In a time-honored TV industry tradition of releasing news you hope gets buried on the eve of a holiday, NBC News and Chelsea Clinton announced today that she is leaving her job as special correspondent with the news division.
“Chelsea’s storytelling inspired people across the country and showcased the real power we have as individuals to make a difference in our communities. While she will be missed, we look forward to working with her in the future,” NBC News SVP Alex Wallace said in a statement.
The news was unveiled in People magazine, which has a very special relationship with Chelsea Clinton, having determined her to be one of the world’s 25 Most Intriguing People in 1996 — and again in 2002 — and having done a cover on her in February of 1999 that generated more reader mail at that time than any other cover in the magazine’s history.
Clinton also gave a quote to People about her departure and wrote at greater length on her Facebook page, saying she is leaving NBC News to focus on her work with the foundation established by her father and on welcoming her first child; she is married to Marc Mezvinsky.
Her final appearance as NBC News correspondent will air this Sunday on Nightly News; she will talk about a school lunch program for underprivileged children in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Her most recent appearance aired on August 1, 2014 on Nightly News, profiling Jeff Bridges Fight against Childhood Hunger One Meal at a Time, at the end of which Brian Williams noted, “By the way, I haven’t seen you for a while.”
Back in November of 2011, NBC News announced it had hired Clinton, joining a proud tradition of political children hired by the division reaching way back to the days of JFK/RFK/Ted Kennedy niece Maria Shriver. At the time of Clinton’s hire, that roster included George W. Bush’s daughter Jenna Bush Hager, hired as a correspondent for Today; and Sen. John McCain’s daughter Meghan McCain, who back then was a contributor at MSNBC. (She now works for Pivot, though there had been rumors her name had been put on an early list of possibles to join ABC’s The Overhauled View.)
Back then, daughters of former presidents and presidential hopefuls were the Drew Barrymores of network news, the Willow Smiths of Washington — though, in fairness, NBC News did branch out later and hire the son of actress Mia Farrow and either Woody Allen or Frank Sinatra (Mia’s still not saying which). Chelsea Clinton’s hiring raised some media eyebrows because the division said Clinton had been “preparing for this opportunity her entire life,” which, in round numbers meant she had, as the child of Bill and Hillary Clinton, dodged the media her whole life, the press largely agreeing to stay away while she grew up, so she could live her life as privately as possible.
As special correspondent for NBC News since 2011 (the hire pre-dates current NBC News chief Deborah Turness), Clinton has admired the vegetarianism of Stella and Linda McCartney, reflected on Judy Blume’s impact on her childhood, profiled a woman from Pine Bluff, AR who runs a program for some of that city’s poorest children, spoken to Paul McCartney about how cool it is to be Stella’s dad, and learned that elephants are very human.
But the biggest news Chelsea Clinton made for NBC News came in June, when Politico reported that she was earning about $600,000 a year for these stories – a salary vastly higher than the average network correspondent with years of experience. Business Insider did the math and gleefully revealed Clinton to be making about $27,000 a minute.
Sadly, that Politico report came out the same day Turness, as part of her campaign to wake NBC News from the nap she recently said it had been taking for the past 15 years, announced that she’d re-upped Today show host Matt Lauer for another couple of years. The Clinton salary reveal upstaged that – even though Lauer’s previously reported salary of $20-25 million per year outstrips Clinton’s by many laps.
More recently, Clinton had been busted down to a month-to-month player, in case Mom runs for POTUS and she again becomes First Daughter.