While on Tuesday evening the networks hyped President Obama "talking
tough" to Russia and "belittling" them, only ABC pressed him on whether
he was wrong about Russia during the 2012 campaign.
ABC's White House correspondent Jonathan Karl asked the President, "In the light of recent developments, do you think Mitt Romney had a point when he said that Russia is America's biggest geopolitical foe?" The World News aired the clip, as well as Obama's response that Russia is only a "regional power."
while ABC at least pressed Obama on his knowledge of foreign affairs,
CBS and NBC gave him a pass. The President talked down Russia as only a
"regional power" yet the networks didn't even question that.
The CBS Evening News reported that "Mr. Obama belittled Russian president Vladimir Putin, calling Russia a 'regional power'." NBC's Brian Williams said that "the words President Obama chose today to describe Russia are getting a lot of attention tonight," and noted that Obama "went the faint praise route."
Like a stenographer, Williams simply repeated Obama's words – "A regional power" – for effect, before moving to the rest of the report.
Below are transcripts of the March 25 segments:
ABC's World News:
DIANE SAWYER: President Obama talking tough today at the high-stakes nuclear summit in Geneva. All of the world's powers gathered, except one, Russia. Disinvited because of their actions in Crimea. And President Obama seeming to speak directly to the person not at the table, Russian president Vladimir Putin. ABC's chief White House correspondent, Jon Karl, was there with questions of his own. Jon?
JONATHAN KARL: Good evening, Diane. The President is here for that nuclear summit. But all day long, the unfolding crisis in Ukraine was front and center. I had a chance to ask the President about a moment during his re-election campaign when he ridiculed the notion that Russia is America's biggest global rival.
KARL: In the light of recent developments, do you think Mitt Romney had a point when he said that Russia is America's biggest geopolitical foe? If not Russia, who?
BARACK OBAMA, president of the United States: Russia is a regional power that is threatening some of its immediate neighbors. Not out of strength. But out of weakness. Russia's actions are a problem. They don't pose the number one national security threat to the United States. I continue to be much more concerned when it comes to our security, with the prospect of a nuclear weapon going off in Manhattan.
(End Video Clip)
KARL: The President made that point after spending two days at a summit about preventing nuclear terrorism. But for all the tough talk about Russia, he also acknowledged that at this point, there is little the west can do to force Russia to leave Crimea. Diane?
CBS Evening News:
SCOTT PELLEY: Today President Obama vowed to defend NATO countries should any of them be threatened by Russia. But he all but ruled out military action to force the Russians out of Crimea, which they seized from Ukraine last week. During a news conference in the Netherlands, Mr. Obama belittled Russian president Vladimir Putin, calling Russia a regional power.
BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States: Russia's actions are a problem. They don't pose the number one national security threat to the United States. I continue to be much more concerned when it comes to our security with the prospect of a nuclear weapon going off in Manhattan.
NBC Nightly News:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Because very little of what a president says in public is unplanned, the words President Obama chose today to describe Russia are getting a lot of attention tonight. The President as you may know is meeting with other leaders at a nuclear summit overseas. Vladimir Putin is not there, and today when asked about Russia's land grab and the current tensions, the President went the faint praise route.
(End Video Clip)
BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States: America has got a whole lot of challenges. Russia is a regional power that is threatening some of its immediate neighbors. Not out of strength, but out of weakness.
WILLIAMS: A regional power. The G8 is already reducing to a G7. Russia will not host the next meeting. The President went on to say that Russia does not pose the number one security threat to the U.S. these days. Speaking with the backdrop of a nuclear conference, the President said he's much more concerned about, for example, a nuclear device going off here in Manhattan.
— Matt Hadro is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Matt Hadro on Twitter.