Nel's New Day

January 2, 2020

To Chuck Todd: Don’t ‘Leave It There’

For over five years, Chris Todd, moderator of Meet the Press, has spread misinformation on the once-respected Sunday MSNBC news show, first about 2016 elections and then after the inauguration of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) as Todd failed to push against Kellyanne Conway’s “alternate facts.” Since then, he has gulped down gob swallop and pushed it off on the public, much like Fox network does. Perhaps he has had an epiphany: in a Rollling Stone interview, Todd admitted he’s a failure at his job, and career, by confessing he was “just so absurdly naive” about how far Republican officials would go to spread DDT’s and Vladimir Putin’s lies and disinformation. Seemingly surprised, Todd said:

“[DDT’s] entire life has been spent using misinformation. His entire life. I’ve spent years studying him now on trying to figure out how did this guy even learn politics? Where did he learn? And the more you learn, you realize he learned at the feet of a master of deception in Roy Cohn. So I mean, look, if people want to read my answer to your question, ‘Boy, that Chuck Todd was hopelessly naive.’ Yeah, it looks pretty naive. I think we all made the mistake of not following Toni Morrison’s advice, which is when people tell you who they are, believe them.”

[The “advice” actually came from Maya Angelou.]

As an example of his “naiveté,” Todd said he was “genuinely shocked” when Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) lied about Ukraine interfering with the 2016 election, the third senator to use Todd’s Sunday program to deliver Putin’s propaganda. On Meet the Press, truth isn’t truth,” a statement Todd permitted DDT’s private lawyer Rudy Giuliani to claim without follow-up. NYU media professor described Todd’s acceptance of lies as “strategic blindness”:

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

Todd’s annual salary for ratings from disinformation is $750,000. In a coverup for buying into GOP propaganda, Todd claimed confusion about the motivations of GOP office holders spreading easily disproved lies:

“I don’t get why so many people are comfortable uttering stuff that they may know will look ridiculous in three or four years.”

Yet Todd has permitted Republicans to pass along the “ridiculous” stuff. Jay Rosen also wrote:

“Three years after Kellyanne Conway introduced the doctrine of ‘alternative facts’ on his own program, a light went on for Chuck Todd. Republican strategy, he now realized, was to make stuff up, spread it on social media, repeat it in your answers to journalists — even when you know it’s a lie with crumbs of truth mixed in — and then convert whatever controversy arises into go-get-em points with the base, while pocketing for the party a juicy dividend: additional mistrust of the news media to help insulate President Trump among loyalists when his increasingly brazen actions are reported as news.”

Another cover up was Todd’s attempt to change the Rolling Stone’s term “disinformation” to “misinformation,” pretending that U.S. senators are poorly informed instead of deliberately misleading the public through using Russian “disinformation.” Possibly to redeem his shredded reputation, Todd used “misinformation” as the theme for his year-end program. Ignoring the smear tactics of Joe McCarthy’s witch hunt for Communists and any other Republicans, Todd relied on two Democratic presidents, Lyndon Johnson and Bill Clinton, to show that the lying isn’t new. His narrative twice used Clinton’s statement “it depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is” to Rudy Giuliani’s saying, “Truth isn’t truth.” He also equated the GOP consistent lying, especially using Russian talking points, to a group of Democrats mistakenly using false evidence about Russian Twitter bots to elect Doug Jones in the Alabama Senate race.

Meet the Press supposedly works for a balance between the two major political parties, but under Chuck Todd it became a sounding board for the lies of the far right. When he started this gig, Todd said he couldn’t ask hard questions because guests might not come on the show. His posture was far different from ethical hosts preceding him.

In 2014, soon after he became Meet the Press host, Todd supported the campaign for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) during a segment on Morning Joe. In commenting on the refusal of Alison Lundergan Grimes, McConnell’s Democratic opponent, to answer questions about whether she voted for President Obama, Todd sneered:

“And Kentuckians expect her to cast a tough vote on anything? Is she ever gonna answer a tough question on anything? You wanna be a U.S. senator? If you can’t find a way to stand behind your party’s president … you can disagree with him but you can’t answer a basic question and you come across looking that ridiculous? I think she disqualified herself.”

McConnell used Todd and the word “disqualified” in a campaign video although Todd never specifically explained how Grimes “disqualified herself.” And Todd showed how Republicans should support DDT at any cost to the United States.

Before the same election when he was hosting Meet the Press, Todd praised Iowa’s GOP Senate candidate, Joni Ernst, for refusing to answer questions from any local newspaper boards and for her extreme position on “personhood.” Todd claimed the amendment would protect “unborn human beings.”

Earlier, Todd said that it’s not the media’s responsibility to correct lies, for example about the Affordable Care Act. Todd says that President Obama should have better messaging; on his program, Todd permitted then House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) deliver his “messaging” by accepting Boehner’s lies about the ACA. Todd accepted Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) lies about taxes and couldn’t understand how funding for infrastructure can save people’s lives. Todd also thought that Sen. Jim Inhofe’s (R-OK) stunt with a snowball as proof against climate change was fun. 

Asked why 62 percent of his guests were white men, Todd said that it was because “you want to put the best, smartest people on.” After a white man killed nine black people in the Charleston (SC) church, Todd’s segment about convicted murderers showed only imprisoned black men. His book, The Stranger, blamed President Obama for income inequality, instability in the Middle East, and partisanship but ignored McConnell’s vow to block everything that Barack Obama did.

While Todd’s wife campaigned for presidential candidate Jim Webb in 2016, Todd asked Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) about the “trustworthiness” of Webb’s opponent Hillary Clinton and claimed that “there’s something just not quite right” about her campaign. In a hatchet job on candidate Sanders, Todd called him “pro-NRA” before saying that the U.S. had enough gun safety laws. Yet Todd let DDT waffle about his creating a controversy about whether Barack Obama was born in the United States. The list goes on about Todd’s agist, bigoted, racist complicity with far-right conspiracists and conspiracy theories.

Todd has not only been “naïve” while on Meet the Press; he was NBC’s political director for the previous seven years with influence over all coverage and supposedly the in-house expert on politics. Four years before DDT was elected, moderately conservatives Tom Mann and Norm Ornstein wrote:

“The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”

The first principle of the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics is “Seek Truth and Report It.” Todd fails on both these points. Todd not only allows smear campaigns against Democrats on his program but also joins in to the attacks. Now Todd says that he was hornswoggled by learning that his GOP guests lie, but where will he go from here? Back to playing dumb to disinformation? Back to allowing lies to keep his salary?  

Republican Jennifer Rubin wrote about “one party operating with an objective that is antagonistic toward any and all facts unfavorable to its leader and the other trying, however imperfectly, to adhere to the old, normal rules of politics in which spin and self-puffery are permissible but out-and-out lies (especially more than 15,000 of them) are not.” Her solutions:

Screen guests and panelists about their disinformation: This solution would result in “howls” because most Republicans couldn’t get on the air, “not of media bias but of a party determined to sublimate truth to power,” with explanations for not allowing Republicans to speak on specific topics is easier in print such as  “Cruz lied, again insisting Ukraine. …”

Stop interviews when guests insist on lying: The host could call a halt and ask guests to correct the record before ending the interviews if guests refuse and explain that the program doesn’t provide “a platform for misinformation.”

Prerecord interviews: This system permits refusal to air propaganda or fact-check in real time what the guests statements—a simple approach for Sunday “news” shows.

“Avoid equating liars with truth tellers and giving ‘equal time’ to fabrications”: This approach is vital with “one party … an echo chamber for Russian propaganda.”

The first principle of the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics is “Seek Truth and Report It.” As “news program” host, Todd not only promotes smear campaigns but contributes to them. His standard response to GOP lies is “We’ll have to leave it there.” No, you don’t!

[Note: Three days from now, Todd will likely listen to Republicans praising DDT for starting World War III in the Middle East.]

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