Gregory Out, Todd In At Meet The Press

[ Posted Thursday, August 14th, 2014 – 17:21 UTC ]

Well, it looks like this time around, the rumors turned out to be true. David Gregory is leaving his hosting gig on Meet The Press, and will be replaced by Chuck Todd. Perhaps NBC has some sort of "only people with two first names can host" rule, or something. By this rule, it seems like Andrea Mitchell might have qualified, but Rachel Maddow would have had to have been named something like "Rachel Margaret" to really have had a shot at it.

Ahem. Sorry, that was a little frivolous, wasn't it? I apologize, but it's hard not to be just a tiny bit giddy about the news, since I've been calling on NBC to get rid of David Gregory as host for quite a while now (I've even previously devoted two entire articles to the subject). I explain my reasoning in the first of these (entitled "Please Demote David Gregory, NBC") thusly:

It has been obvious from the day he took over Meet The Press that Gregory just isn't up to the task. He proves, week after week, that he is absolutely incapable of asking any sort of intelligent followup question whatsoever. He couldn't do so if his very life depended on it. The proof of this is the fact that from time to time, politicians (being politicians) say something stupid, demonstrably false, laughably out-of-touch, or some other category of "newsworthiness" -- and Gregory doesn't even realize it. A newsworthy quote smacks him in the face, and Gregory does nothing more than blink his eyes and move on. Instead of focusing in on whatever newsworthy statement was just made, Gregory looks down at his list and asks the next question his aides have prepared for him. Over and over again, Gregory has to be told -- after the fact -- that news has broken right under his very nose. This is the reason he simply is not qualified to host Meet The Press -- he has no appreciable knowledge base and breathtakingly little intellectual curiosity, which should be two of the main job requirements, really.

I wrote this almost exactly a year ago, and I feel that it is still a valid critique. Gregory's awfulness has many facets, but this is the most glaringly obvious of them all: he's just not a wonk. The job requires wonkiness. Therefore, he was never a good fit for it (no matter how nice his hair looked).

I realize that writing about Gregory (for a third time, now) breaks one of my cardinal rules for blogging. When I first began this blog, I wrote down (and posted, of course) the rules I would try to live by in my writing. Which included:

One other sinkhole I promise to avoid is engaging in gratuitous flamewars (blogwars?) with other bloggers, or other media types. Much of what I read on popular blogs is merely "gotcha-ism" personally directed against other bloggers, or mainstream media types. I find these tempests-in-a-teapot boring, myself, and hope never to get dragged into such a contest.

I generally try to hew to this rule (I don't think I've ever been in a flamewar with another blogger, for instance), but at times these things rise to the level of "begging for commentary," and Gregory's continued existence as Meet The Press host fits that bill, for me at least.

The programming bigwigs at NBC have finally realized they bet on a losing horse with their choice of David Gregory. For this, we can all now thank them (while simultaneously wondering just what the heck took them so long to reach this painfully obvious conclusion). I have to give myself a pat on the back for correctly identifying his replacement, last year, when I wrote:

The first name that springs to mind [to replace David Gregory] is Chuck Todd, in fact. His interviewing skills aren't normally his strong point, but he is pretty much steeped in the minutiae of politics, and would be able to challenge nonsense from politicians without even referring to his notes.

I also listed a few other possibilities (Lester Holt, Andrea Mitchell, Rachel Maddow), ending with "the show would still measurably improve with [as host] just about anyone else wandering the hallways at NBC News."

Which brings us to the subject of Chuck Todd. Many people are already disappointed with this selection, for various demographic reasons (no diversity, another white male, etc.). Others bear Todd a grudge for a few idiotic things he's said on the air in the past (most notably, commenting that it wasn't his job to question politicians' statements for accuracy). And of course there's a large contingent who is massively disappointed that Rachel Maddow didn't get the slot, since she is the most razor-sharp interviewer in the entire NBC/MSNBC stable.

Personally, I'm going to give Todd a chance as Meet The Press host. Let's see what he is truly capable of before prematurely writing him off as a disappointment. It's a new job, and it's only fair to give the guy a chance -- that's my thinking, at any rate.

I originally noticed Chuck Todd during the 2008 presidential race, when he was the "numbers guy" for NBC. He was the one who dug through all the polling data and tried to present it to the viewers in understandable fashion. This can be a tough job, especially if you ultimately make the wrong call. Todd, more so than his counterparts on other networks, was faithful to the data he was given. He didn't allow the inside-the-Beltway "conventional wisdom" to overcome what the polls were actually telling him. He was a trustworthy wonk -- and, coming from me, that is high praise indeed. I even bought the book he wrote after the election, which is more of a database printout than an actual book -- it gives the breakdown, state-by-state, of the demographics and voting preferences, and is a wonderful resource to have when comparing any future election to Barack Obama's first.

Todd then rose to head the Washington bureau for NBC News, a job which provides him with a lot more face time. He has never seemed as comfortable in this position as he was as numbers guy, but he hasn't been terrible at it either. Other than a few times when he made some inane off-the-cuff statements, he's done a decent job. Which earns him the benefit of the doubt as to how he'll do at Meet The Press.

The difference between David Gregory and Chuck Todd can be measured in I.Q. points. Todd is demonstrably more intelligent than Gregory. He will be able to realize when a politician is flat-out lying to him, because he will have retained personal knowledge of the facts which prove it. He will also likely be able to realize during an interview when some politician goes out on a limb and says something newsworthy. He will, in short, be able to ask a follow-up question. And that, for now, is good enough to improve Meet The Press. In the future, I may not like everything Todd says and I may have other complaints about the show, but I have to say I don't expect them to be of the same magnitude as the complaints (shared by millions) about David Gregory. To put this another way, I doubt I'll ever again devote a full column to calling for NBC to switch hosts. I could be wrong about that, but for now I'm feeling a lot better about the time I have to spend (to keep up to date on the political scene) watching Meet The Press every Sunday morning.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


One Comment on “Gregory Out, Todd In At Meet The Press

  1. [1] 
    akadjian wrote:

    Todd would definitely "be able" to. The question is whether he will.

    Todd so far as I can see hasn't shown much will to challenge people who might be on his show.

    I guess you can't get much worse than David Gregory though so the bar's pretty low to clear.


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