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NBC's Lauer Urges UK Prime Minister to Hit Romney Over Olympic Comments

In an unaired portion of an interview with British Prime Minister David Cameron meant to be featured on Friday's NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer pressed Cameron to compare the London Olympics with the winter games run by Mitt Romney: "Do you think that Mitt Romney, the challenges he faced in 2002 in Salt Lake City, compared at all to what you faced here in London?" [View video after the jump]

After pushing Cameron to criticize Romney, moments later, Lauer went after Britain's head of Parliament for daring to modestly cut back on the nation's massive government spending: "You put in place some very difficult austerity measures that were controversial, hard for a lot of people to swallow. And yet, in the last quarter, your economy shrunk. So, was austerity the right path to take at that particular time, facing this very stubborn recession?"

 

The exchange began with Cameron dismissing media interpretations of his initial reaction to Romney's comments about security concerns at the games: "I think Governor Romney could see for himself, when he came to London, how well prepared we are....When I said it's easier to build – to put an Olympic games in the middle of nowhere, I did not – and let me be clear to the people of Salt Lake City and the great state of Utah....That was not what I was referring to."

Lauer skeptically wondered: "No reference to that?" Cameron replied: "What I meant was, there have been countries who've bid for Olympic games and instead of putting them in the capital city, they build something outside the capital city, freshly built. We built all this right here in – in London."

During the portion of the interview that did air on Friday, Lauer asked for Cameron's impression of Romney, to which Cameron observed: "He's clearly a very capable man." Lauer continued: "So come the first of the year, you feel as if you can have that level of trust with either President Obama or President Romney?"

In response to Lauer's austerity question, Cameron explained: "We did the right thing because we inherited as a government a budget deficit that was bigger than Greece's, bigger than Spain's, bigger than Portugal's. It was one of the biggest in anywhere in the world. And we've cut that deficit by a quarter in two years."

Lauer followed up: "When you look at those economic numbers that were recently released, do you have any second thoughts about anything you did? Would you do anything differently?" Sounding very much like Romney, Cameron defended his policies: "What I think we need to do is even more to encourage private sector growth. You know, when you're in a debt hole, you can't solve that problem by borrowing even more money. You can't borrow your way out of debt, you've got to get private sector growth."

Here is a transcript of the exchange meant to air on August 3:

DAVID CAMERON: I think Governor Romney could see for himself, when he came to London, how well prepared we are. And let me be clear, when I – the point I was making is that, you know, we are organizing an Olympic games here in one of the busiest, most bustling, most active cities anywhere in the world, that's a really tough challenge. Because you've got security challenges and transport challenges to deal with. When I said it's easier to build – to put an Olympic games in the middle of nowhere, I did not – and let me be clear to the people of Salt Lake City and the great state of Utah-

MATT LAUER: No reference to that?

CAMERON: That was not what I was referring to. What I meant was, there have been countries who've bid for Olympic games and instead of putting them in the capital city, they build something outside the capital city, freshly built. We built all this right here in – in London.

LAUER: But do you-

CAMERON: And that was the point I was making, so-

LAUER: Do you think that Mitt Romney, the challenges he faced in 2002 in Salt Lake City, compared at all to what you faced here in London?

CAMERON: I'm not – I'm not going to go there. A winter games and a summer games, they're different things. And I'm not – I'm not an expert on the – the Salt Lake City games. I hope I'm a bit of an expert on these London games, and they're going very well.

LAUER: You are keenly aware in this country of the world economic crisis. You've got your own fiscal crisis as well. You put in place some very difficult austerity measures that were controversial, hard for a lot of people to swallow. And yet, in the last quarter, your economy shrunk. So, was austerity the right path to take at that particular time, facing this very stubborn recession?

CAMERON: We did the right thing because we inherited as a government a budget deficit that was bigger than Greece's, bigger than Spain's, bigger than Portugal's. It was one of the biggest in anywhere in the world. And we've cut that deficit by a quarter in two years. Now, of course the growth figures have been disappointing, but over the last two years, we've actually seen a growth in the number of private sector jobs. And a growth in the number of jobs, overall, in the UK economy.

LAUER: When you look at those economic numbers that were recently released, do you have any second thoughts about anything you did? Would you do anything differently?

CAMERON: Well, what I want – what I think we need to do is even more to encourage private sector growth. You know, when you're in a debt hole, you can't solve that problem by borrowing even more money. You can't borrow your way out of debt, you've got to get private sector growth. So, what you're going to see from this government is even more action to help businesses create jobs, to get off their back, to make sure they can grow. You know, we're using, frankly, the Olympics. I've been having a series on investment conferences to get the biggest and best companies here to invest in Britain, to grow in Britain, and we're-

LAUER: You think it'll have that effect? You think the Olympics can jumpstart an economy?

CAMERON: Oh yeah, look, I mean just – just one example. Warner Brothers, a great U.S. company, have said they're going to make they're next big movie with Tom Cruise right here in the UK, that's a big – a big investment in the UK. We've got a number of those being announced this week, next week, as we use the Olympics to showcase Britain. I think a lot of people around the world will have seen that opening ceremony, see this great Olympics, see that we've done it on time, under budget, and say this is a country that can deliver.