NBC Sports honcho irked staffers after ‘tone deaf’ claim about 'dumpster fire' Beijing Olympics, insider says

A comment by chairman Pete Bevacqua ‘shocked’ employees

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Peacock Network staffers are stunned that the NBC Sports chairman claimed the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics was "probably the most difficult" games ever in a "tone-deaf" comment that downplayed the 1972 Munich massacre, according to a well-placed NBC insider. 

The Wall Street Journal reported that NBC’s primetime coverage of the Beijing Winter Olympic Games drew the smallest audience since NBCUniversal began airing the event, an average of 11.4 million primetime viewers over more than two weeks, for a staggering 42% drop compared to the previous low in 2018. In the report, NBC Sports Chairman Pete Bevacqua evoked issues such as mask-wearing, family members of athletes being unable to attend and other stringent COVID protocols. 

"This was probably the most difficult Olympics of all time," Bevacqua told the Journal this week when attempting to justify the disappointing viewership. 

Peacock Network staffers were taken aback that the network’s chairman claimed the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics was "probably the most difficult" games of all time in a "tone deaf" comment that downplayed the 1972 Munich massacre, according to a well-placed NBC insider. 

Peacock Network staffers were taken aback that the network’s chairman claimed the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics was "probably the most difficult" games of all time in a "tone deaf" comment that downplayed the 1972 Munich massacre, according to a well-placed NBC insider.  (Getty images)

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Bevacqua’s comment "shocked" NBC staffers, who called it "tone deaf," according to the NBC insider. 

"The families of the 11 Israeli Olympic team members who were murdered in Munich in 1972 would like a word," the NBC insider told Fox News Digital.

Another person close to the situation suggested Bevacqua was simply referring challenges of broadcasting the games during COVID as he had done "numerous time previously."

Indeed, the Munich massacre at the 1972 Olympic Games traumatized the world after the massacre of Israeli athletes by the Palestinian terrorist group Black September.

Bevacqua was presumably referring to difficulties attracting viewers and production issues, but he did not specify in the quote that was published. 

"To have had two Olympics in six months with the necessary COVID protocols, everything to bring these games to life during a global pandemic, it has certainly been a difficult environment to pull these games off," Bevacqua said in a previous interview. 

However, the NBC insider said Bevacqua’s comment that a COVID-era event was somehow more difficult than continuing the games after what occurred in Munich only adds to the "dumpster fire" surrounding the Beijing games.  

NBC Sports did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Journalist Bill Gildea recalled covering the Munich massacre during a 2012 appearance on Fox News Radio. 

"I think it should always be remembered," Gildea told Brian Kilmeade. 

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NBC had already been widely criticized for couching language related to China's crimes against humanity, which include more than a million Uyghurs being imprisoned in Xinjiang concentration camps.

"Rather than telling viewers the truth about Beijing’s oppression and ongoing genocide, NBC has opted for a ‘both sides’ approach that makes the CCP out to be as trustworthy as our own government," Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., wrote for Fox News Digital.

NBC Sports Chairman Pete Bevacqua evoked issues such as mask wearing, family members of athletes being unable to attend and other COVID protocols when suggesting the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics were "probably" the most difficult of all time. (Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)

NBC Sports Chairman Pete Bevacqua evoked issues such as mask wearing, family members of athletes being unable to attend and other COVID protocols when suggesting the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics were "probably" the most difficult of all time. (Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports) (Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)

China used a Uyghur athlete to deliver the Olympic flame in the opening ceremony – NBC's Savannah Guthrie called it an "in your face response" to the West – despite its ongoing ethnic cleansing of the minority and first-person accounts of systemic rape, torture, and sterilization. 

"NBC analysts described first-hand accounts and verified reports of Beijing’s human rights abuses as ‘allegations.’ Meanwhile, the network made sure to pronounce the Communist Party line, reminding viewers that ‘the Chinese government [says] that accusations of genocide are the lie of the century’ and is 'looking to demonstrate diversity,’" Rubio added. "NBC analysts downplayed China’s one-child policy, too."

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Among the other memorable moments in the Games were Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva's meltdown and the cold response she received from coaches after falling several times and missing out on a medal. Valieva's presence was already controversial since she'd tested positive for a banned heart medication. The debacle resulted in NBC’s broadcasting of the event taking heat from all sides.  

Chinese Vice Premier Han Zheng lights the torch before the start of the torch relay for the 2022 Winter Olympics at the Olympic Forest Park in Beijing on Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022. 

Chinese Vice Premier Han Zheng lights the torch before the start of the torch relay for the 2022 Winter Olympics at the Olympic Forest Park in Beijing on Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022.  (AP Photo/Sam McNeil)

"These Olympics were a disaster for the network: a buzz-free, hermetically-sealed event in an authoritarian country a half-day’s time zone away, where the enduring images will be the emotional meltdown of Russian teenagers after a drug-tainted figure skating competition and a bereft Mikaela Shiffrin, sitting on a ski slope wondering what went wrong," the Associated Press wrote.

The New York Times called the Games a "joyless spectacle" where China could only celebrate pulling the Games off on time and avoiding "total disaster."

Fox News’ David Rutz contributed to this report. 

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