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'Everything is personal for him': NBC's Chuck Todd talks Trump's insults, media accountability

The press has reached a point when it can no longer ignore President Trump’s outrageous claim that the mainstream press is the “enemy of the people,” said Chuck Todd—NBC News political director and host of “Meet the Press"—at a talk Monday.  

Todd's talk, "Defending Journalism," is the 2019 Ewing Lecture on Ethics in Media and was hosted by the DeWitt Wallace Center for Media & Democracy. President Donald Trump has been engaged in a peculiar pattern of publicly criticizing Todd, but has also repeatedly called him on the phone for “off record” conversations. 

“[President Trump] thinks we are the ‘opposition party,’” Todd said, “No, he just wants us to be.”

Todd recalled being with his children at a burger joint one evening when his daughter, who was scrolling through social media, exclaimed, “Hey Dad, the President attacked you!”

“Yeah, that’s disconcerting when your daughter has to let you know the president called you a ‘son of a b****,’” Todd said with a laugh.

The television host added that he tries to compartmentalize his personal and professional life.  

“You try to be as dispassionate as you can,” Todd said, “But we’re all born with personal biases. You can’t take your bias out of everything. With Trump, it’s challenging because everything is personal for him.”

The professional code of conduct for the mainstream media should be to stick to reporting the facts objectively, Todd explained. But the general public rewards news organizations that tilt to the right or left.

“The public wants an intensive amount of what they like,” Todd said. 

Todd reasoned that if NBC News had both a blue channel and a red channel, the network would gain credibility in the long run by signaling to the public that they are not ignoring anyone.

What American people have is not a divided government—which can be positive and appreciated—but a polarized government that renders us ineffective, according to Todd.

Todd criticized media outlets that specialize not in “reporting” news, but in destroying the legitimacy of rival news organizations. When one news correspondent makes a mistake, the media as a whole and every correspondent in the industry—whether they are from the same or a competing news organization—is undermined, he said.

“We all pay the price,” Todd noted.

Todd stressed the importance of diligent and accurate reporting. He added that the media should be “more transparent, more upfront” in the future.  

“It took 40 years to lose [the public's trust]; it’s going to take 40 years to get back,” he said. 

Many U.S. news organizations, which cannot afford running a bureau in so many cities, have lost touch with America’s rural areas, Todd said. He thus urged a change. 

“We can do a better job of being geographically diverse,” he said. “Culturally, we’ve fallen out of touch.” 


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