My reaction to the announcement that David Gregory would be the new host of NBC's flagship Sunday morning political hour, Meet the Press, was not unlike my response to the news that he would be replacing Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews for MSNBC's primetime election coverage earlier this year. In short: ugh. It's not that I think an obvious partisan like Olbermann or an aggressive commentator like Matthews should be anchoring straight news, but Gregory's brand of milquetoast reporting is only slightly more incisive and compelling than the giggly, vanilla style of coverage doled out by Anderson Cooper every night on CNN.
Worse, though, is the fact that Gregory is a total toady: He was one of the loudest defenders of the mainstream media in the face of criticism that the White House Press Corps didn't do enough to challenge the Bush administration in the lead-up to the Iraq War, making him an ideal replacement for the late Tim Russert, who, shortly after 9/11, asked a guest (whose identity escapes me now) what he or she thought about the “theory” that United States foreign policy was the impetus behind the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. And as Salon's Glenn Greenwald points out in his latest column, Gregory's handling of an interview with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livini yesterday in the wake of that country's controversial military assault on the Gaza Strip was an insult to objective journalism; no less than three questions in a row seemed like poorly disguised attempts at persuading Livini that Israel should overthrow Hamas. He stopped just short of daring her: “Come on. You know you want to.”
Gregory's interview with Livini is not unlike his Q&A with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice last summer regarding the Russia-Georgia conflict in which he seemed shocked to discover that Rice warned Georgia, “a close U.S. ally,” not to provoke its neighbor. Like most of the American media, Gregory had clearly already made up his mind that Russia was the instigator without even bothering to explore the other side. During Scooter Libby's perjury trial last year, it was revealed that Dick Cheney's office believed that Russert's Meet the Press was an optimal format for the Vice President because he could “control the message”; with Gregory, Dick doesn't even need to make the trip because Gregory will spread the message for him.
This blog entry was originally published on Slant Magazine on the date above.