One Last Time: Bye-Bye Tom Brokaw!

January 27th, 2021 8:45 AM

On Friday, Tom Brokaw formally retired from NBC News. If you are confused, it’s because he already had one retirement when he vacated the NBC Nightly News anchor chair for Brian Williams back in 2004. But like a college professor who awkwardly still hung out with kids decades younger than him, he hung around the NBC offices in an Anchor Emeritus role. Some of those “kids” like Chuck Todd, Peter Alexander and Willie Geist said their goodbyes over the weekend. 

Newspaper headlines touted Brokaw as a “broadcasting legend,” while he was toasted on Twitter as a “national treasure.” On Monday’s Today, Hoda Kotb boasted her colleague was “a titan in journalism, an icon here at NBC.” New York Times critic James Poniewozik wistfully remembered the era when Brokaw, Dan Rather and Peter Jennings had huge influence over the public: “They were in a way like world luminaries in themselves.”

Occasionally we’d hear from Mr. Brokaw at the MRC. Like that one time at a July 25, 2004 forum at Harvard University’s School of Government where he complained: “There are organized interest groups out there. There’s a guy by the name of Brent Bozell, who makes a living at, you know, taking us on every night. He’s well-organized, he’s got a constituency, he’s got a newsletter. He can hit a button and we’ll hear from him.”

And, while Brokaw was never as obnoxious as today’s outspoken liberal hosts (think: CNN’s Don Lemon and Chris Cuomo, or MSNBC’s Joy Reid and Rachel Maddow), he certainly used his perch at NBC to promote a liberal view of politics. For a reality check, we here at NewsBusters offer on last compilation of Brokaw’s biased tenure at NBC News via the MRC’s archives:




Trumpers Want Wall Because They’re Afraid of “Brown Grandbabies”



“On the Republican side, a lot of people see the rise of an extraordinary, important, new constituent in American politics, Hispanics, who will come here and all be Democrats. Also, I hear, when I push people a little harder, ‘Well, I don’t know whether I want brown grandbabies.’” 

— Former NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw on NBC’s Meet the Press, January 27, 2019.


DACA Just Latest Attack in GOP’s “War on Hispanics”



“I think what happened is a continuation of the Republican determination to cut out Hispanic votes on their side, for as long as we can see....For a long, long time, the Republican Party has been declaring war on Hispanics in this country.”

— Former NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, September 6, 2017.


Saying Farewell to Obama’s “Scandal Free” White House 

“He’s been scandal free, frankly, in the White House. We haven’t had that for a while.”

— Former NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw after Obama’s farewell address, January 10, 2017.


More Guns = “More Homegrown Acts of Terror”



“An elementary school in Connecticut, a junior college in Oregon, a Virginia college, a South Carolina church and so many other places across the country, inner cities that are ablaze with gunfire....I’m a long time gun owner. I have a closet full of guns. I got my first one when I was ten years of age. I’m still active in sports shooting. But I’m appalled by the determination of organizations and individuals to arm more people without any appreciation of the consequence of ever-more lethal weapons in our midst. More guns and more firearm tolerance will mean more homegrown acts of terror.”

— Former NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw’s commencement address at the University of Mississippi, May 14, 2016.


Fighting Communism Just a Weird “National Obsession”



“In Korea, Cuba, Vietnam, and space, the U.S. spared little to defeat communism — at times, it seemed like a national obsession.”

— Former NBC anchor Tom Brokaw in a segment aired during NBC’s Olympic coverage, February 15, 2014


Obama’s Failures Caused by Fox News and Talk Radio

“A lot of this [Obama’s poor relationship with congressional Republicans] also has to do with the fact that he gets hammered 24/7 by Fox News on the right and by talk radio which is a huge voice in this country. I was in the Midwest the other day listening to talk radio, I don’t know who the guy was, but he’s saying ‘Obama’s voters are people who live in excrement,’ that was his phrase, ‘and they expect us to lift them out of excrement. I’m not going to lift a hand.’ That was the kind of language that was going on. At some point that penetrates.”

— Tom Brokaw on PBS’s Charlie Rose, November 4, 2014.


Gun Owners Just Like The KKK



“It reminds me a lot of what happened in the South in the 1960s during the civil rights movement. Good people stayed in their houses and didn’t speak up when there was carnage in the streets and the total violation of the fundamental rights of African-Americans as they marched in Selma, and they let Bull Connor and the redneck elements of the South and the Klan take over their culture in effect and become the face of it. And now a lot of people who I know who grew up during that time have deep regrets about not speaking out.”

— Ex-NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw discussing gun rights advocates in the wake of Newtown shooting as aired on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, January 17, 2013.


Poor Obama, Facing So Many Problems All At Once

Co-host Matt Lauer: “You said that you haven’t, in your memory, you can’t recall a time where a president has faced a confluence of events, like the confluence of events taking place right now. Just explain that.”

Ex-Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw: “Well, in my adult lifetime. Certainly FDR did have these challenges. But in my adult lifetime and as a reporter, here you have a president who has two wars underway, is engaged in really what is a third war....And then we have, here at home, a recession that we cannot completely get out of yet. And political paralysis in Washington over the budget. All of that has arrived at, at the Oval Office, at the same time.”

— NBC’s Today, March 29, 2011.


Tom Channels His Inner Hippie

“The vital signs of your mother - Mother Earth - have taken a turn for the worse....How we live on a smaller planet with many more people is a reality that will define your generation for the rest of your lives....We need you to celebrate one another in a common cause of restoring economic justice and true value, advancing racial and religious tolerance, creating a healthier planet.”

— Tom Brokaw giving the commencement address at Fordham University, May 16, 2009.


Cheney Exiting Like “Dr. Strangelove” 

“It’s unfortunate for Vice President Cheney to have had this accident....There will be those who don’t like him, who will be writing tomorrow that he had a Dr. Strangelove appearance as he appeared today in his wheelchair. It’s not something he’ll be happy about.”

— NBC’s Tom Brokaw during live Barack Obama inauguration coverage, January 20, 2009.


Farewell to the Unpopular Dictator

“You know what it [Obama’s inauguration] reminds me of? It reminds me of the Velvet Revolution. I was in Prague when that happened. And Vaclav Havel was a generational leader and was in the square in Prague and the streets were filled with joy. And we’re not overthrowing a communist regime here, obviously, but an unpopular President is leaving and people have been waiting for this moment.”

— NBC’s Tom Brokaw during live coverage prior to Obama’s inauguration, January 20, 2009.


Take That, You Rednecks!

“I just want to say one thing. Having been in the South in the ’60s and Los Angeles, in Watts and northern urban areas, when we were evolving as a country, I’m thinking of all the bigots and rednecks and people I met along the way. I’m saying to them, ‘Take this.’ You know?”

—NBC’s Tom Brokaw talking about Obama's inauguration on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, January 20, 2009.


“Fair” Tom Slams “Mindless” Radio

“Over the years, I always tried to be the one person wherever I was working that would give a fair representation of what was happening, and then I hoped a reasonable and intelligent analysis or insight into why it was happening. And I’ve been comforted over the years that people on the far left and people on the far right have said to me, ‘What party are you in, anyway? I have never been able to figure it out.’ [laughter] And I’d say, ‘That’s exactly the reaction I want you to have.’”

— Retired NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw on PBS’s Tavis Smiley, November 12, 2007.

“My problem with the whole spectrum [of talk radio] is there is not — you know what Rush’s, what his whole drill is. He doesn’t want to hear another point of view. Except his. That’s my issue....The problem with talk radio is they mock anyone else’s point of view, and they do it often in a mindless fashion. You know that as well as I do. Because it’s a hot button for the choir that’s listening to them, and it works for them commercially. There are very few programs like you, like yours, in which you’ll interview people across the political spectrum. It’s mostly go out there and hit the hot button all day long.”

— Brokaw on Laura Ingraham’s radio show, November 26, 2007.


THE ANCHOR YEARS (1983-2004)


Reflecting on Retrograde Reagan

“Ronald Reagan put a sunny disposition on conservatism. He is the Godfather of the modern political conservative movement in this country. It drove liberals crazy that he could be as successful as he was. Even Ronald Reagan's close friends and advisors will say on the issue of race, for example, he was stuck in the late 1930s, early 1940s. He could be stubborn, sometimes to a fault. He was much too slow to respond to the AIDS crisis.”

— NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw recalling Ronald Reagan during a two-hour Dateline retrospective on his 40-year reporting career, November 26, 2004.


Brokaw’s Left-Wing Neighborhood

“I was in Texas just last night doing something at the Baker Institute, Jim Baker, the former Secretary of State...and there were a lot of questions about the liberal bias of the networks and mainstream media. And I said come with me to New York [City] and walk to the West side and hear what they have to say about the conservative bias of what we’re doing. We’re the ones who are responsible for the election of George Bush. ‘Don’t you realize that he stole the election four years ago? How could you allow him to invade Iraq the way that he did?’”

NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, November 16, 2004.


Tom Denounces Anti-CBS “Jihad”

“What I think is highly inappropriate is what's going on across the Internet, a kind of political jihad against Dan Rather and CBS News that is quite outrageous because when it comes to fraudulence and forgery and claims that cannot be supported, that’s where you see an enormous harm being done, I think, to real discourse in this country....There’s an attempt to tee up CBS News, I think, in a greatly exaggerated and disproportionate fashion, and I think it drives too much of what’s going on in this country in terms of political discourse.”

— NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw at an October 2, 2004 New Yorker Festival forum shown on C-SPAN the next day.

“Brent Bozell has, you know, an entire organization devoted to doing as much damage, and I choose that word carefully, as he can to the credibility of the news divisions. And now, on the Left, there are the young bloggers out there ....These three aging white men are stuck somewhere in the middle trying, on a nightly basis, to give a fair and balanced picture of whats going on in the world.”

— Brokaw later at the same event, where he appeared alongside CBS’s Dan Rather and ABC’s Peter Jennings.


GOP = No Place for “Moderate Women”

“You and Olympia Snowe, the other Senator from Maine, are known as moderate Republican women. You have no place in this convention. The platform does not seem to speak to a lot of women in this country. It’s anti-abortion, it does not expand stem cell research, on other social issues in which women have some interest, for example, gay unions, is formally opposed to that. Do you think that this platform and this party is doing enough to reach out to moderate women across the country?”

— NBC’s Tom Brokaw to Senator Susan Collins on his 4pm EDT MSNBC show Brokaw in New York, August 31, 2004.


The “Dark Side” of Economic Boom

“The most important gauge of the American economy, the Gross Domestic Product, or GDP, suggesting now that the economic recovery has real traction. The government reported today that GDP grew at an annual rate of 4.2 percent in the first quarter of this year. But there are also growing fears tonight that the good news may have a dark side.”

— Anchor Tom Brokaw on new inflation, April 29, 2004 Nightly News.


Double Standard on Sex Crimes



“A lot of these women have made very specific accusations about grabbing them sexually and making lewd suggestions. You described it as playful and rowdy, and the kind of mischief that you engaged in when you were a younger man. But based on their descriptions, in many states, what you did would be criminal, it would be a sexual assault of some kind.”

— NBC’s Tom Brokaw interviewing Arnold Schwarzenegger on the October 5, 2003 Dateline. In 1999, Brokaw refused to cover a woman’s complaint that Bill Clinton raped her while he was running for Governor of Arkansas in 1978.


The Reagan Disaster

“I thought from the outset that his supply-side theory was just a disaster. I knew of no one who felt it was going to work.”

— NBC’s Tom Brokaw in Mother Jones interview, April 1983 issue. 

“We wanted everything but the pain of paying for it....In a decade [the] deficit more than tripled. How? Ronald Reagan ran for President promising Americans more while asking for less: the Reagan Revolution.”

— Anchor Tom Brokaw on NBC Nightly News, October 5, 1990.

“Reagan, as commander-in-chief, was the military’s best friend. He gave the Pentagon almost everything it wanted. That spending, combined with a broad tax cut, contributed to a trillion-dollar deficit....Social programs? They suffered under Reagan. But he refused to see the cause and effect.”

— Anchor Tom Brokaw over video of homeless people on December 27, 1989 NBC News special The Eighties.  


Gorbachev = “Courageous, Far-Seeing Prophet” 



“From the perspective of the West, the former President of the Soviet Union of course was a courageous, far-seeing prophet whose reforms set in motion the collapse of the Soviet dictatorship and the end of the Cold War....We know that you’ve devoted your life to peace and to changing your country and those of us who have gotten to know you count ourselves among the privileged.”

— NBC’s Tom Brokaw from opening and closing of MSNBC interview with Gorbachev, October 29, 1996.

“I think [Mikhail] Gorbachev is a great man in the 20th century because he forced his country to look at the hypocrisy and the fraudulence of communism and to begin slowly to make a turn away from it....He can still light up any room that he walks into. The eyes are flashy, you know, and the great command of the language and the feel that he has, the very physical presence of him. It’s still fun to be around him.”

— NBC’s Tom Brokaw on PBS’s Charlie Rose, May 2, 1996. 


Those Scary Republicans

 “You’re opposed to abortion in any form. You also have opposed the E.R.A., and you’re opposed to increasing the minimum wage, which is important to a lot of women out there. Aren’t you going to have a hard time selling Dan Quayle to the women of this country?”

— NBC’s Tom Brokaw to Dan Quayle during NBC’s convention coverage on August 17, 1988. 

 “A lot of people said, ‘Just too much red meat there [in the speech].’ You gave the impression that if you’re not a white, heterosexual, Christian, anti-abortion, anti-environment, you’re somehow not welcome in the Republican Party.”

— NBC’s Tom Brokaw to Pat Buchan during NBC’s convention coverage on August 18, 1992. 

 “Is the Republican Party held hostage, in your judgment, Christie Whitman, by its views on abortion? So that people like you, who believe that there ought to be some choice, can never be considered for Vice President?” 

— NBC’s Tom Brokaw to Christine Todd Whitman during MSNBC’s convention coverage, August 2, 2000.

“Colin Powell, the most influential African-American in the Republican Party, will be talking to these delegates, reminding them that they have to think about minorities every day, not just every four years.”

— NBC’s Tom Brokaw on convention coverage July 31, 2000. 


The Welfare State is a “Godsend” 

“When NBC Nightly News continues: in Washington, if they cut food stamps, who doesn’t eat?”

— Anchor Tom Brokaw on NBC Nightly News, March 22, 1995. 

“Medicare, the health care program that has been a godsend to the elderly in this country, even with all its financial difficulties. Tonight, the President wants to dramatically expand its coverage to millions more.”

— Anchor Tom Brokaw on NBC Nightly News, January 6, 1998.  


Appalled By Republican Scandals...

“And when the public phase of those hearings ended today with the testimony of Secretary Weinberger, we were left with an astonishing record of deceit, ignorance, naivete, good or bad intentions, failed policies, and discredited public servants, and this story is not yet complete.”

— NBC’s Tom Brokaw on Iran-Contra hearings, August 3, 1987. 


...And those Who Investigate Democrats 

“Still ahead tonight. Investigating the President. A growing backlash against independent counsel Kenneth Starr. Is he out of bounds or just tone deaf?”

— Anchor Tom Brokaw on NBC’s Nightly News, February 16, 1998.


Sexual Harassment: A GOP Terrorist…

“We begin tonight with U.S. Senator Bob Packwood of Oregon, a man who championed women’s rights on the floor of the Senate and sexually terrorized members of his own staff.”

— Anchor Tom Brokaw on NBC’s Nightly News, September 7, 1995. 


...But An “Ancillary Issue” for Clinton 

“Do you think the press has been too fascinated with other ancillary Whitewater and Paula Jones?” 

— Anchor Tom Brokaw to Tim Russert after a Bill Clinton press conference, November 9, 1994.


Reporters Are Not Biased...

“Now to your larger question about, ‘Are reporters biased?’ No, I really don’t think that they are. I think that most of us are registered, as I am, which is [to] decline to, or [register] as independents. I never have revealed who I’ve ever voted for. But I can tell, it crosses back and forth between party lines. And I think most people feel that way who are reporters.”

NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw on CNN’s Larry King Live, March 6, 2000.


...Unless They Wear the American Flag



Tom Brokaw: “I wear a flag in my heart, but I think if you wear a flag, it’s a suggestion somehow that you’re endorsing what the administration is doing at the time. And I don’t think journalists ought to be wearing flags.”

Host Phil Donahue: “And I say hear, hear, hear.”

— MSNBC’s Donahue, July 5, 2002.