No matter how many memos from NBC News President Deborah Turness asserting her confidence in David Gregory get leaked to the media, the network news operation can’t stop incessant reports that he’s on his way out the door — sooner or later.
This morning’s “breaking” news: Chuck Todd is the likely successor. NBC News’ chief White House correspondent, political director and MSNBC The Daily Rundown host, Todd previously has been a frontrunner in this ongoing story; last month’s David Gregory Is Out report, however, suggested Morning Joe’s Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski were the prettiest dress in the store, though some outlets noted Todd had lost weight to prep for the gig.
Setting the stage for this morning’s news, Fox News Sunday’s host Chris Wallace went on the network’s MediaBuzz program on Sunday to explain why Sunday Beltway shows still are relevant, and how NBC News was treating Gregory “lousy” by not saying publicly he’s their guy.
“We all understand we don’t have a right to these jobs,” Wallace told Howard Kurtz. “On the other hand we do have a right to be treated properly and not shabbily. If you’re going to get rid of David Gregory — and I don’t know that they are, I have no inside information — then they ought to just do it. This twisting in the wind is unseemly.”
Reports of Gregory’s exit have been circulating for months — he is, after all, trailing his broadcast competitors five years into his tenure, having been given the tough job of replacing Tim Russert, who’d reigned as the king of Sunday Beltway TV for years. Russert died at the studio in the summer of ’08. Tom Brokaw took over for Russert and anchored through that presidential-election cycle, and Gregory was named to the job in December. But it was declared open season on Gregory in April, when The Washington Post reported NBC News had enlisted the help of a psychological consultant to figure out why the host wasn’t clicking with viewers.
In a memo to her staff, Turness dismissed the Post story as “quite ludicrous,” “vindictive” and “untrue”: “I wanted to reach out to reiterate my support for the show and for David [Gregory], now and into the future, as we work together to evolve the format,” she wrote. She added that NBC News “is proud to have David in the important anchor chair of Meet The Press” and described Gregory as “passionate about politics, and…committed to getting answers for our viewers on the issues that matter to them the most.”
The WaPo report reaction is what is known in journalism circles as Pirahna Discovering Raw Meat. A frenzy of “NBC Hires Psychologist to Evaluate David Gregory,” and “NBC Thinks David Gregory Requires Psychiatric Help” stories ensued. Columnists mulled why Gregory was so hated, websites ruminated on the death of the Sunday Beltway shows, Rush Limbaugh clucked that NBC should perform psychological tests on its execs rather than on Gregory, and a good time was had by all.