Trying to Stoke GOP Division, NBC's Gregory Falsely Claims Rubio Called Budget Deal 'Un-American'

In an attempt to stir tensions within the Republican Party over the recent budget deal, on Sunday's NBC Meet the Press, host David Gregory falsely claimed that Florida Senator Marco Rubio had denounced the agreement as "un-American." [Listen to the audio]

Gregory cited the fictional quote twice to Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, one of the architects of the deal: "On the Right, my colleague Kelly O'Donnell spoke to your colleague Marco Rubio. He calls this an un-American deal....when Senator Rubio says it's un-American, is that just because he's running for president, do you think?"

In a later interview with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Gregory again asserted: "The reaction on the Right's been pretty furious. Marco Rubio calling it un-American and un-conservative."

After using the manufactured remarks to grill his Republican guests, Gregory finally acknowledged his mistake at the end of the program:

I wanted to clarify something, because I mentioned it a couple of times about Senator Rubio this morning. Did he call the compromise deal un-American? That's not actually what he said. We got the clarification and I wanted to make sure to do this, because I apologize for the confusion about it.

He was asked why he couldn't support the deal and he says it's not just as a conservative that he couldn't support it, it's an as American that he couldn't support it. So he didn't actually call it un-American, but he said as an American he can't support it.

Syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker still attempted to defend Gregory's misleading use of Rubio's words: "Well, people who do support it are un-American, in other words." Gregory replied: "Well, alright, maybe, but I wanted to make sure that I was precise with the language, and we said it a couple times, so I wanted to make that clarification."

Here is a transcript of the brief exchange between Capitol Hill correspondent Kelly O'Donnell and Senator Rubio that Gregory referenced, as aired on NBC Nightly News on December 12:

O'DONNELL: The conservative rift over tonight's budget compromise includes prominent GOP senators with their own political futures to consider. Florida's Marco Rubio:

O'DONNELL [TO RUBIO]: Why, as a conservative, do you believe this isn't a deal you can back?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO [R-FL]: It's not just as a conservative, I think it's as an American.

It was only after O'Donnell suggested Rubio's opposition to the deal was for political reasons that Rubio explained he was generally opposed to it as an American citizen.

Here are excerpts of Gregory from the December 15 Meet the Press:

10:36AM ET

DAVID GREGORY [TO REP. PAUL RYAN] : On the Right, my colleague Kelly O'Donnell spoke to your colleague Marco Rubio. He calls this an un-American deal....when Senator Rubio says it's un-American, is that just because he's running for president, do you think?

(...)

11:15AM ET

GREGORY [TO GOV. SCOTT WALKER]: So what I thought was significant about this is, yes, they're talking, it's more positive, government's working a little bit better. But the reaction on the Right's been pretty furious. Marco Rubio calling it un-American and un-conservative. What do you say?

(...)

11:27AM ET

GREGORY: You know, we – I wanted to clarify something, because I mentioned it a couple of times about Senator Rubio this morning. Did he call the compromise deal un-American? That's not actually what he said. We got the clarification and I wanted to make sure to do this, because I apologize for the confusion about it.

He was asked why he couldn't support the deal and he says it's not just as a conservative that he couldn't support it, it's an as American that he couldn't support it. So he didn't actually call it un-American, but he said as an American he can't support it. So that's his level of – of his opposition.

KATHLEEN PARKER [COLUMNIST]: Well, people who do support it are un-American, in other words.

GREGORY: Well, alright, maybe, but I wanted to make sure that I was precise with the language, and we said it a couple times, so I wanted to make that clarification.

(...)

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