He also defended the way that the network has carried and covered President Donald Trump’s daily White House press briefings.
In an essay for the network’s opinion site NBC News Think, Lack wrote that “Trump came into office railing against many of the foundations of our democratic institutions, including a free press. Forty months into his administration, coverage of the coronavirus outbreak is the latest sign that — contrary to conventional wisdom — he hasn’t laid a glove on serious journalism. His attacks, most recently against excellent reporters like Jonathan Karl (ABC), Yamiche Alcindor (PBS), Peter Alexander (NBC) and Paula Reid (CBS), put the bully in bully pulpit, but they haven’t shaken the soul of the First Amendment.”
Lack also defended the way that the network — usually via MSNBC — has approached the president’s daily coronavirus press briefings, which he said have “frequently become a sideshow, filled with false and misleading statements, compulsive boasting and self-promotional videos.”
Lack wrote that “many news outlets, including ours, are aggressively fact-checking in real time, assessing the value to viewers minute to minute and cutting away when warranted.”
Some on-air personalities, including MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and CNN’s Don Lemon, have questioned why the news networks have been carrying the briefings live, arguing that they give the president a platform to spout misinformation or self promote.
Last week, as Centers for Disease Control director Robert Redfield appeared in the briefing room to clarify dire remarks he gave to The Washington Post over a possible coronavirus outbreak next winter, Morning Joe co-anchor Mika Brzezinski wrote, “The president is making CDC DIR ‘clarify’ his comments so that the president feels less embarrassed…. why Is this considered a briefing. I would not be live on this? I would be fact checking exactly what happened and waiting for scientists with News. This is pathetic.”
Lack wrote that the pandemic has shown “that the heart of journalism has never been stronger.”
“Not looking to win any popularity contests — just doing what Woodward and Bernstein inspired my generation and the generations that followed to always do: seek the best obtainable version of the truth,” he wrote.
He wrote that journalists have continued to do their jobs even in the face of furloughs and layoffs.
“Cost-cutting measures have culled their ranks for years, and even in recent weeks, as they work to share this critical story with their communities, they have been furloughed and laid off,” he wrote. “They tell the stories that hit closest to home, often without the acclaim, resources or job security they deserve. And yet, they persevere.”
Over the weekend, Trump tweeted that the briefings were “not worth the time & effort!”
“What is the purpose of having White House News Conferences when the Lamestream Media asks nothing but hostile questions, & then refuses to report the truth or facts accurately. They get record ratings, & the American people get nothing but Fake News.”
The White House has scheduled a briefing for later in the day on Monday. But it’s unclear whether Trump will participate.