Q&A: 'Meet the Press' host Chuck Todd says he's 'screaming at Roger Ailes' and explains why he invites GOP election deniers on his show
Meet the Press" host Chuck Toddexplains why his show should stay open to having GOP election deniers on it
- "We're basically the last place that can talk to both sides of the aisle," he told Insider.
Chuck Todd thinks he's doing something right, but his patience is wearing thin.
The "Meet the Press" host at NBC boasts six straight years of top ratings in the Sunday show category among the coveted demographic of viewers age 18 to 54, according to Nielsen.
Underneath the ratings success and what Todd described as a mindset shift in thinking of "Meet the Press" less as a standalone Sunday show than a multi-platform brand — "I hate using the word brand" — something remains amiss for the host of America's longest running TV show.
Todd told Insider he's "screaming under water" at the politically polarized media landscape in the US, and he continues to face criticism for inviting GOP election deniers onto the show.
He explained why he keeps inviting some of them on, but not others, and how he sees "Meet the Press" as "basically the last place that can talk to both sides of the aisle."
This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
You host the longest running show on American television. How do you see the boost it may give guests who come on for an interview, and is it the same as it was 10 or 20 years ago?
Well, I think that obviously there's a million more places that politicians show up these days, right? So that saturation certainly can dilute things.
I think what makes us different is we're basically the last place that can talk to both sides of the aisle. And there really aren't that many programs that can do that with credibility. There aren't that many programs that have an audience that wants understand
I'd like to discuss the "legitimacy" critique you get when it comes to bringing election deniers on the show. Last Sunday, you interviewed Roger Marshall, a Republican senator from Kansas. You asked him whether he regretted voting against certifying the 2020 election results on the day of the insurrection, and he gave this response littered with euphemisms and a vague notion of "election integrity." The furthest he would go when you asked him if the election was won fair and square was by saying "Joe Biden was sworn into office."
What's going through your mind as he says these things, and has your thinking changed at all over how to handle these interviews or whether to even have them at all?
Here's the thing — and it goes back to covering politics as it is and not how you wish it were — I think these people need to constantly be put on the record for what they did on January 6th. And he is somebody who is desperately trying not to be put on the record about January 6th. So I think there is more to be gained by getting them on the record about January 6th and about their refusal to accept that Biden won fair and square than to avoid talking to them at all.
Now, it depends — there are some elected officials who aren't even worthy of letting them explain the position that they have. But you've got a guy like Roger Marshall, who's a medical doctor, who has credibility, trying to fight the vaccine mandate, trying to extend the pandemic. And I always say, here, whether you like it or not, it's the voters who make these folks credible. Because they put them in office.
Has your understanding of the GOP base changed at all between 2020 and 2021?
I would say nothing has really changed. I have a clear understanding of how this is happening. We have a misinformation crisis in this country. The right wing echo-chamber is a bunch of propagandists who don't follow facts. These folks have been misled.
I have plenty of what I would call good acquaintances that I know, a couple of whom have died from COVID. And they had misinformation, and you're sitting here and you're like, these fricking people who were misinformed and misguided.
That's sort of where I enter here. There's this whole group of voters who have been intentionally misinformed and misguided. And we can sit here and yell at them for being misguided, or we can realize their communities are being saturated with this propaganda, and it's almost impossible to dispute them. So I think if we're gonna penetrate this bubble, we have gotta talk to the people who are reacting to these voters. And it's not an easy call, but you have to confront it.
Can you say more about the argument that bringing certain Republicans on the show does more harm than good?
I think it's done a lot of damage to our credibility. It has made all of the media look like they're a bunch of elitist snobs in some way, the sort of virtue signaling. Because unfortunately it's the business incentive that rewards all of this. I'm just stressed about this: I think what Fox News has done to this country — and the right-wing propaganda structure built around it — is what's tearing this country apart.
And now at the moment, when we need America to realize that democracy is at stake and your life is at stake in the pandemic, thanks to Roger Ailes' 25-year campaign to delegitimize mainstream journalism, a bunch of people are dying and our democracy, it feels fragile. Congratulations.
So the point is, we know that's why we're here, and I don't think screaming about it to people who already understand the problem is gonna solve the problem.
What do you make of the fundamental case of Roger Ailes' career, which is that mainstream institutions have a center-left bias and that there was a market opening to be filled?
Of course it always begins with roots that are accurate, right? There's no doubt coastal media comes across a little snobbish about religion, a little snobbish about guns. And if the media capital of the world were Wichita, Kansas, I guarantee you there'd be a different tone in the coverage of religion and gun ownership. That said, just because those two things are true doesn't mean it applies everywhere else. So they took those two issues and exploited them.
My frustration is — when I'm screaming under water, that's how I describe it — I'm screaming at Roger Ailes. He is the singular person who helped created this mess. You really think about it, he is patient zero.
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