As NewsBusters has previously reported, Meet the Press host Chuck Todd had a combative exchange with Republican Senator Ron Johnson Sunday; where the supposedly “objective” NBC News political director put his liberal bias on full display. Shortly after wrapping up the interview with Johnson, Todd rapidly transformed into a lapdog when interviewing former CIA Director John Brennan. Todd encouraged Brennan into advancing the narrative that America has lost its “stability” as a democracy and worried about the 40 percent of Americans who are ignoring “reality.”
Todd sympathized with Brennan; telling him “You have been completely character assassinated and eviscerated.” For his part, Brennan slammed President Trump for his “dishonesty and his complete obliteration of the norms of honesty in terms of his public statements” and referred to him as a “bully.”
Most likely taking a veiled swipe at Fox News, Todd complained that “We have two sets of realities that live here. There is…40 percent of the country that is only getting fed one reality; arguably, 60 percent are getting what I would argue is reality.” The NBC journalist asked Brennan “if your voters are only hearing this one thing, are we capable of governing ourselves with a disinformation campaign that’s happening like this?”
Todd also set up Brennan to compare America to an autocratic government, asking, “How would the CIA assess the stability of the American government right now, if it were assessing America as if it was another country?” Brennan responded by saying, “We would look it as a very corrupt government that is under the sway right now of this powerful individual who has been able to just corrupt the institutions and the laws of that country.”
Apparently unsatisfied with Brennan’s answer, Todd asked Brennan: “What would you say about the stability of the democracy?” At this point, Brennan gave the answer Todd was likely looking for by arguing that the United States has transformed into an authoritarian dystopia: “I think it’s no longer, you know, a democracy if an autocrat...has it in his hands and people like Johnson and others are putty in his hands; which means that the democratic principles upon which this country are founded...are eroding right now.”
A transcript of the relevant portion of Sunday’s edition of Meet the Press is below. Click “expand” to read more.
Meet the Press
CHUCK TODD: Welcome back. Virtually from the moment he was elected, Donald Trump has been in a low-grade war with the intelligence community; most noble…notable was that moment in Helsinki last year when Mr. Trump said he did not believe Russia interfered with the 2016 election; accepting Vladimir Putin’s denials over his own intelligence agencies’ conclusions. One aspect of this fight has been the extent to which Mr. Trump and his allies have questioned the credibility of his critics in the intel community; which you just saw firsthand yourself here this morning. Among them John Brennan, who was President Obama’s CIA Director for nearly four years and is now the Senior National Security and Intelligence Analyst for NBC News. Mr. Brennan joins me now. Welcome back to Meet the Press.
JOHN BRENNAN: Good morning, Chuck.
TODD: Look. I was going to save the…the, the, the focus on you to the second half of our interview, but obviously I have to bring this up right away. The importance of creating you as…as the boogeyman, as the…the person, as the whatever it is, your mere mention to be on this show triggered Senator Johnson in this. Do you understand how we got here? And how would you explain to somebody…you have been completely character assassinated and eviscerated and it doesn’t matter whether people like you or hate you, I think no…everybody can agree, you’ve been put through this. Do you understand how you got here?
BRENNAN: Well, I think it all goes back to Mr. Trump and his dishonesty and his complete obliteration of the norms of honesty in terms of his public statements. He was the one who started the birther conspiracy as far as Barack Obama was concerned. He has continued to fabricate information and clearly, Senator Johnson is running scared of Donald Trump, as are the other Republican Senators, because if they say anything against him, he comes after them with a vengeance. So, he is the typical bully and so, you know, I have become, you know, being pilloried as a…as an example of the deep state.
TODD: I’ll take it another step further. People are criticizing you for speaking out now and for defending yourself. I’ve seen other intelligence officials, who I think are well-meaning in their criticism of you, and frankly, I think I’ve asked you questions about this going…you know, are…are you worried that you’re impacting the…the, the perception of the intelligence community? Well, at this point, it’s a campaign to destroy the credibility of the intelligence community. Even now, Senator Johnson would not affirm that he trusted the CIA and FBI right now. What does that say about our…those two agencies right now and their ability to conduct the work of protecting America?
BRENNAN: Yeah. I struggle with what my public posture should be. What I don’t want to do is to put the CIA in a difficult position but I feel an obligation, as a former senior U.S. official, to call out Mr. Trump when he lies to the American public, when he totally fabricates information just to advance his own political agenda. So, I am going to continue doing it because people at this time, I think, really need to speak out and speak up. And it’s clear that the Republicans in the Senate are just going along. I’ve had many issues with the Democrats over the years but I have never had…seen anything like the Republicans right now as far as just misrepresentations of the truth because of what Donald Trump has done.
TODD: Well, here’s why we’re here because there is a disinformation…We have, we have two sets of realities that live here. There is a 40 percent of the country that is only getting fed one…one reality, arguably 60 percent are getting what I would argue is reality. But this is a huge problem. And it’s clear that whether it doesn’t matter…if your voters are only hearing this one thing, are we capable of governing ourselves with a disinformation campaign that’s happening like this?
BRENNAN: Well, until the senior officials of the Republican Party push back against Trump, I think this is going to be a very, very long and difficult fight. Because this dishonesty, this disinformation now is just overwhelming and inundating the air waves, whether it be social media platforms or a lot of the…you know, news networks, they continue just to put out false information and it gains traction. And…and I can understand how so many Americans then are confused.
TODD: Many Americans are going to send me e-mails going “how could you put a traitor like John Brennan on television?”
BRENNAN: Well, you know…
TODD: You know what I mean?
BRENNAN: I worked 33 years in national security and I feel good about my record and there is a lot of false information out there that now people take as gospel.
TODD: One of the things I…I used to do when I had to travel overseas professionally is…is read those CIA, the public fact sheets and CIA descriptions of the politics of…and the…and the…what’s happening in that country. How would the CIA assess the stability of the American government right now…
BRENNAN: Oh well…
TODD: …if it were, if it were assessing America as if it was another country?
BRENNAN: We would look at it as a very corrupt government that is under the sway right now of this powerful individual who has been able to just corrupt the institutions and the laws of that country.
TODD: What would you say about the stability of the democracy?
BRENNAN: I…I think it’s no longer, you know, a democracy if an autocrat is…has it in his hands and people like Johnson and others are putty in his hands, which means that the democratic principles upon which this country are founded are…are eroding right now.
TODD: So, the CIA would not assess America as a stable democracy?
BRENNAN: I think it’s…well, given the polarization of the country as well; this…just tremendous political instability here and…which is consuming the government now and it’s not able to take care of the issues that it needs to address; whether it be on the domestic front or the national security or the foreign policy front. So yes, I think there is a real question about the stability.
TODD: The President is trying to make a big deal that the whistle blower is a member of the CIA as if that is somehow damages the whistle blower; that they work for that entity of the government as opposed to, I guess, another entity of the government. Do you sense a chill in the intel community that fear of speaking out?
BRENNAN: Well, I think that certainly is the intention of Mr...Mr. Trump but I’m glad to see the whistleblower did come forward and I understand now there’s a second one also. So a…a chill, yes, but, you know, the women and men of…of CIA and the intelligence community are among the most patriotic and dedicated Americans that this country has and it’s, I think, outrageous that someone like Donald Trump disparages and denigrates their work but they’re in the trenches, they’re around the world; they’re doing their best to keep their fellow citizens safe and so, somebody of Mr. Trump’s ilk is not going to be able to undermine and undercut their contributions to this country ever.
TODD: John Brennan, former Director of the CIA, thanks for coming on and sharing your views.
BRENNAN: Thanks, Chuck.
TODD: I know that it means more texts, so thanks.