White House Objects to NBC News Interview with Bush

By Ed O'Keefe

May 19, 2008 6:03pm

ABC News’ Jennifer Duck Reports: White House Counselor Ed Gillespie sent a scathing letter to NBC News President Steve Capus criticizing the editing of Richard Engel’s interview with President Bush in the Middle East amongst other comments made on NBC News.

Gillespie’s letter was emailed as a "Setting the Record Straight" press release to a broad political email list and was posted on the White House website. But the release was unusual because it came from one of the president’s top aides personally, was written in a furious tone and included a request to re-air the responses in full.

In the letter, Gillespie wrote, "This deceitful editing to further a media-manufactured storyline is utterly misleading and irresponsible and I hereby request in the interest of fairness and accuracy that the network air the President’s responses to both initial questions in full on the two programs that used the excerpts."

NBC News released a statement in response saying, "Richard Engel’s interview with President Bush has been available, unedited, in it’s entirety, for the past day, on our website. Our reporting accurately reflects the interview.  Just as the White House does not participate in the editorial process at the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal or USA Today, NBC News as part of a free press in a free society, makes its own editorial decisions."

The edited excerpts which aired on the Today Show and NBC Nightly News involve Engel questioning President Bush about his speech to Israel’s parliament and whether President Bush was referring to Barack Obama when talking about appeasement and Iran.

At the end of the letter Gillespie said, "Mr. Capus, I’m sure you don’t want people to conclude that there is really no distinction between the "news" as reported on NBC and the "opinion" as reported on MSNBC, despite the increasing blurring of those lines," and took the opportunity to bash MSNBC hosts Matthews and Keith Olbermann.

The president’s counselor also asked if the network has "reconsidered its position that Iraq is in the midst of a civil war…" since according to Gillespie NBC "quietly stopped referring to conditions in Iraq as ‘Civil War ‘" in 2007.

Gillespie also took time to address his complaints with NBC’s reporting on the economy.

On the NBC "Nightly News" today, anchor Brian Williams addressed the issue and told viewers that Engel’s interview is available in its entirety on the MSNBC Web site.

However, that wasn’t good enough for Gillespie.

After the broadcast he issued another statement saying, "…it’s simply absurd for people to have to log onto the Internet and stream video to get accurate information from NBC News."

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