Monday, August 18, 2014

David Gregory leaves Meet The Press without getting to say goodbye

Posted By on Mon, Aug 18, 2014 at 11:52 AM

click to enlarge meet-the-press-david-gregory-300x225.jpg

Most Sundays on this blog, this reporter usually writes up the highlights of one of the Sunday morning political shows. Sort of a "we watch so you don't have to" summary.

Many of those reports have summed up what happened on NBC's Meet The Press with David Gregory, who has been hosting the weekly program since I took over this gig nearly five years ago.

But no more. As you undoubtedly know by now, Gregory was canned from MTP last week. It was a nice touch employed by the show's crew to allow guest host Andrea Mitchell to acknowledge that changing of the guard on yesterday's program, since Gregory himself wasn't aware the week before that it would be his last show.

Yep, the man that George W. Bush referred to as "Stretch" (He's 6'5") is out — not just at MTP, but NBC News overall. The move comes after the network was accused by fellow Sunday morning talk show host Chris Wallace just last week of letting Gregory "twist in the wind" as rumors were rampant in the media that the network was looking for a replacement.  

Gregory's apparent sin is that he's not Tim Russert, the former MTP host who died after having a heart attack in the middle of Barack Obama's improbable rise to the White House in 2008. Over the years, Russert had been accorded the reputation (fairly or not) of being the toughest interlocutor on Sunday morning. Because of his well-worn image in Washington D.C. and his solid ratings, he was a beloved figure in "This Town," the name that NY Times magazine journalist Mark Leibovich called his 2013 best-selling book about the ways that Washington works.

"Tim lived in the sweet spot of the big, lucrative revolving door between money, media, and politics," Leibovich wrote in This Town. "He was indeed adored — in that unmistakable vintage of Washington 'adored' that incorporated fear and need and sucking up."

So no, David Gregory was no Tim Russert. Neither is George Stephanopolous, or Candy Crowley. They're just different. 

So NBC is replacing "Stretch" with the well-respected Chuck Todd, who has been getting a rapturous welcome among the D.C.-based media that apparently loathed Gregory. We're hearing how Todd "lives for politics," etc. But would Gregory be such a bad guy if MTP's ratings weren't struggling? (The show is now in 3rd place behind ABC's This Week and CBS's Face The Nation).

For my money, Gregory was rather good at what he did. Probably the best of the current group is Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday, who is serious every weekend about asking strongly oppositional questions of his guests, whoever they may be. 

But Gregory was humiliated, and that wasn't too cool. Or did you forget how the Washington Post reported that the network had enlisted the help of a psychological consultant to figure out why the host wasn’t clicking with viewers?

Today, NPR's Eric Deggans has a think piece on what he believes MTP needs to get better, including finding a new vision for the Sunday talk show.Good luck with that one, Eric. These shows have pushed for years to get away with having so many white guys on, to no avail. 

A postscript for Gregory fans: no need to worry about him. He's leaving with $4 million from the network, and rumors are rife that he'll soon be joining CNN.

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