I’m not one for cancel culture, but I wouldn’t mind seeing it applied to Chuck Todd at this point.
Not that he’d do anything that would get the millennial Twitterati to give him the ol’ #ChuckToddIsOverParty treatment. If anything, Todd has probably become a popular figure among the #Resistance crowd, given the fact that he’s emerged as one of the most consistent Trump-baiters out there.
Consider, for instance, when Todd — host of “Meet the Press” on NBC — made news by comparing the impeachment investigation into former NBC employee Donald Trump to the trial of another rather infamous former NBC employee, O.J. Simpson.
“I’m having a quick flashback to the O.J. trial, frankly, where the facts were damning, but it didn’t matter,” Todd said in November of last year.
That’s pretty much par for the course when it comes to Todd and President Trump — and now, thanks to coronavirus, we have him giving disclaimers before Trump coronavirus news conferences.
Todd, who was on desk duty on MSNBC Tuesday afternoon when the president’s COVID-19 update was about to come on (he’s also the host of “MTP Daily” on MSNBC), decided to add his own viewer discretion warning.
“And the White House coronavirus briefing is about to begin. But before we go to it, we want to note a few things,” Todd began. “First of all, we know these briefings have a tendency to veer in a lot of different directions, not all of them are informative or relevant in the midst of this crisis.
“So we will listen as the president talks and we will make sure we’re giving you a fact check and putting what he says in context on the other side,” he added. “If it veers too much off, we will break in — we will break off and come back here. But for the most part, we want to listen in to the information, we hope, he is bringing to all of us. Let’s take a listen.”
It’s curious to hear someone from MSNBC — Todd in particular — discoursing about how the president’s briefings regarding COVID-19 had “a tendency to veer in a lot of different directions, not all of them are informative or relevant in the midst of this crisis.”
What do the viewers at home suppose they’ve been watching?
This isn’t particularly uncommon talk from the media, either. After lamenting for the first three years of his presidency that Donald Trump didn’t hold enough news briefings, the media is now livid that he’s holding too many of them during the biggest crisis of his presidency.
No network has lamented the monkey’s-paw nature of coronavirus quite as much as MSNBC, however. Just the day before, Chris Hayes called the decision to continue to air the news conferences “crazy” and “dangerous.”
“I think that regular information in times of crisis from the government on sort of the science and facts and policy are essential. But I personally can’t help but feel these daily sessions are bad for the country, even dangerous from a public health perspective,” Hayes said Monday night.
“It’s obviously above my pay grade. I don’t make the call about [whether] we take them or not, but it seems crazy to me that everyone is still taking them when you got the My Pillow guy getting up there talking about reading the Bible.”
Mike Lindell, “the My Pillow guy,” was up on the dais because he’s making N95 masks in his factory while Hayes is making … a mostly forgettable hour of opinion broadcasting.
This sentiment from MSNBC hosts isn’t a new thing, either.
On March 20, nigh on two weeks ago, Rachel Maddow said that “there may be other people in the federal government who are saying things that are true, but these daily briefings from the White House are a litany of things from the president that would be awesome if they were true, if they were happening. But they’re not, and so the sooner we come to terms with that, I think the better for all of us.
“If it were up to me and it’s not, I would stop putting those briefings on live TV,” she continued.
“Not out of spite but because it’s misinformation. If the president does end up saying anything true, you can run it as tape, but if he keeps lying like he has been every day on stuff this important, we should — all of us should stop broadcasting it. Honestly, it’s going to cost lives.”
Well, I guess he really is on par with O.J. Simpson, then.
Todd, Hayes and Maddow all sound like pornographers who unabashedly detest their own product but can’t stop selling it because it sells too well. And, be not mistaken, it sells exceptionally well.
As The New York Times pointed out, the TV ratings for Trump’s daily briefings have “rivaled the audiences for hit reality shows and prime-time football.”
“Since reviving the daily White House briefing — a practice abandoned last year by an administration that bristles at outside scrutiny — Mr. Trump and his coronavirus updates have attracted an average audience of 8.5 million on cable news, roughly the viewership of the season finale of ‘The Bachelor,’” The Times reported March 25.
“And the numbers are continuing to rise, driven by intense concern about the virus and the housebound status of millions of Americans who are practicing social distancing. On Monday, nearly 12.2 million people watched Mr. Trump’s briefing on CNN, Fox News and MSNBC, according to Nielsen — ‘Monday Night Football’ numbers.”
If MSNBC’s hosts really think these media conferences are so vile, they certainly get a lot of mileage talking about them. It’s like the old “Mondo Cane” documentaries from the 1960s, where the narrator would pretend to be genuinely scandalized at shock footage of “rituals” from around the world that were presented, at arm’s length, as “education.”
All three of these people are some of the most powerful in media. If they didn’t want to show up to work to protest airing the media conferences, they could. If they didn’t want to talk about them, they could do that, too.
All of these options are open to them — and yet, they continue to talk about them because they want ratings, too. No one begrudges them the fruit of their labor, but they probably shouldn’t call the vine they’re picking it from so poisoned to be extirpated and burned on a pyre.
There’s no need for condescending warnings before the president’s media conference, no need for a hyperventilation about the media briefings costing lives, no need to talk about how dangerous they are.
The assumption from these hosts is that we’re all so dumb the president would just be pouring information straight into our poor little brains without their intervention.
This says a lot more about how they regard their viewers, however, than it does about anything that goes on at these news briefings.
Author: C. Douglas Golden