NBC Nightly News was incredibly reckless in rushing to promote unproven accusations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, most notably with Julie Swetnick's wild tales of gang-rape parties in high school. But guess where Lester Holt says wait a minute, you need to "take whatever time you need to get it right"?
When NBC News effectively shut down or dismissed Ronan Farrow when he was reporting on the Harvey Weinstein scandal. Farrow took that story to The New Yorker. NBC didn't want to be first.
On that matter, Holt has to line up with his bosses. In an interview with Josef Adalian at New York magazine's Vulture site, Holt said:
I’m not trying to avoid the question, but this is one of those areas where you stay in your lanes. In my particular lane, that story had not reached the broadcast level yet. When I say that, I mean it hadn’t come to Nightly News yet, and I didn’t have any knowledge of it [really?], so I can only speak very generally. And generally, I would say the best practice in investigative journalism is always to take whatever time you need to get it right. Better to be last than to be first and get it wrong.
This is not an old interview. Adalian said it took place after breaking news on the new trade agreement with Canada and Mexico last Monday. That would be the same night NBC aired Swetnick charging "He was very aggressive, very sloppy drunk, very mean drunk. I saw him go up to girls and paw on them, try to, you know, get a little too handsy touching them on private parts, I saw him try to shift clothing."
Peter Alexander announced NBC didn't take time to get it right, preferring to be first, and without proof:
"Tonight NBC News has not been able to independently corroborate Swetnick's claims. And when we asked Avenatti for any witnesses who could back up her account, he provided four names of friends Swetnick says went to parties with her. One of them says he does not recall anyone named Julie Swetnick, another of the friends she named is deceased. NBC News has reached out to the other two and has not heard back."
To a journalist with standards, this screams "Don't publish, don't broadcast." NBC barreled ahead.
In his interview with Holt, Adalian didn't ask about Swetnick. He was pressing Holt about why he wasn't more aggressive against Trump, and Holt protested "When I do these stories, I always try to put myself in your living room, your kitchen. I want to make sure people can get it as straight as possible: Here’s the information, here’s what we know, here’s what we don’t know, and here’s the things that are unusual or different. It really allows the audience to become critical thinkers." [Italics theirs.]
Adalian insisted Holt should be tougher because Trump called the liberal media the "enemy of the people." Holt said "The thing I like to remind younger journalists about is, this was never really a popularity contest. It’s a popularity contest in the fact that we’re rated, and that’s part of our world. But we didn’t get into journalism to be liked. I don’t do this to be liked. I do it to be respected."
Putting on accusers who have no proof is not a way to be respected.