Local Commentary

Editorial: Chuck Todd’s Fear of Liars

It’s something that almost every thinking American knows intuitively, but when it gets said out loud on national TV by the host of “Meet the Press,” it slaps one upside the head as astonishing and almost beyond belief. How could NBC’s “Meet the Press” anchor Chuck Todd admit on his show this Sunday that journalists like himself cannot put tough questions to their guests, because if they did, the guests would walk away and not come back.

Todd was in a chat with three comedians on “Meet the Press” last Sunday. Lewis Black asked Todd why he allows guests to babble on with their talking points and doesn’t “bark” at them, that is, call them out when they’re bending the truth, being outright contradictory or blatantly lying.
“We all sit there, because we all know, the first time we bark is the last time that they do the show. You say something, and sometimes it is the last time they will ever come on your show. There’s that balance,” Todd said.

Balance? Here’s a case of institutional cowardice that has grown to epic proportions and the victims are not only human victims of lying, but truth, itself.

When is the last time you’ve heard some real verbal fisticuffs between a probing truth-telling journalist and a slimy politician on national TV? It doesn’t happen, and when a journalist last January tried posing a truth-probing question to a U.S. congressman who was subsequently found guilty of illegal campaign contribution practices, the congressman threatened to throw the reporter over the balcony from the third floor of the rotunda in the Cannon House building.

A Republican from Staten Island, a former Marine and FBI agent, Rep. Michael Grimm told reporter Michael Scotto on NY1 News after Scotto asked a question about the Justice Department investigation, “Let me be clear to you: If you ever do that to me again, I’ll throw you off this f***ing balcony.” When Scotto replied that he was “just trying to ask a valid question,” Grimm roared back, “No, no. You’re not man enough, you’re not man enough. I’ll break you in half, like a boy.”

Now, maybe this is what Todd means by “balance.” He’s afraid of losing his balance by being heaved off a balcony if he dares demand the truth.

Part of the problem, Jason Easely of PoliticusUSA.com wrote, is that Republicans and right wingers can always fall back on Fox News. “It is a common practice for Republicans to avoid any outlet that will challenge their falsehoods and talking points. Republicans have Fox News, so unless they are treated like they would be on Fox, they avoid mainstream media interviews.”

“What people like Todd don’t understand is that by letting guests get away with saying things that aren’t true, they are permanently damaging the credibility of the press and fueling distrust of the media,” he wrote.