NBC’s much vaunted news division struggled to cover the tragic Florida school shooting on Thursday and Friday, because its entire team of news stars was halfway around the world promoting NBC’s Olympics coverage.
The result -- star anchors talking about the shooting from South Korea -- was an embarrassing contrast to rival networks ABC and CBS, who both had their premier anchors on the ground in Parkland, Fla., by Thursday morning.
“Today” co-hosts Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb opened Thursday's show from Pyonchang by noting that their “hearts are definitely back home” before tossing it to an obscure reporter, Gabe Gutierrez, who was in Parkland.
Meanwhile, ABC chief anchor George Stephanopoulos hosted “Good Morning America” from Parkland.
Thursday evening, ABC “World News Tonight” anchor David Muir hosted his broadcast from Parkland, as did “CBS Evening News” anchor Jeff Glor.
“NBC Nightly News” anchor Lester Holt anchored from South Korea, where he had been sent to promote the Olympics. Relatively unknown reporter Catie Beck joined Gutierrez in South Florida in time to lead coverage for “Nightly News” on Thursday.
NBC insiders are now criticizing powerful news chairman Andy Lack for sending his top talent and producers overseas on a promotional jaunt, leaving NBC News dangerously ill-equipped in the event of breaking news.
“This is very embarrassing,” an NBC staffer told Fox News.
NBCUniversal paid nearly $1 billion to broadcast the 2018 Winter Olympics, and expects its news division to cover the games as if there is little else going on in the world of notice during those two weeks. Every two years, NBC News turns into an Olympics marketing and promotional operation, interviewing American athletes and offering uplifting, boosterish coverage of the games and their host country.
Mediaite columnist Joseph Wulfsohn told Fox News that NBC “obviously” couldn’t have predicted such a tragedy would take place during the Winter Olympics and that going all-in on the Olympics is “in their best interest” financially.
“However, with the intense, ugly aftermath we’re now facing as a nation the wake of the Florida shooting, NBC appears tone-deaf and out-of-touch with most of the country,” Wulfsohn said.
The Olympics represent a command performance for any high-profile star or executive at the Peacock Network and Lack sent Holt, Guthrie, Kotb, Al Roker, Natalie Morales, Willie Geist, Craig Melvin and Dylan Dreyer abroad, leaving NBC News with only its back bench for any breaking news.
Also in South Korea is Lack's deputy, embattled NBC News President Noah Oppenheim, who is making a return trip to the Korean Peninsula despite a disastrous recent trip he oversaw to North Korea, where he and Holt were accused of being duped by regime propagandists.
However, in a move highly unusual for an NBC executive, Lack, 70, has himself remained back in New York. It's unknown why he didn’t travel abroad. NBC did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
NBC News also sent at least eight on-air correspondents, including legendary foreign correspondent Richard Engel to South Korea. NBC even invited former employee Katie Couric to co-host the opening ceremony, which according to the New York Post irked Megyn Kelly, the only NBC News star left behind.
While Kelly reportedly “threw an Olympic fit” when she learned that NBC passed her over for Couric, the news star didn't travel to Florida to anchor NBC's shooting coverage despite having distinguished herself with school shooting coverage at her previous employer, Fox News.
"She should have gotten on the first plane to Miami on Wednesday night and owned that story for NBC," an NBC insider told Fox News, recalling how Katie Couric, ironically, made a big name for herself with sensitive and caring coverage of the 1999 school shooting in Littleton, Colorado.
But instead of traveling to Florida, “Megyn Kelly Today” aired from NBC’s New York studios and she relied on Gutierrez for on-the-scene coverage of the shooting’s aftermath.
NBC did not immediately respond when asked why Kelly wasn’t sent to the scene.