Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz profiles NBC White House correspondent David Gregory, who Kurtz says is being regarded as "the Sam Donaldson of the Bush years" for his confrontational style.
As usual, Kurtz takes the side of the reporter, which he does regularly in order to keep his sources happy. Unlike public officials, journalists don't have to talk to anyone if they don't want to (see Tim Graham's Rather post), and Kurtz would suffer a drought of information if he displeased those who feed him material.
If David Gregory seems like a bit of a showman in the White House pressroom, it's worth noting that, as the son of a Broadway producer, he grew up meeting the likes of Richard Burton, Rex Harrison and Henry Fonda.
But NBC's White House correspondent, while mindful of the cameras, insists he's not putting on a show, whether he's telling off spokesman Scott McClellan or challenging President Bush with questions that are often replayed on the nightly news or cable shows.
"I have no problem with being tough," says Gregory, 35, dubbed "Stretch" by the president for his 6-foot-5 stature. "I think it's totally appropriate to press hard for answers, particularly with a group of people who don't like to give information." For the administration, he says, "it's easy to divert attention against a familiar whipping boy, the White House press corps, and define this as a freakish sideshow. . . . I provide fodder for critics who say, 'Aha, they're out of control.' "
After six years on the beat, Gregory is emerging as the Sam Donaldson of the Bush years, the outspoken, aggressive, smart-aleck correspondent serving as a symbol for conservatives who detest the press and liberals who want reporters to crusade against the White House.
Kurtz says people "were taking personal shots at Gregory" after he and press secretary Scott McClellan got into an argument about Dick Cheney's hunting incident.
At the off-camera morning briefing known as "the gaggle," McClellan tried to deflect a question by saying: "David, hold on. . . . The cameras aren't on right now." Gregory responded: "Don't be a jerk to me personally when I'm asking you a serious question." McClellan said he didn't have to yell, and Gregory said he would indeed yell "if you want to use that podium to try to take shots at me personally, which I don't appreciate."
Within hours, lots of people were taking personal shots at Gregory. Jon Friedman, the media columnist for Marketwatch.com, wrote that Gregory had become "the poster child for inappropriate, self-serving behavior."
Gregory tries to explain the giggling he did on Don Imus's radio show when he called into the talk show from India.
Gregory says he hadn't had a drop to drink but "cracked myself up" after Imus's disinterested reaction when he started speaking Hindu. "People will take their shots," he says of the critics.
Juan Williams criticized Gregory on the O'Reilly Factor.
"This guy is trying to advance his career by being a clown," Fox News commentator Juan Williams said on the "O'Reilly Factor," adding: "He's laughing and pretending. We don't know if he was drunk, but it sure came across that way."