By Brian Flood
Published December 27, 2019
NBC News host Chuck Todd is under fire for saying Republicans have “an incentive structure to utter the misinformation” related to Russia in a news-making interview that has upset critics on both sides of the aisle.
Todd spoke with Rolling Stone for an interview that was originally published last week but Axios reported an excerpt on Thursday that put the piece back in the news. The “Meet the Press” moderator was asked about a recent interview with Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., who was accused by Rolling Stone’s Peter Wade of using “Russian talking points to defend Trump.” Wade then asked why Republicans are willing to go on the NBC News political show and spread disinformation.
“The fact is, and by the way, this isn’t going to be easy to show, but I actually think when we outline this it will, the right has an incentive structure to utter the misinformation,” Todd said.
“Look, I’ll just be honest, when I had the third senator [to spread Russian disinformation], Sen. Ted Cruz, come on my show and do this — who I did not expect to do this — I started to think, he wants the confrontation. He wants to use this for some sort of appeasement of the right,” Todd continued. “I didn’t know what else to think. I was stunned because he’s a Russia hawk.”
Todd then said he was “genuinely shocked” by Cruz, who he said specifically asked to appear on the show.
“So I do think one of the things that I want to explore on this is the incentive structure. One of the things we don’t fully appreciate in mainstream media on these attacks is that it’s become fun to attack the press, if that makes sense, on the right. It doesn’t matter if we’re right or wrong, attack them anyway,” Todd said. “People that are the loudest chanters of fake news and accusatory of us are the ones who, under a lie detector, would probably take our word over any word they’ve heard from the other side on whether something was poisonous or not.”
Media Research Center vice president Dan Gainor mocked Todd over the comments he made to Rolling Stone.
“Wow, what an interview. The kindest thing I can say is it’s delusional. Chuck thinks Trump has turned media bias into ‘sport.’ He never connects that three years of the press falsely claiming the president is a traitor results in a legitimate amount of criticism,” Gainor told Fox News. “I do agree with Chuck on one point. He said, ‘I don’t assume I’m 100 percent right, ever.’ He's certainly correct about that view. It’s the one Americans should embrace with vigor.”
Fox News contributor Dan Bongino said he noticed Axios’ headline that “NBC's Chuck Todd claims Republicans have an ‘incentive’ to spread misinformation” and didn’t appreciate it.
“A laughable statement from liberal activist, & prominent Russian collusion HOAXER, @chucktodd,” Bongino tweeted, while Mark Levin called Todd “a propagandist” who has “done enormous damage to freedom of the press and the political system.”
Many other prominent conservatives took to Twitter to condemn Todd’s comments, too:
New York University professor and media critic Jay Rosen called Todd’s Rolling Stone interview “explosive, embarrassing, enraging, and just plain weird” and took exception with Todd calling himself “naive” for not picking up on what he says is a GOP strategy of spreading falsehoods sooner.
“Itself an astounding statement that cast doubt on his fitness for office as host of ‘Meet the Press,’” Rosen wrote. “It’s not naive of him. It’s malpractice.”
“Chuck Todd’s entire brand is based on the claim that he understands politics. Since 2007, he has been NBC’s political director, which means he has influence over all coverage,” Rosen added. “He is literally the in-house expert on the subject. You don’t get to claim you are naive about politics when you have these kinds of positions.”
Rosen’s piece quickly spread across social media and many outspoken liberals also condemned Todd.
Todd also faced criticism for confusing author Toni Morrison and poet Maya Angelou in the same interview.
“I think we all made the mistake of not following Toni Morrison’s advice, which is when people tell you who they are, believe them,” Todd told the magazine.
However, the famous quote, which is actually "When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time," actually came from Maya Angelou, not Morrison.
Fox News’ Joseph A. Wulfsohn contributed to this report.