News and Commentary

NBC’s Chuck Todd Explains Why He’s Changed How He Reports On Republicans
Moderator Chuck Todd appears on "Meet the Press" in Washington, D.C., Sunday August 4, 2019. (Photo by: William B. Plowman/NBC/NBC Newswire/NBCUniversal via Getty Images)
William B. Plowman/NBC/NBC Newswire/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

In a revealing recent interview with Rolling Stone, Chuck Todd, host of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” discusses what led him to begin approaching Republicans and others on “the right” with more skepticism and reporting on their claims in a less “naive” way than he had in the past. In his comments, Todd indicates that he does not view Democrats and their claims in the same skeptical light.

The interview was conducted as part of an upcoming “Meet the Press” special on the “weaponization of disinformation,” which, according to Todd’s comments to the Rolling Stone, appears to approach the topic from a glaringly one-sided angle.

Asked what made him decide to devote a show to the topic of “disinformation and fake news,” Todd said it began with an interest in the impact of social media on politics, which he said is ultimately really about “misinformation.”

“This is bigger than social media,” said Todd. “The Ukraine story for me really crystallized it. And for good or bad, our show has been at the forefront of this.”

Todd then traced the topic back to what he suggested was its source: the Trump administration’s claims about his inauguration.

“The first Sunday of the Trump administration is when the phrase, ‘alternative facts’ was debuted,” he said. “It was on Meet the Press Rudy that Giuliani used the phrase ‘Truth isn’t truth.'”

“So look, whether we’d liked it or not, our platform has been used, or they’ve attempted to use our platform to essentially disseminate, or to sort of, what I would say, is lay the groundwork for this,” Todd explained.

After describing the dissemination of “misinformation” — for which he and the interviewer only give examples from the Trump administration and Republicans — as an “epidemic,” Todd addressed the issue of political advertising.

“I think our biggest problem going into 2020 is that we have two sets of standards simply on political advertising,” he said. “If you choose to advertise on cable or television, on linear television, there’s a certain set of standards on fact that you have to surpass in order to get your ad on television. Not the case on social media. And we have seen the Trump campaign literally use two different ads — one that allows them to say their misinformation about Biden in the areas that they can.”

Asked if he was “surprised by the consistency that the Trump administration was willing to spread disinformation” about the crowd size at the inauguration, Todd said yes.

“I fully admit, listening to you ask that question now, and me giving you the honest answer of, yeah, I guess I really believed they wouldn’t do this,” said Todd. “Just so absurdly naive in hindsight.”

Todd then presented his succinct summary of his view of Trump: “Donald Trump’s entire life has been spent using misinformation,” he said. “His entire life.”

But it’s not just Trump and his administration that Todd now views in what he described as a less “naive” way, it’s Republicans and everyone else on “the right.”

“The fact is, and by the way, this isn’t going to be easy to show, but I actually think when we outline this it will, the right has an incentive structure to utter the misinformation,” he said in response to a question about Republicans supposedly pushing “Russian talking points” about Ukraine. “… I do think one of the things that I want to explore on this is the incentive structure. One of the things we don’t fully appreciate in mainstream media on these attacks is that it’s become fun to attack the press, if that makes sense, on the right. It doesn’t matter if we’re right or wrong, attack them anyway.”

Throughout the interview, neither Todd nor the interviewer acknowledges even the possibility that Democrats and those on the left have spread “misinformation” and made overtly false claims on the airwaves; instead, the problem is presented as a purely Republican/right issue.

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