NBC News’ Chuck Todd has not infrequently become the story when it comes to his coverage of President Trump, and never in a way that flatters his journalistic profile.
Consider the fact that the “Meet the Press” host recently compared the president to O.J. Simpson, a canny parallel unless you consider the fact that Simpson almost certainly killed two people. He also engaged in several high-profile scuffles with GOP politicians over Trump, including one where he told Sen. Rob Johnson of Wisconsin that he was bringing up “Fox News conspiracy propaganda stuff” when the two were discussing the freezing of military aid to Ukraine.
All of this, of course, makes him an ideal interview subject for Rolling Stone.
You can probably guess the tenor of the piece from its headline, published last week: “How Disinformation Spreads, According to Chuck Todd.” One of the ways, Todd and interviewer Peter Wade agreed, was by watching “Meet the Press.”
I’d agree with them. You may not be surprised, however, that it’s not for the reasons provided in the article.
Wade and Todd discussed another contentious appearance by a Republican lawmaker on Todd’s show, this one by Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana. Wade accused Kennedy of spewing “Russian talking points to defend Trump” and asked why GOP legislators would come on “Meet the Press” to spread that dastardly misinformation.
The question itself isn’t surprising, coming from a representative of the magazine that’s little more than an echo chamber for boomer-centric liberalism. Todd’s answer, however, is curious inasmuch as it’s actually the very definition of disinformation:
”The fact is, and by the way, this isn’t going to be easy to show, but I actually think when we outline this it will, the right has an incentive structure to utter the misinformation,” Todd said.
“Look, I’ll just be honest, when I had the third senator [to spread Russian disinformation], Sen. Ted Cruz, come on my show and do this — who I did not expect to do this — I started to think, he wants the confrontation,” Todd said. “He wants to use this for some sort of appeasement of the right.
“I didn’t know what else to think. I was stunned because he’s a Russia hawk. He spent the entire week showcasing his hawkishness on Russia.”
Todd was responding to yet another interview in which the goateed scold went after Cruz for saying there was evidence that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election to the benefit of Hillary Clinton.
“Senator, this sort of strikes me as odd. because you went through a primary campaign with this president. He launched a birtherism campaign against you,” Todd said. “He went after your faith. He threatened to quote ‘spill the beans’ on your wife about something. He pushed a National Enquirer story, which we now know, he had a real relationship with the editors.”
— Peter (@Petervideo23) December 8, 2019
In other words, you listen to Chuck. You listen good, even if what he’s lecturing you about has nothing to do with the topic at hand.
Never mind, too, the fact that Ukraine’s interference in the 2016 election is documented, if somewhat minor. That’s kind of beside the point here.
Let’s talk about this “incentive structure.” What, exactly, is this? Is it something like multi-level marketing? Not quite.
Here’s a hint: It has something to do with conservatives criticizing the media.
“One of the things we don’t fully appreciate in mainstream media on these attacks is that it’s become fun to attack the press, if that makes sense, on the right. It doesn’t matter if we’re right or wrong, attack them anyway,” Todd said. “People that are the loudest chanters of fake news and accusatory of us are the ones who, under a lie detector, would probably take our word over any word they’ve heard from the other side on whether something was poisonous or not.”
Deep down at places you don’t talk about at parties, you want Chuck Todd on that wall. You need Chuck Todd on that wall! As for that incentive structure, um, perhaps it’s best described by how Todd wrapped up his answer to the question: “Wow, have we gone off the rails on the right side of the conversation that’s taking place.”
I’d concur, but again not for the reasons I think that Todd would cite.
Todd’s response drew criticism from plenty on the right. However, it also got some criticism from the left, including Oliver Willis — an alum of Media Matters for America:
FYI @chucktodd isn’t that naive. He just doesn’t care. Our whole world is oriented around thinking someone in such an influential position actually cares about the world he helps to shape. He does not.
— Oliver Willis (@owillis) December 26, 2019
Wajahat Ali is also a prominent liberal contributor to a number of publications:
After Chuck Todd’s revelations, why is he the host of MEET THE PRESS one of the most influential news programs that allegedly holds politicians accountable? Why is the bar so low? It’s so painful for the rest of us who have actual skin in the game & so damaging for our democracy
— Wajahat “Abu Khadija” Ali (@WajahatAli) December 26, 2019
And then there was Aaron Maté of The Nation:
— Aaron Maté (@aaronjmate) December 26, 2019
There was also plenty of criticism from the right.
Media Research Center vice president Dan Gainor, speaking to Fox News, called Todd “delusional.”
“Wow, what an interview. The kindest thing I can say is it’s delusional. Chuck thinks Trump has turned media bias into ‘sport.’ He never connects that three years of the press falsely claiming the president is a traitor results in a legitimate amount of criticism,” Gainor said.
“I do agree with Chuck on one point. He said, ‘I don’t assume I’m 100 percent right, ever.’ He’s certainly correct about that view. It’s the one Americans should embrace with vigor.”
Delusional Chuck Todd, a propagandist who accuses his targets of HIS tactics. He’s one of the dumbest, most craven, and most ideologically-driven of the bunch. In short order, he’s done enormous damage to freedom of the press and the political system. https://t.co/WsFEe4F3It
— Mark R. Levin (@marklevinshow) December 27, 2019
— Ben Domenech (@bdomenech) December 26, 2019
People like Chuck Todd wandering around the media wilderness wondering how misinformation spreads on social media and not taking two minutes to ask colleagues Brian Williams or Rachel Maddow is just incredible.
— Stephen Miller (@redsteeze) December 26, 2019
Don’t you just love it when Chuck Todd gives a lesson on spreading Misinformation?
— Chuck Woolery (@chuckwoolery) December 26, 2019
By the way, this was an interview designed to promote a very special episode of “Meet the Press” in which Todd and Co. discuss misinformation.
I’m sure people will be eagerly watching, although probably not for the reasons Todd would want.
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