NBC News President Slams Media Coverage of David Gregory as 'Vindictive,' 'Untrue'

April 24th, 2014 8:13 PM

Meet the Press host David Gregory has been the focus of turmoil since the Sunday morning NBC program suffered its lowest ratings since 1992 during the past year and was the subject of a meeting with network news president Deborah Turness in March. After that gathering, NBC “doubled down” on Gregory as host of the series, along with giving him additional duties on the network's news website.

However, an article written by Paul Farhi in Sunday's edition of the Washington Post stated that during the first three months of 2012, the NBC program finished a distant third, far behind CBS's Face the Nation and This Week With George Stephanopoulos on ABC. Just four days later, Turness sent a memo to the show's staff declaring that coverage of Gregory's troubles has been “vindictive, personal and above all -- untrue.”

The document began with this assertion: “There has been a great deal written about Meet the Press in the past few days, much of it quite ludicrous. I wanted to reach out to reiterate my support for the show and for David, now and into the future, as we work together to evolve the format.”

Turness added:

Unfortunately, some of the chatter has been vindictive, personal and above all -- untrue.

NBC News is proud to have David in the important anchor chair of Meet the Press. He is passionate about politics and is committed to getting answers for our viewers on the issues that matter to them the most.

Meet the Press has always been the must-stop place where news is made and critical conversations take place,” she noted, “and we will continue that charge while at the same time adapting and innovating with new ideas on all platforms and connecting what’s happening in Washington to Americans across the country.”

Turness concluded that the 43-year-old liberal "is at the helm of these changes and will lead you and the program on the journey ahead. Thank you for the work that you do. I am so grateful to have such a talented team driving this special program.”

As the old saying goes: “If it weren't for bad luck, Gregory would have no luck at all.”

As NewsBusters previously reported, Gregory has been struggling to attract viewers ever since he took over the program six months after longtime host Tim Russert died in 2008.

Gregory's usual troubles escalated when Meet the Press accelerated its ratings slide during the final three months of 2013, when the NBC program came in third place for total viewers and drew the fewest number of people -- ever -- in the important demographic of people from 25 to 54 years of age.

It then came as no surprise when Turness called for a meeting in mid-March in Washington, D.C., to discuss the future of “the longest-running television program in the world” and its beleaugered host.

However, the result of the gathering was indeed a surprise when Alex Wallace, senior vice president of NBC News, announced that the network was “doubling down” on the embattled anchor.

"I cannot be more declarative about David -- is our guy, is going to be our guy, and we are really happy with him," Wallace said in an interview with Michael Calderone of the Huffington Post website.

One month later, reports indicated that NBC had last year commissioned a psychological consultant to determine what makes Gregory “tick” by interviewing him, his family, his friends and even his wife.

The idea, according to network spokeswoman Meghan Pianta, was "to get perspective and insight from people who know him best." But the research project struck some at NBC as odd, given that Gregory has been employed there for nearly 20 years, during which he has covered the White House, the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the “road to war” against Iraq.

However, in a statement released soon after by NBC officials, the corporation “clarified” the information, stating that Meet the Press “brought in a brand consultant -- not, as reported, a psychological one -- to better understand how its anchor connects.”

“This is certainly not unusual for any television program,” the release added, “especially one that’s driven so heavily by one person.”

As you might expect, Turness isn't the only person to rush to Gregory's defense. Mika Brzezinski, co-host of MSNBC's Morning Joe weekday program, promoted Meet the Press by name at least eight times in one segment of the show in a display that was called "pitifully transparent."

It would undoubtedly be wiser for Turness to increase her efforts in making Meet the Press a stronger program and David Gregory a better host instead of trying to “shoot the messenger.” That trick never works.