Contessa Brewer: MSNBC Audition Like 'Marine Corps Obstacle Course;' Whines About Guests 'With An Agenda'

In an interview on MediaBistro.com's 'Media Beat,' MSNBC anchor Contessa Brewer told TVNewser editor Kevin Allocca about the cable network's high standards in its audition process: "...it's got to be like the Marine Corps obstacle course in order to land this job." She later complained about "difficult" guests: "When someone comes on with an agenda and their agenda is to take you down."

Allocca asked Brewer about some her toughest interviews. She responded by describing certain guests who "come on and they are prepared to be challenging and to be difficult." Two examples came to her mind, former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Republican Senator Judd Gregg.

In recalling a January interview with Gregg, Brewer whined about how "it was a difficult interview to conduct." In reality, Gregg simply pointed out Brewer's liberal bias on the issue of government spending, after she equated Republican calls for less spending with cutting off funding for schools. Gregg pointed out that she was "being fundamentally dishonest" in her reporting.    

During the Media Beat interview, she said of guests like Gregg: "...when you have guests on who are difficult or if they're – if they're sticking they're heels in the ground and they're really – you just end it, you move on."

Here is a transcript of the first part of the Media Beat interview posted July 5 on TVNewser.com:
KEVIN ALLOCCA: Hello, and welcome to MediaBistro.com's Media Beat. We're here today with Contessa Brewer and I'm Kevin Allocca, the editor of TVNewser. Thanks for joining us, Contessa.

CONTESSA BREWER: I have never heard you're name pronounced, I'm glad to know it.

ALLOCCA: Really, Allocca?

BREWER: Yes.

ALLOCCA: So, Contessa is an anchor at MSNBC and we're going to talk a little about you're career and how you got there.

BREWER: Okay.

ALLOCCA: And like a lot of newscasters, you sort of spent some time making the rounds at some local stations, and I'm kind of wondering how did you make that jump to a major network?

BREWER: Um, I went through unemployment first. That was – that was a big part of getting the job at MSNBC. Because, I had applied for a lot of jobs at stations in Boston and Los Angeles and Houston and Phoenix and there were – some of those stations, I thought, would have been a good fit for me and it just – it didn't happen.

And then my agent said MSNBC was interested and I went through a wicked audition process. I mean, this audition at MSNBC, I think, has become famous, because it is – it's like – it's got to be like the Marine Corps obstacle course in order to land this job, yeah. I re-wrote a lot of my scripts for this, I'm thinking I'm big stuff, right? I'm tackling the scripts for this audition and as soon as you launch into the script they're in your ear and they're throwing breaking news at you and they want you to jungle [juggle] it. And the thing is, is that in local news, you don't juggle breaking news like you do in cable news. So – well, I must have – I finished the obstacle course because I landed the job, but I'll tell you, I've never been through an audition like that.

ALLOCCA: Really?

BREWER: Yeah.

ALLOCCA: I read that you had an academic background in politics, also. Do you think that that's been an asset for you since you've been there?

BREWER: Absolutely, I mean, you know, I studied politics in college. I went to Europe and I studied European politics. And I never – once you were in local news – I never really anticipated that I was going to use it. Here, there are – there's really an opportunity to dive in and to see politics in action and see the storyline develop and get to know the players in a way that I just never could have imagined.

ALLOCCA: I'm sure you've used – put that to use a lot in a lot of interviews that you've done and I'm kind of wondering which do feel like was one of the toughest ones that you've had to do?

BREWER: Political interview?

ALLOCCA: Or any sort of interview, actually.

BREWER: Well, I think – I mean the hard thing is I do have some guests who are – they come on and they are prepared to be challenging and to be difficult, those are always the hardest interviews. When someone comes on with an agenda and their agenda is to take you down.

You know, it's challenging when you're dealing with someone who is so well-prepared on a specific topic, you know, that they're the expert and they've spent they're whole lives diving into a certain subject and you have to play Devil's advocate with them and challenge them on something that, you know, you spend, at best, hours preparing for.

You know, I had a pretty intense interview with Michael Chertoff, back when he was the Homeland Security secretary. I had – you know there was an interview with Judd Gregg recently, where I think, you know, I think what he was expecting out of the interview and what we – and my partner at the time was Melissa Francis, when we were doing 'It's the Economy' – I think that was a – you know, it was a difficult interview to conduct. But you know, usually, when you have guests on who are difficult or if they're – if they're sticking they're heels in the ground and they're really – you just end it, you move on.  
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC