It’s been a month since video surfaced of ObamaCare architect Jonathan Gruber mocking the “stupidity” of voters and boasting about the duplicitous ways liberals pushed through the far-reaching health care law in 2010, and NBC Nightly News remains the only network evening news broadcast to have completely ignored the story.
[UPDATE, 12/9: After 32 Days, NBC Nightly News Ends Silence on Gruber]
NBC’s other news programs have hardly distinguished themselves, either: Meet the Press host Chuck Todd asked HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell about the controversy on November 16, while NBC’s Today ran a single news story the next day, November 17.
Appearing on Newsmax TV’s The Steve Malzberg Show on November 18, NBC’s Todd tried to explain the paucity of network coverage: “It’s a political story. Network news in general hasn’t been covering the political back-and-forths of Washington a lot lately. I don’t think this has to do with Gruber specifically.”
But over the past month, NBC has found a lot of so-called “news” to fill up its evening broadcast, including a Washington story about a previously-unknown GOP staffer writing a snarky Facebook post about President Obama’s daughters. Nightly News has also carved out a lot of airtime for network self-promotion, including multiple plugs for NBC's live broadcast of Peter Pan, an entertainment program starring the daughter of anchor Brian Williams.
Below are ten stories that, unlike the Gruber videos, were deemed worthy of coverage by NBC Nightly News during the past month. With Gruber himself set to answer questions at a congressional hearing later today, NBC has a fresh opportunity tonight to fix the glaring omission of the past 30 days — the question is, will they once again pretend the Gruber story doesn’t exist?
10. Promoting “Backlash” Over GOP Staffer’s Facebook Post
On December 1, NBC Nightly News devoted a full two minute report to scolding a GOP congressional aide for a Facebook post in which she criticized President Obama’s daughters for the way they acted at the pardoning of the Thanksgiving turkey. Anchor Brian Williams set up the report: “It is one of the few rules that the news media and the mob usually both adhere to: Leave families out of the fight. However, tonight, a Republican staffer is out of a job after something she wrote on social media about the First Daughters.”
9. Shameless Promotion for TV Special Starring Allison Williams
Brian Williams’ NBC Nightly News pulled out all the stops to tout for viewers the entertainment special starring his daughter, Allison, as Peter Pan. On November 26, he ran clips from a primetime program showing a “behind the scenes” look at preparations for the live broadcast.
On December 4, with Williams out to watch the show in person, fill-in anchor Lester Holt repeatedly plugged a full report by correspondent Harry Smith profiling Allison Williams.
Then on December 5, Williams carved out 30 seconds of Nightly News airtime for video of a six-year-old boy named Iain in Virginia clapping as he watched the show on NBC: “He clapped so hard for Tinkerbell, and so did so many kids just like him. We are told that Tinkerbell is tired after last night, but doing well, and clearly Iain knew he had played an important role in the show’s success.”
8. More Cross Promotion: SNL Cast Member at Correspondents’ Dinner
On the November 19 edition of NBC Nightly News, anchor Brian Williams found 30 seconds to tell viewers that a cast member from his network’s Saturday Night Live would be performing a comedy routine at the 2015 White House Correspondents’ Dinner:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: SNL cast member Cecily Strong has been selected as the evening’s entertainment at the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner next spring. She’s perhaps best known for a character she plays called ‘The Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started a Conversation With At A Party.’ The dinner planners in DC are hoping she doesn’t become the girl you wish you hadn’t invited to entertain in front of Congress, the Cabinet and the President of the United States.
7. Same Old Suit = Fresh Ammo for Feminists
The November 17 edition of NBC Nightly News found time for a short item extolling the supposed feminist meaning of an Australian news anchor who wore the same non-descript blue suit every day for a year:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: A morning news anchorman in Australia has made an admission that underscores the huge fashion double standard between men and women. He says he’s worn the same blue suit on the air for a year and nobody noticed. Contrast that to his female co-anchor, who is hardly able to repeat an outfit during the same week without attracting attention and scorn. His co-anchor said it best, in fact, quote, “women are judged much more harshly for what they do, what they say, and what they wear.”
6. Admitting Media Bias — In Favor of Dogs
The November 19 edition of NBC Nightly News devoted a full report to a study documenting the news media’s bias in favor of dog stories:
Correspondent ANNE THOMPSON: It turns out dogs are indeed news hounds. A new study reveals a deep-seated newspaper bias to the canine kind, because readers lap ‘em up. It’s called the dog effect. Researchers found a dog story in the national section of the esteemed New York Times is 2.6 times more likely to get picked up by regional newspapers than a non-dog story.
5. More Cross Promotion: Al Roker’s 34-Hour Weather Report
The November 13 edition of NBC Nightly News featured a full report on “Guinness World Records Day,” much of which was spent on NBC morning show weatherman Al Roker’s attempt to set the record for longest weather report.
Fill-in anchor LESTER HOLT: As the Guinness Book celebrates its sixtieth year, a member of our NBC family and people all over the world are trying to add their names to the newest edition....
4. The Latest News About Ugly Sweaters
On the December 5 Nightly News, correspondent Kevin Tibbles was dispatched to report a story about how people are buying ugly Christmas sweaters. Anchor Brian Williams explained: “We used to just refer to them as Christmas sweaters. Maybe they were over the top, but we bought them and we gave them to others, and we wore them and still do. Just recently, the cool kids decided some Christmas sweaters were so ugly they should be worn loudly and proudly and celebrate it, and now that’s become an industry all its own.”
3. Seeing “News” in Web Site for Dating Farmers
The December 1 edition of NBC Nightly News included a lengthy report that could easily have been a TV commercial for the dating Web site, FarmersOnly.com:
Anchor BRIAN WILLIAMS: Farming life isn’t for everyone, and cultivating a meaningful relationship can be tough. That is where a new website comes in as we hear tonight from bona fide Midwesterner Harry Smith.
Correspondent HARRY SMITH: Adrift in a sea of soybeans, home alone on the range when your next door neighbor may be miles away, where do you turn for companionship?...Dawn and Kyle Heidlebaugh admit they were looking for love in all the wrong places until they found FarmersOnly.
DAWN HEIDLEBAUGH: I saw a commercial in the middle of the night. I was up. It said, what’s that catch-phrase, “City Folks Just Don’t Get It.”
2. Chili, Beer and Unlimited Vacation Days
The November 13 edition of NBC Nightly News featured correspondent Cynthia McFadden's profile of a Minnesota tech company where employees received hot chili, cold beer and unlimited vacation days:
Correspondent CYNTHIA MCFADDEN: Imagine a job where no one worried about when you walk in, or you can bring your kids to work whenever you want. Potluck chili is what’s for lunch and ice cold beers always on tap. But wait, it gets even better. (to employee) Do they keep track of how much vacation time you take?
EMPLOYEE: They don’t care how much vacation time we take as long as we’re getting the work done.
1. Minnesota’s Wrath Over a Grape Salad
The November 28 edition of NBC Nightly News devoted more than two minutes to outcry over the New York Times choosing a grape salad as Minnesota’s favorite Thanksgiving food, when most in the state had never even heard of it:
Correspondent KEVIN TIBBLES: When the seemingly urbane urbanites at the venerable New York Times chose each state’s favorite recipe for its United States of Thanksgiving feature, the grape salad — broiled with sour cream and pecans optional — was picked the favorite in the “Land of 10,000 Lakes.” Apparently, it comes from a Minnesota-born heiress. The Times wasn’t expecting 10,000 protests....