Tom Brokaw leans heavily toward John McCain, earning his stripes as the Media Putz
Originally published on MediaPutz.com on October 2, 2008
For most of us, when retirement comes around, it’s good to stay retired. There are exceptions, though: Walter Cronkite retired at 65 from the anchor chair of the CBS Evening News, and that was probably a mistake as Cronkite had a lot left in him. Now in his 90s, Cronkite is still going strong.
Tom Brokaw retired from the NBC Nightly News in 2004 at the age of 64. Like Cronkite, Brokaw stayed around the network, though because NBC has a cable news channel in MSNBC, Brokaw has had more airtime to practice his post-anchor craft. Then with the death of Tim Russert in June, Brokaw was named the interim anchor of Meet the Press. And Brokaw will also host the town hall meeting featuring Barack Obama and John McCain next Tuesday.
But lately, there is a growing concern over a number of activities from Brokaw that leads us to wonder whether Brokaw wouldn’t be better off spending time at his Montana ranch.
This was how Brokaw ended a segment on this past Sunday’s Meet the Press:
In fairness to everybody here, I’m just going to end on one note. And that is that we continue to poll on who’s best equipped to be Commander in Chief, and John McCain continues to lead in that category despite the criticism from Barack Obama by a factor of 53 to 42 percent in our latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. Gentlemen, thank you very much.
Perhaps that isn’t enough for you to consider. Let’s try this Brokaw’s association with the McCain campaign.
His mission, he said, was to assure the candidate’s aides that — despite some negative on-air commentary by Mr. Olbermann in particular — Mr. McCain could still get a fair shake from NBC News. Mr. Brokaw said he had been told by a senior McCain aide, whom he did not name, that the campaign had been reluctant to accept an NBC representative as one of the moderators of the three presidential debates — until his name was invoked.
“One of the things I was told by this person was that they were so irritated, they said, ‘If it’s an NBC moderator, for any of these debates, we won’t go,’ ” Mr. Brokaw said. “My name came up, and they said, ‘Oh, hell, we have to do it, because it’s going to be Brokaw.’ “
Not quite enough for you? Well, there’s a little more.
From the same piece in The New York Times, Brokaw “had “advocated” within the executive suite of NBC News to modify the anchor duties of the MSNBC hosts Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews on election night and on nights when there were presidential debates.”
Regardless of where you stand on whether Olbermann and Matthews should have been moved, the move was made in great part due to political pressure in the middle of the campaign. If Brokaw did so at the behest of the McCain campaign, or McCain himself, who Brokaw does admit to knowing socially (Brokaw doesn’t know Obama socially), then his journalism credibility is damaged, not Olbermann’s or Matthews’.
MoveOn.org demands an apology from Brokaw for citing the false polling from Meet the Press. And now there is growing concern over whether Brokaw will be a fair and impartial choice to moderate the town hall style presidential debate next week.
Not that Brokaw could have been Russert, but his work on Meet the Press shows a startling lack of follow-up and aggression, which is a clear contrast to the style Russert, and Meet the Press, were famous for doing.
Brokaw was the milquetoast anchor of the Big Three in the 1980s and 1990s. Never the great reporter such as Dan Rather nor did he have the curiosity and worldliness of Peter Jennings, Brokaw was always the favorite son of the corporate media. He liked The Greatest Generation and wrote about them. He never stirred the pot, but never did anything great either.
And he could have gone off into the sunset with his reputation relatively intact. But his clear partiality for the McCain campaign and his disdain for truth-seekers such as Keith Olbermann makes him our Media Putz of the week.