Column: The Surprising Pin Piercing Chuck Todd's Political Bubble

September 13th, 2023 6:04 AM

Chuck Todd pulled out a farewell speech of sorts on his last day as Meet the Press host on NBC, proclaiming, for example, “I’ve had the honor of helping to explain America to Washington and Washington to America.”

Does anyone really think an inside-the-Beltway creature like Todd is “explaining America to Washington”? Or that “Washington” would reply “thanks, Chuck, your finger on the American pulse is just the finest”? Many viewers wouldn’t find Todd’s main job as “explaining,” but as “editorializing.”

The Trump years underlined Todd can be defined as either a staunch partisan or a split personality. Democrats get cozy softballs, like this question on Sunday to Gov. Gavin Newsom (D.-Calif.): “Do you think Trump or DeSantis would be a greater threat to democracy?” Republicans get interrupted and shouted down. Especially when someone like Sen. Ron Johnson argues NBC is biased, and Todd snaps back that Johnson should go back to “your partisan cable cocoon.”

That’s why it’s humorous when Todd also wrapped up his Sunday sermon by decrying “the lack of knowledge and nuance in our politics and citizenship. That’s a vacuum I hope to continue to fill.... focused on bridging our divides, piercing these political bubbles.”

“Nuance” and piercing “bubbles” has not been Todd’s modus operandi. A few weeks ago, he didn’t offer Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) a question as much as a complaint about Republicans bringing up Biden influence-peddling and buckraking: “We're gonna have a campaign that is gonna be filled with a lot of whataboutisms.”

Nuance would acknowledge there are scandals in both parties. Democrat partisans insist only Trump’s scandals should be discussed, because only they are truly grave.

Let’s have some fun in suggesting a debate opponent for Chuck Todd, a surprising pin in his political bubble. In January of 2021, Todd’s wife, Democrat direct-mail fundraiser Kristian Denny Todd, gave an interview to Florida State University’s Institute of Politics. Mrs. Todd was candid about the state of cable news, explicitly including her husband’s MSNBC. [Start at 10:08]

“I’d say within the last ten years, we’ve seen this pivot...where cable news is not about reporting the news – and again, we can have a conversation about what that means, ‘the news,’ but they just parrot what their viewers want to hear,” she proclaimed. “So is that still news? Are these people allowed to call themselves journalists? I don’t know.”

Ouch, Chuck. Are NBC or MSNBC just parroting what viewers want to hear? It sure looks that way to the Republican half of America.

A few minutes later, Kristian Todd said all this offering viewers just one side of things is about the corporate profits: “We can sit here and talk about Fox News or MSNBC, whatever side of the spectrum you’re on. How do they deal with that? But right now, they’re making money, they’ve got their viewers, and where does journalism fit in?”

Now maybe this apparent chasm of opinions is based on what the Todds discuss at home, that perhaps Chuck is frustrated at how much he works in a “silo” or a “bubble.” But on the air, where it matters most, he has not demonstrated to Republicans or the so-called sensible center that nonpartisanship or nuance really matters to him.

It would be fair to argue that the most involved American voters are comfortable sticking with either the liberal media or the conservative media. But it’s not plausible at this juncture for the liberal media to pretend they are the reliable source of facts and nuance – no silos or bubbles. That’s simply not factual.