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Today Show Ignores Lois Lerner's Retirement But Aired Two Segments on Obama's Smoking Comments

Tuesday's Today show didn't even mention the retirement of Lois Lerner, the IRS official at the center of the Tea Party targeting scandal, but it aired two full segments on President Obama talking about his old smoking habit.

"The President caught on an open mic bragging to a fellow world leader about finally beating the smoking habit," political director Chuck Todd started his report. He pointed out Obama's inconsistency with the facts in saying he hadn't smoked in six years, by noting that the President confessed in 2009 to giving into his habit.

"And while the President claimed Monday to have been smoke-free for six years, it was just four years ago that he admitted he wasn't quite cured," Todd noted.  After the report, co-host Matt Lauer claimed, "He [Obama] exaggerated a little in terms of how long he hasn't had a cigarette."

"I think it's how long he's not had a cigarette in front of the First Lady. How about that?" Todd playfully offered.

After Todd's fact-check of the President's smoking habit, Today went with the subject again during the 9 a.m. ET hour. "He's said recently that he's had a cigarette here and there. In 2009, he still – he goes out back and has one in the Rose Garden from time to time. Blow off a little steam," Willie Geist noted.

However, Today said nothing of Lerner's retirement. As NewsBusters' Geoff Dickens reported, the three networks are in the midst of a months-long blackout of the IRS scandal. NBC hasn't mentioned the scandal in 89 days.

Below is a transcript of the segment, which aired on September 24 on Today at 7:10 a.m. EDT:

[7:10]

NATALIE MORALES: An off-the-cuff comment Monday from President Obama caught on an open mic has lots of people talking today, and NBC's political director Chuck Todd is here to tell us more. Chuck, good morning.

CHUCK TODD, NBC News political director: This has always been fun to track. They're all like us, right? They're all a little bit human. They say there's no tougher critic of smoking than a reformed smoker, but for the President, a reformed smoker himself, he is not the tough critic. He admitted he doesn't smoke anymore out of fear of backlash from the First Lady.

(Video Clip)

BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States: I haven't had a cigarette in six years. That's because I'm scared of my wife.

(End Video Clip)

TODD: The President caught on an open mic bragging to a fellow world leader about finally beating the smoking habit. The President's battle with smoking has been well chronicled throughout his political career, and the person most responsible for his quitting, so he says, has been the First Lady.

MICHELLE OBAMA, First Lady of the United States: That was one of my prerequisites for entering into this race is that he couldn't be a smoking president.

TODD: And while the President claimed Monday to have been smoke-free for six years, it was just four years ago that he admitted he wasn't quite cured.

BARACK OBAMA: As a former smoker, I constantly struggle with it. Have I fallen off the wagon sometimes? Yes.

TODD: Finally in 2010, the President along with his personal aide Marvin Nicholson both tried to quit together, and with the help of Nicorette, pulled it off.

(End Video Clip)

TODD: Well, as you guys know, we see him chewing gum a lot and it's not because he loves Dentyne. Right?

(Laughter)

TODD: It's always been Nicorette. But by the way, the first reason for the golf obsession in the first year, that's where he could smoke without the First Lady seeing. She never saw it. That was always the deal.

LAUER: So he exaggerated a little –

TODD: Are you shocked?

LAUER: He exaggerated a little in terms of how long he hasn't had a cigarette.

TODD: I think it's how long he's not had a cigarette in front of the First Lady. How about that?

LAUER: He also told that leader he scored 54 points in a pickup game at the White House the other day.

(Laughter)

TODD: By the way, I think he does always score 54 points.

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: It's not rigged. Chuck, thank you so much.

(...)

[9:01]

WILLIE GEIST: Let's talk about President Obama and his smoking. Made no secret he's been a smoker a lot of his life, says he hasn't done it as much lately. But yesterday, some unguarded comments caught on an open mic as he was talking to another gentleman at the U.N. General Assembly. Watch this.

(Video Clip)

BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States: I haven't had a cigarette in six years. That's because I'm scared of my wife.

(End Video Clip)

AL ROKER: It's not about the cigarettes. He's afraid of Mrs. Obama.

GEIST: Yes.

NATALIE MORALES: Smart man, by the way.

GEIST: He's said recently that he's had a cigarette here and there. In 2009, he still – he goes out back and has one in the Rose Garden from time to time. Blow off a little steam.

MEL B, America's Got Talent judge: But nobody wants to piss off your wife. You just don't want to do that.

GEIST: Right.

ROKER: Isn't that a Hallmark card?

(Laughter)

ROKER: I don't know. I mean, you just don't want to get on your wife. Nor do I think if it goes the other way, you don't want to get on –

MEL B: Your husband's. No I do. (Laughing)

— Matt Hadro is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Matt Hadro on Twitter.