Chuck Todd apologized on air for ‘Meet the Press’ mistake

Your Wednesday Poynter Report

May 13, 2020
Category: Newsletters

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“Meet the Press” made a big mistake on Sunday. They made a big apology on Tuesday.

During Sunday’s show, moderator Chuck Todd set up a panel discussion by showing a clip of Attorney General William Barr on CBS. Barr was asked how his recommendation of dropping charges against former national security adviser Michael Flynn will be remembered. On the clip, Barr said, “Well, history is written by the winners so it largely depends on who is writing the history.”

That’s where the clip was cut off and where Todd asked panelist Peggy Noonan about Barr’s cynicism. Todd added, “It’s a correct answer, but he’s the attorney general. He didn’t make the case that he was upholding the rule of law. He was almost admitting that, yeah, this is a political job.”

The fact of the matter is, if “Meet the Press” had run the full clip, it would have shown that Barr did say he believed he was upholding the law. He said exactly what Todd claimed he didn’t.

On Tuesday’s “MTP Daily” on MSNBC (and his first TV appearance since Sunday), Todd addressed the issue by first explaining what had happened. Then he continued.

“Now, we did not edit that out,” Todd explained. “That was not our edit. We didn’t include it because we only saw the shorter of two clips that CBS did air. We should have looked at both and checked for a full transcript. A mistake that I wish we hadn’t made and one I wish I hadn’t made. The second part of the attorney general’s answer would have put it in the proper context. Had we seen that part of the CBS interview, I would not have framed the conversation the way I did, and I obviously am very sorry for that mistake. We strive to do better going forward.”

Give Todd credit for correcting on air. It was the right thing to do, of course, but at least he did it on the air as opposed to putting out a tweet or written statement. If you’re going to make an error that big on TV, it requires an apology on TV, and that’s exactly what Todd did.

Mistakes happen. This mistake was especially sloppy. But at least “MTP” and Todd owned up to it.

The postgame show

Dr. Anthony Fauci, who testified before the Senate on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

There was a compelling Senate hearing Tuesday with health experts talking about the reopening of the country. Dr. Anthony Fauci gave the most interesting testimony. He said there would be further “suffering and death” and economic damage if states reopen too quickly. He also said that the U.S. death toll is probably higher than the official number, which is now more than 82,000.

There was one testy exchange, between Fauci and Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.

Paul told Fauci, “As much as I respect you Dr. Fauci, I don’t think you’re the end-all, I don’t think you’re the one person that gets to make the decision. We can listen to your advice. But there are people on the other side saying there won’t be a surge and we can safely open the economy.”

Fauci responded by saying, “I never made myself out to be the end-all. I’m a scientist, a physician and a public health official. I give advice according to the best scientific evidence.”

He also took a shot at Paul by warning him not to be “cavalier” about the coronavirus’ effects on children.

While the testimony itself was worth watching — mostly because this personally impacts every one of us — the “postgame” shows are essential, too. I say “postgame” because sometimes they do feel like the postgame shows of sporting events. We get the highlights, the best and worst moments, the most controversial and then the analysis of what we saw.

Frankly, when it comes to coronavirus “postgame” coverage, CNN is the place to go. The main reason: They lean heavily on doctors, more so than other cable news networks. Dr. Sanjay Gupta has become an MVP of coronavirus coverage because of his ability to expertly analyze not only what health experts are saying, but to offer his own insight. And he does it in a way that is easily digestible to an audience that is not made up of experts in infectious diseases.

Following Tuesday’s Senate hearing, Gupta and Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, broke down Fauci’s testimony and talked about the latest coronavirus numbers, the impact of the virus on children and other important topics such as testing and social distancing.

CNN, of course, also offers up analysis with political and economic commentators, but it’s really the medical experts that set CNN’s coverage apart. And while some don’t trust much of CNN’s coverage, one cannot watch Gupta and think he’s playing a political game or showing political bias. His analysis is based on science and data and that’s what makes him so effective. And what makes CNN’s coverage worth watching.

Over on Fox News

This is not to suggest that Fox News doesn’t have medical people as guests. In fact, Fox News’ Neil Cavuto had a strong interview Tuesday with Dr. Craig Spencer, director of Global Health in Emergency Medicine at Columbia University, who had some strong comments about opening too soon. It might not have fit much of the Fox News narrative, but Spencer said we’re seeing too much reopening in states and communities where the spread of the virus is increasing.

“Everyone wants to reopen,” Spencer said. “Public health professionals, epidemiologists, everyone wants to get back to having an economy that is running again. We know the impact this is having.”

Spencer mentioned how his family is seeing decreased wages from lost jobs and fewer hours, but said, “But my concern as a public health professional is if we do this too quickly, we’re not only going to put more people at risk now, but the backlash and the impacts further on, weeks, months and maybe years later can be more substantial than the economic impact that we’re seeing now.”

What’s new on ‘The Five’

(Courtesy: Fox News)

On a day when the Senate held a hearing on a pandemic that has killed more than 80,000 Americans, Fox News’ “The Five” spent the first segment Tuesday (nearly 20 minutes) talking about Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Michael Flynn and what the chyron listed as “Obamagate.”

Co-host Jesse Watters led the conversation smoothly until Juan Williams threw a wrench into it by saying, “I think this is all a waste of government energy, resources and time when we should be focused on the coronavirus and trying to get this economy back in order.”

Watters laughed, but he hardly seemed amused when he said, “Oh, this is the waste of time and not the witch hunt of the last three years.”

It made for watchable TV, to be sure. And for a show like “The Five” that likes to create a buzz, they probably are OK with a segment being described as “watchable.”

It does seem as if the opening segment should have been about the coronavirus, but “Obamagate” obviously plays to “The Five’s” core audience.

Reporting from their homes

Let everyone get out. As we stay home.

That seems to be the message of many of the Fox News pundits who are pushing for the country to reopen sooner rather than later. For example, primetime host Laura Ingraham got on a Twitter roll Tuesday while Dr. Fauci was testifying before the Senate. Ingraham’s tweets (which you can read here, here and here, just to list a few) seemed to favor opening the country over anything said by Fauci and health/science experts.

Ingraham’s most notable tweet: “What @RandPaul did today at the hearing was the clearest, most concise, informed, practical response to the unaccountable COVID health experts & shutdowns I’ve heard from any elected official. Freedom. Period.”

Freedom PERIOD? Does that mean freedom is the only thing that matters?

Anyway, it should be noted that while many of the Fox News personalities are pushing for the country to reopen, CNN’s Brian Stelter broke the story that Fox News executives have extended the company’s work from home directive through June 15, and that that date could be pushed back further.

No more union in Cleveland

If Advance Local, owner of The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, was trying to bust up the newspaper’s union, it succeeded. Advance, of course, denies union-busting, but the fact of the matter is it laid off the last four journalists at the unionized Plain Dealer and offered them jobs at Cleveland.com, the non-union sister news outlet.

In a statement released on Twitter on Tuesday, the Plain Dealer News Guild wrote, “After more than 80 years of union membership, Plain Dealer journalists will no longer be represented by Local 1. The unit will be dissolved effective May 17. The PD newsroom will no longer exist.”

Check out my story on the end of the union in Cleveland, as well as a story written a couple of weeks ago by my colleague, Poynter media business analyst Rick Edmonds, who hinted at this moment.

It does appear to be the end of an era. The Guild said, “To those Guild members who came before us: We are sorry. To the city and people of Cleveland and Northeast Ohio: We will miss you. We did our best.”

Standing up for Asian and Asian American journalists

(Courtesy: NBC News)

NBC Asian America, which is a part of NBCNews.com, will host a virtual town hall today at 4:30 p.m. Eastern to examine the rise of racism against Asian Americans during the coronavirus pandemic, as well as what can be done about it. The town hall will include a panel of experts and will be streamed on NBC Asian America’s website, NBC News’ Twitter and Facebook pages and can also be streamed on Peacock, NBCUniversal’s new streaming service.

Meanwhile, there was a full-page ad in Monday’s Washington Post showing support for Asian American journalists. The ad said, “We need a diverse news media to bring us the truth. … We call for the full protection of Asian and Asian American journalists from racially-motivated attacks.” The ad was sponsored by The Washington Post Press Freedom Partnership, which is made up of several press freedom and press advocacy groups.

Media tidbits

Fox Business News host Maria Bartiromo. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

  • Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo will interview President Donald Trump on Thursday morning during her “Mornings with Maria” show. The interview will air during the 7 a.m. Eastern hour and is expected to cover topics such as the latest coronavirus news, the relationship between the U.S. and China, the reopening of the economy and Michael Flynn.
  • Joe Biden will join Lawrence O’Donnell’s MSNBC show Thursday night at 10 p.m. Eastern. Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams also will join the show in what MSNBC calls her first TV interview along with Biden.
  • Carolyn Reidy, CEO of Simon & Schuster, died of a heart attack Tuesday. She was 71. Simon & Schuster executive vice president, operations and CFO Dennis Eulau said, “Carolyn was both an exemplary leader and supremely talented visionary publishing executive.” Reidy had been with S&S since 1992. She had been CEO since 2008.
  • New White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany held a coronavirus press conference on Tuesday. Only Fox News and C-SPAN 3 carried it live. McEnany’s press conference came after the Senate hearing on the coronavirus and a day after President Trump had another heated exchange with members of the media during a coronavirus press conference.

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Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at tjones@poynter.org.

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