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Originally published Tuesday, May 20, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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White House accuses NBC of distorting Bush interview

The White House launched an unusual attack on a national news network Monday for its editing of an interview with President Bush, who in...

The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — The White House launched an unusual attack on a national news network Monday for its editing of an interview with President Bush, who in a controversial speech compared negotiations with Iran to the appeasement of Nazis.

In a letter to NBC News President Steve Capus, presidential counselor Ed Gillespie complained the "Today" show distorted Bush's remarks last week to the Israeli Knesset and did not include the president's objections to questions from reporter Richard Engel.

NBC News said in a statement the story "accurately reflects the interview" and questioned the White House's criticisms.

The dispute illustrates the reverberations from Bush's speech Thursday, in which he compared those who seek talks with Iran and radical Islamic groups to those who gave in to the Nazis before World War II.

"We have an obligation to call this what it is — the false comfort of appeasement," Bush said.

Although Bush did not mention Sen. Barack Obama, the remarks were widely seen as an attack on the Democratic presidential front-runner, who has said he would be willing to talk with Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad without preconditions during his first year in office.

The main point of contention with NBC was a question from Engel: "You said that negotiating with Iran is pointless and then you went further. You're saying — you said that it was appeasement. Were you referring to Sen. Barack Obama? He certainly thought you were."

On the segment aired Monday, Bush is shown responding: "You know, my policies haven't changed, but evidently the political calendar has."

But that was just part of a longer answer that included Bush telling Engel: "You didn't get it exactly right, either," and noting he was talking about al-Qaida, Hezbollah and Hamas, as well as Iran.

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