Ex-CBS and MSNBC Executive: Meredith Vieira Faces 'Challenge' to Her Credibility

Erik Sorenson, a former CBS and MSNBC news executive, foresees a “challenge” ahead for Meredith Vieira establishing her credibility on NBC's Today in the face of her anti-war activism and so she'll have to “modulate” her on-air pontificating. On Sunday's Reliable Sources on CNN, Howard Kurtz, picking up on Vieira's anti-war comments as first noted on NewsBusters, asked Sorenson: “Meredith Vieira marched in an anti-war demonstration a couple years ago, and she said on The View that the war was 'built on lies.' Does that create a credibility problem for her when she's interviewing guests on the Today show about Iraq?" Sorenson, the President of MSNBC from 1999 through early 2004 and Executive Producer of the CBS Evening News from 1991 to 1995, responded in the affirmative: “I think it's going to be a challenge” since “she has been out there with her opinions. And that's not going to be considered appropriate on the Today show. And she will have to modify that and modulate that voice." (Transcript follows.)

Political comments may not be “appropriate” for the Today show, but that certainly hasn't inhibited Katie Couric, as illustrated by the MRC's compilation of Couric's on-air statements.

As recounted in a NewsBusters item initially posted on Wednesday (with video), Vieira, who is to replace Katie Couric in September as co-host of NBC's Today, “marched in an anti-Iraq war protest back in August of 2004" and earlier in 2004 on ABC's The View “she declared of the Iraq war: 'Everything's been built on lies. Everything! I mean the entire pretext for war.'" (A Thursday version of the item for the MRC's CyberAlert, “New Today Co-Host an Anti-War Protester: 'War Built on Lies,'" was picked up by the DrudgeReport and widely quoted.)

Friday Washington Post and New York Times stories, as recited in a Friday MRC CyberAlert article, reported Vieira's confirmation of her anti-war views and promise to keep that out of her journalism: “'There is nothing that I have said that I am ashamed of. I stand by anything that I've said,' Howard Kurtz reported she told him. She confirmed, as quoted by the New York Times, that 'I have a lot of questions about the war that other people have,' but promised 'you put that on a shelf when you're a journalist.'"

Returning from a break on the April 9 Reliable Sources, Kurtz played a clip from Vieira at NBC's Thursday press conference: “I'm going to have to be reigned in a little. It's funny. I had 20 years of news, where I never said anything. Now every other word out of my moth is orgasm, you know? I've got to, there's got to be something in between, or I'm in big trouble.”

In the segment in which former ABC News reporter Linda Douglass and former CBS Evening News Executive Producer Jim Murphy joined Sorenson, Kurtz inquired:
“Erik Sorenson, Meredith Vieira marched in an anti-war demonstration a couple years ago, and she said on The View that the war was 'built on lies.' Does that create a credibility problem for her when she's interviewing guests on the Today show about Iraq?”

Erik Sorenson: “I think it's going to be a challenge. She, you know, she talked about it herself. She used, you know, a funnier analogy [about orgasms], but she, she has been out there with her opinions. And that's not going to be considered appropriate on the Today show. And she will have to modify that and modulate that voice.”

Kurtz: “Vieira told me she was not ashamed of what she had said, but that the job of a journalist is to put your biases aside, when you're in a news role, which she will be.”
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center