CBS and NBC Finally Notice Criticism of Obama Fundraising Amid Crises, ABC Still Ignores

Both Wednesday's CBS Evening News and Thursday's NBC Today offered full reports on President Obama being criticized for attending Democratic Party fundraisers at a time of international crises. ABC continued to remain silent on the growing controversy.

On Evening News, White House correspondent Major Garrett reported: "President Obama arrived late today in Los Angeles for his fifth meeting with big donors in two days." A clip played of Garrett challenging Press Secretary Josh Ernest: "Could you address what many Americans believe is either the trivial or unnecessarily-distracting obligation of presidents –  including this one – to raise money in the course of conducting important matters of state?" [Listen to the audio]

After the clip, Garrett continued:

Since taking office, President Obama has attended 398 fundraisers – nearly twice as many as his predecessor, George W. Bush, at the same point in his presidency.

After the Malaysia Airlines disaster, President Obama kept to his fundraising schedule in New York, opting to call world leaders from Air Force One. The President did not cancel fundraisers in Texas earlier this month, despite calls for him to see firsthand the immigration crisis on the southern border.

Earlier Thursday, CBS This Morning co-host Gayle King provided a mere 27-second news brief on the criticism.

After NBC Nightly News failed to cover the story Thursday night, on Friday's Today, co-host Savannah Guthrie told viewers: "And of course we've got this crisis in Ukraine. Also the heavy fighting between Israel and Hamas raging on....President Obama getting some flak from lawmakers for making a west coast fundraising trip as all of this is unfolding."

In the segment that followed, correspondent Peter Alexander explained: "With the world's eyes glued to a pair of international crises in Ukraine and the Middle East, President Obama is taking heat for sticking to his travel plans. Greeted by protests even as he attends a series of political fundraisers during a three-day west coast swing."

Neither ABC's World News nor Good Morning America mentioned the topic on Wednesday or Thursday.

Friday's CBS This Morning expanded beyond the fundraising criticism to question Obama's broader foreign policy. Co-host Charlie Rose played a clip from his PBS show of an interview with former Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Rose wondered: "Are any of these events happening because there was, as some of the Republican critics would like to suggest, a perception of weakness on the part of the President?"

Gates replied: "I personally do not believe that. I think that there is a perception around the world of the U.S. disengaging....But look, the reality is withdrawing from or disengaging from two wars, both of which end without a clear-cut victory, is a tricky business to avoid giving the impression you're disengaging from the rest of the world."

Later on This Morning, fellow co-host Norah O'Donnell asked retired General Jim Jones: "General, what I hear is that some of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin's actions are because he senses weakness. Weakness on the part of President Obama to act in Syria. And so, that when he sees a vacuum, he acts. And that, that may be driving some of his actions. How do you see it?"

Jones, a former adviser to Obama, began: "Well, we – there's no question that the United States' influence in various parts of the world is – is having some difficulties." O'Donnell pressed: "But does he sense weakness?" Jones provide a response similar to that of Gates:

I don't know. I mean, you'd have to ask him. But there are certain things – there are certain events on the planet that people talk about. Syria, our failure to be stronger in Syria is one. Our reaction to the Arab Spring is another. It kind of depends on who you talk to, but there's no question that as we try to disengage from two different wars and the aftermath of – the aftertaste, I should say, of those words is still with us, it colors the perception of the United States, and as a result, the President.

Rose observed: "Yeah, but I mean, if I was president it would be important to know what people like you thought about his [Putin's] intention. And if he perceived us to be weak, to do something to eliminate that perception."

Neither NBC nor ABC have cited the recent crises to question the President's foreign policy.

Here is a full transcript of Major Garrett's July 23 CBS Evening News report:

6:39 PM ET

SCOTT PELLEY: With battles raging overseas, President Obama shuttled among fundraisers here at home – two of them today. He has his eye on a battle three months away – the midterm elections. And with the possibility of Democrats losing the Senate, the party needs money right now. But is now the best time to be on the road? Here's Major Garrett.

MAJOR GARRETT: President Obama arrived late today in Los Angeles for his fifth meeting with big donors in two days. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest says this fundraising swing has not distracted the President from crises at home and abroad.

[To White House Press Secretary]: Could you address what many Americans believe is either the trivial or unnecessarily-distracting obligation of presidents –  including this one – to raise money in the course of conducting important matters of state?

JOSH EARNEST [WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY]: My suggested standard would be, whether or not those political activities interfere with the President's constitutional responsibilities as the commander-in-chief of the United States of America.

[CBS News Graphic: "Fundraisers: President Barack Obama, 398; Pr

esident George W. Bush, 218"]

GARRETT: Since taking office, President Obama has attended 398 fundraisers –  nearly twice as many as his predecessor, George W. Bush, at the same point in his presidency.

After the Malaysia Airlines disaster, President Obama kept to his fundraising schedule in New York, opting to call world leaders from Air Force One. The President did not cancel fundraisers in Texas earlier this month, despite calls for him to see firsthand the immigration crisis on the southern border.

BARACK OBAMA: I'm not interested in photo ops. I'm interested in solving a problem.

GARRETT: Scott, the White House insists that the President's fundraisers do not interfere with his obligations as commander-in-chief and that he carries out all those obligations, and would return to the White House if dire circumstances required. A senior official told us the President resists cancelling fundraisers or any part of his public schedule to avoid alarming the country during times of uncertainty.

PELLEY: Major Garrett, still at the White House tonight – thank you, Major.

Here is a full transcript of Peter Alexander's July 24 report on Today:

7:08 AM ET

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: And of course we've got this crisis in Ukraine. Also the heavy fighting between Israel and Hamas raging on. And now some political questions. President Obama getting some flak from lawmakers for making a west coast fundraising trip as all of this is unfolding. Let's go to NBC national correspondent Peter Alexander. He's at the White House for us. Peter, good morning to you.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: President's Fundraising Firestorm; Criticized for West Coast Tour Amid Crises]

PETER ALEXANDER: Savannah, good morning to you. President Obama is going to return back here to the White House late tonight, but not before squeezing in another political fundraiser this morning in L.A. and a speech about the economy. And some are questioning the timing of the President's trip and the message that it may send.

With the world's eyes glued to a pair of international crises in Ukraine and the Middle East, President Obama is taking heat for sticking to his travel plans. Greeted by protests even as he attends a series of political fundraisers during a three-day west coast swing.

REP. PETER KING [R-NY]: The bottom line is President Obama should be showing leadership, not raising money. Symbolism is essential to leadership.

ALEXANDER: Even some Democrats have questioned the White House's approach.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN [D-CA]: I'm not going to tell the President what to do, but I think the world would very much respect his increased attention on this matter.

ALEXANDER: Sensitive to sending the wrong message, the President passed on an invitation to appear on Jimmy Kimmel this week. But top advisers defend Mr. Obama's ability to juggle multiple responsibilities at once.

BEN RHODES [DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR]: The fact that he's doing some events on the west coast related to fundraising takes nothing away from his ability to get on the phone with a foreign leader if he needs to.

ALEXANDER: The President is also being challenged for failing to stand up more aggressively to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Time magazine's new headline reads, "Cold War II; The West is losing Putin's dangerous game."

RHODES: I don't understand what Vladimir Putin is supposed to be winning. He's got to be the most isolated leader in the world as we speak.

ALEXANDER: Still, for President Obama, raising money for Democrats during a time of crisis carries political risks.

STU ROTHENBERG [POLITICAL ANALYST]: The more he does it, the greater the risk that he looks detached and partisan, that he's really not doing the job he was elected for.

ALEXANDER: Not the first president to face this type of criticism and certainly won't be the last. Aboard Air Force One last night, White House aides told us that President Obama is president twenty-four hours a day, the communications allow him to do his job anywhere. And they highlight the fact, Savannah, that during his flight to L.A. the President spoke to his own Secretary of State John Kerry, who is still in the Middle East pressing for a cease-fire.

GUTHRIE: Alright, Peter Alexander at the White House, thank you so much.

— Kyle Drennen is News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Kyle Drennen on Twitter.