disapprove [48%] of the President than approve.

Is the country headed in the right direction? This is the question that pollsters and White House advisers watch closely. This is the highest number of the presidency: 62 percent say this country is on the wrong track, 29 percent say it is going in the right direction.

You know, Brian, even advisers have gone through these policy changes, things that the public expressed doubt about. Likability of the President, those leadership qualities he's always rated high. This is the first time really our poll has shown a drop in those, plummeted in some cases. You see, this is his worst personal rating - 47 percent positive, 40 percent negative. We saw big drops in issues like likability, compassion, leadership, relatability, handling of a crisis. Why? The next number, Brian, might tell the story. The oil spill. 50 percent said they disapprove of how the President has been handling this oil spill. 42 percent say they approve - by the way, we did this poll after the Oval Office address last week, after the President secured $20 billion from BP.

And then finally, some good news for Republicans. They edged out Democrats when we asked, "Who would you like to control Congess?" 45 percent said Republicans, 43 percent said Democrats. This is a number that is always tight, but the Republicans edged out the Democrats in this one.

BRIAN WILLIAMS: What's so interesting here, the advice to the President for weeks was "if you touch it, you own it" - meaning the oil spill crisis. But the public anger was such that he had to touch it, he had to own it and now he's getting tagged with how he's reacting to it.

GUTHRIE: No question about it and let's face it, he had a barrage of bad headlines on some of these very issues of leadership, handling a crisis, compassion. So, perhaps not surprising that he's taken a hit there.

- Brent Baker is Vice President for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.