NBC “Meet the Press” Host Chuck Todd kept it real in a recent appearance on “Keepin’ It 1600.” It’s a podcast with hosts Jon Favreau and Dan Pfeiffer, former aides to President Obama.
The most prickly topic was Todd’s complaints with how Obama’s press office has handled interview requests and press critiques. He also addressed the matter of Donald Trump being able to call into shows like “Meet the Press” rather than show up in the flesh.
“I’d rather have access to him than no access,” said Todd, who explained: “To me a phoner is no different than a satellite interview. I hate both of them. It’s hard to interrupt…when you do, you sound rude. The only decent interview is in person. You don’t have to be a dick when you interrupt. Pardon my language.”
Todd said he’s had a no phone policy since January. He tried to get other networks to agree to no phoners, but a certain network’s news division said no. “One network won’t play that game,” he said. “They just won’t do that. …I’m not going to fault them for that.”
Favreau and Pfeiffer asked Todd what he thought about Obama’s most recent critiques of the media, which involved scolding the press for enabling Trump and not digging deep enough. In other words, as he said at an awards dinner in late March, “to not dumb down the news.”
“I believe you guys go out of your way to find the worst example of what you don’t like with the press and broad brush it for everybody,” countered Todd.
The “MTP” host said if Obama’s White House wanted more substantive press coverage they could’ve had it. This is when he dropped the nerdiest f-bomb in Washington podcast history.
“Look, you’re the president, you could force this issue a lot more if you chose to,” he said. “You guys could’ve forced it. I remember pitching, hey what if you did an explanatory on healthcare with fuckin’ charts and graphs. You get the full hour. You can have whatever you want. Let’s go.”
Todd took a swipe at Ezra Klein and other, more obscure media outlets: “Stop going to Vox and some dude’s garage to diversify.” Obama spoke with Vox‘s Managing Editor Matthew Yglesias in February, 2015. BuzzFeed‘s legal editor Chris Geidner interviewed him in a Facebook Live interview Monday.
Todd was referring to Obama’s appearance on Marc Maron‘s WTF Podcast, which takes place in a garage.
He grew merciless. “I think you guys didn’t make the effort to come to the mainstream media and say I want to do this…we want to have this conversation,” he said. “You could’ve had an impact yourself and made no effort.”
Pfeiffer tried to explain himself. “Look, no one is blameless in this,” he said. “Some of the new trends in politics…any critique is going to be overly broad. Media’s critiques of polticians are overly broad. The reason we go to Vox or Mark Marin’s garage…
Todd interrupted, saying, “But you give them 45 minutes. Give ME 45 minutes. ….It’s not like you tried.”
Pfeiffer tried to soothe Todd. He made sure to tell him that Obama thinks he’s a “smart guy.”
But he reasoned there was a purpose to picking those outlets over NBC.
“I have no doubt you made that specific pitch,” he said. “I have no doubt I said no. …There was always a challenge…The argument for Mark Marin or BuzzFeed is to reach people who are not watching Sunday shows. We could do that conversation with you on Meet the Press …the challenge is then when the Politicos of the world find the 30-second gaffe in there.”
Todd wasn’t buying it. “That’s an issue in every interview you do,” he said.
Pfeiffer pressed his point saying there’s a certain “cottage” industry that dedicates itself to going on “gaffe patrol.”
Todd brushed it off.
“I get you on the quote unquote gaffe patrol, but it’s all gaffe patrol,” he said.